‘Arrogant and dangerous’: Walking border dodger slammed
A Brisbane man who was turned away at the Queensland border three times in one day before illegally crossing on foot has been slammed for his "arrogant and dangerous" behaviour by a magistrate.
James Steven Nech, 28, was arrested at his Indooroopilly home last night and faced the Brisbane Magistrates Court this morning where he pleaded guilty to breaching a public health direction.
He was sentenced to 200 hours of community service and then escorted by police directly to a stint of mandatory hotel quarantine that he avoided when he illegally crossed the border last week.
Police Prosecutor Sergeant Tara Williams said on Thursday, Nech travelled from Brisbane to Snapper Rocks and over the NSW border carrying a general border pass which he thought allowed him to go between the two states, despite Queensland's border restrictions clearly stating that anyone entering from NSW is required to undergo mandatory hotel quarantine for 14 days.
Sgt Williams said on the same day, Nech tried three times at three different border crossings to come back into Queensland. First at the Currumbin Creek Connection Ramp, then at Coolangatta and both times he was informed his pass was not valid.
"He was informed by emergency officers that he was not an exempt person that would be allowed to enter Queensland and he was turned away at the border," she said.
"He was issued a lawful direction not to enter Queensland via road and only enter by air with the proper exemption."
Finally on his third try to cross the border at the main checkpoint on the Gold Coast Highway, Nech was fined $4000 and again turned away.
"He was warned about his behaviour and was issued an infringement notice," Sgt Williams said.
Police last night went to the married father-of-two's Indooroopilly home where they found Nech who said he had crossed the border on foot.
"He was asked if he had any emergent reason for entering Queensland and failing to comply with the directions he'd been given," Sgt Williams said.
"He stated he did not and had returned because he did not think he should have to stay out of Queensland as he was a resident and had only been visiting the Tweed.
"When asked how he'd come over he stated he'd walked over the border and would not say how came to be back at his address."
Sgt Williams called for Nech to be sentenced to 14 days imprisonment for the breach.
"I submit that he should receive a period of imprisonment and that should be akin to the quarantine period that he should have been required to undergo," she said.
"Having regard to community expectations that a defendant who breaches those restrictions should not have the benefit of pleading guilty and receiving a lesser penalty than he should have done if he complied with those (restrictions)."
The duty lawyer acting for Nech said he was "extremely remorseful" and regretted his conduct.
She said Nech was living off the Job Seeker allowance and was focused on getting home to his family when he committed the offence.
"He instructs that he's very aware of the sensitivity surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and he absolutely accepts this was the wrong thing to do," she said.
"He is extremely remorseful."
The court heard Nech was applying for his real estate licence and he requested that no conviction be recorded.
Magistrate Andrew Moloney sentenced Nech to 200 hours of community service and did not record a conviction, saying imprisonment should only be a sentence of last resort.
"Your conduct sir is arrogant and dangerous," he said.
"I'm told you panicked but you were persistent in coming back to Queensland when you knew you weren't allowed to."
Mr Moloney said Nech's actions were a "serious matter".
"There was a way to come back to Queensland lawfully and you chose not to do it, putting potentially the community at risk and I take judicial notice that there has recently been community transmission where the source of that is not yet known," he said.
"These public health directions are given to protect the community. That community includes you.
"And through your behaviour you've potentially put many members of the community at risk."
"It's your persistence that makes this so serious and I think you now understand the seriousness sir because you've now spent a night in custody."
Originally published as 'Arrogant and dangerous': Walking border dodger slammed