A secret memo has revealed that police are being told to ease up on coronavirus fines after a string of infringements were handed out to people doing everyday tasks.
Police have been enforcing stage-three lockdowns across Australia banning all non-essential travel in an attempt to curb the number of people infected with COVID-19.
On-the-spot fines for rule-breakers who leave their homes for reasons other than attending school, visiting a terminally ill relative or excising start at $1,652 in Victoria.
The memo from Victorian police bosses revealed on Monday showed that top cops have concerns that the public are losing faith in law enforcement officers.
It comes after ‘inconsistent’ fines were handed out to those who were unaware they were breaking the new laws.
Last Sunday, 17-year-old Hunter Reynolds was learning to drive with her mother when she was pulled over and fined $1,652.
Hunter Reynolds (pictured), 17, was issued a fine for learning to drive in wet conditions with her mother as the passenger on the weekend
The duo had travelled about 30km from their Hampton home to Frankston in Victoria before a police officer pulled them over and said they were breaking the stage-three restriction rules (pictured: Ms Reynolds with her mother, Sharee)
The policewoman said she was breaking social distancing rules by not keeping 1.5 metres away from another person, even though she was only in the car with her mother.
A cyclist was fined $1,652 last Wednesday for breaching laws after being stopped by police while driving to a mountain bike trial.
The police officer who stopped him scolded him for leaving the house for reasons other than work.
‘If you want to exercise you should do a run around your local area,’ he said, before slapping the cyclist with a fine.
A motorist was given a $1,652 fine for visiting a car wash at 2am in Melbourne.
An ‘essential worker’ has been fined for washing his car at 1.15am. The man shared video footage of him clashing with two Victoria Police officers at a Melbourne car wash on Wednesday (pictured)
The man – who took his dog to the car wash with him (pictured) – also accused the officers of breaking social distancing guidelines by stepping within two metres of his personal space
The man explained he was working 14-hour days providing fresh product to supermarkets and didn’t have time to wash his car during daylight hours.
Officers said washing his car was a non-essential reason for leaving the house.
THE MOST RIDICULOUS REASONS FOR BEING FINED OR QUESTIONED AMID CORONAVIRUS LOCKDOWNS
Multitudes of ‘inconsistent’ fines have been handed out to bewildered Victorians who were unaware they were breaking the new laws. Others claimed they have been ‘interrogated’ by police.
Some of these include:
– A 17-year-old was learning to drive with her mother when she was pulled over and fined $1,652.
– A married couple were fined $3,000 after posting year-old photos on Facebook.
– A cyclist was fined $1,652 for leaving his local area to exercise.
– A man was slapped with a fine for washing his car at 2am.
– Someone claimed they were scolded by for walking along the beach with their 81-year-old father.
Earlier this month, Jazz Mott and her husband Garry were fined $3,000 after posting year-old photos of their holiday on Facebook.
The couple were shocked when police arrived at their home days after the post.
Each case was revoked, spurring police bosses to send an email to their colleagues urging them to only issue fines for blatant and intentional breaches of the lockdown regulations.
‘I am concerned that there continues to be an inconsistent approach from our members when enforcing the directives of the Chief Health Officer,’ Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton said in the internal memo, according to The Age.
He explained the lack of discretion when handing out fines undermined the efforts by people trying to do the right thing across the state.
The message was sent to sergeants and senior sergeants to pass on to their juniors and included an example of a case where people were fined for painting the inside of a closed cafe.
He said the fines were designed to keep the community safe rather than as an enforcement model.
‘It is imperative that our actions reflect a community health approach and we rely on enforcement only for high-risk behaviour which is blatant, obvious and deliberate.’
Jazz Mott (left) and her husband Garry (right) were issued with two fines totaling $3,300 for ‘non-essential’ travel after they shared this year-old holiday picture on Facebook
When police showed up to give Ms Mott (pictured) the breach notices, they had no idea the holiday snaps at Lakes Entrance (shown above) were actually from 2019
Mr Patton encouraged officers to weigh up whether a person’s actions are putting other members of the community at risk when decided whether to issue someone with a warning or a fine.
Victorian police issued 250 fines over the Easter long weekend.
More than 20,400 spot checks have been carried out by police ensuring people are following the new protocols since March 21.
As a result, the Flemington and Kensington Community Legal Centre launched a website so residents can report whether police have acted inappropriately.
Reports ranged from people feeling inconvenienced by police questioning to claims of interrogations, searches and arrests.
One person reported being told to go home while walking on the beach with their 81-year-old father.
Pat Riordan, 34, was 15 minutes from his home, driving to a bike trail in Red Hill, when he was pulled over (Pictured: The infringement notice)
They said police followed them home.
Legal centre chief executive Anthony Kelly told the publication that many rules are ‘ill-defined’ and police are causing people ‘distress’.
‘It’s changing people’s behaviour, and not in a positive way, to just increase social distancing because people are already doing that.’
Queensland police hand out more than $800,000 in coronavirus fines in one day
More than $800,000 worth of fines have been handed out to people blatantly ignoring coronavirus restrictions in Queensland.
State rules say that people who gather in groups of more than two or leave their homes for non-essential reasons, such as attending school, visiting a terminally ill relative or excising, risk on-the-spot fines of $1,334.
A wealthy businessman was fined twice last week after he was allegedly caught picnicking on a beach on Moreton Island – a luxury holiday destination off the Queensland south coast.
Days later, police found him on the same beach with his helicopter, where he was fined a total of $2,668.
‘The fellow with a helicopter who thought it would be OK to fly to an area against the requirements of the directions, not only once but twice,’ Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said on Monday.
‘So on both occasions actions have been taken … that’s not on.’
A 27-year-old man from Cairns, in the state’s far north, was also fined after driving one hour to Port Douglas for a Tinder date.
‘The dinner date proved costly, with the man not only springing for the takeaway meal, but also for a $1,334 fine,’ police said.
Several people were also fined for taking rubbish to Willawong tip, south of Brisbane.
Dumping rubbish was not deemed an essential trip, even though the tip remains open to the public.
Anna Carter, from NSW, also appeared in the Brisbane Magistrates Court last week after she was caught twice breaking quarantine.
The 45-year-old arrived in Brisbane via train and was ordered to spend two weeks in the Ibis Hotel at Brisbane Airport.
She left the hotel the first time to find a Band-Aid for a blister on her foot, then a second time because the hotel didn’t provide fresh towels each day.
After spending one night in the watchhouse, a magistrate fined her $2,000.
Victorian police also issued more than $100,000 worth of fines over a 24-hour period on Saturday to people blatantly ignoring restrictions.
Nine friends who went to a park in Wyndham Vale, south west of Melbourne, to play a game of rugby were fined.
Police also reported multiple instances of private house parties, including nine people who gathered at a short-stay apartment in Melbourne’s Southbank.
In Queensland, $230,782 worth of fines were given out in just 24 hours on Friday, as police stopped 39,000 cars at the border in just one week.
New South Wales police issued 50 fines of $1,000 each to people allegedly breaching public health orders in the same 24 hours.
Barriers and digital warning signs to keep people off the beach at Maroubra Beach on April 12. New South Wales police issued 50 fines of $1,000 each to people allegedly breaching public health orders over the weekend
A person dressed in an Easter bunny costume meets professional lifeguard at Maroubra Beach on April 12 amid coronavirus lockdowns
They included a couple who were spotted out twice in one day and a woman who claimed she was visiting her father ‘in the bush’ in the Blue Mountains.
Another 32-year-old woman was slapped with the fine after being found in Sydney’s Surry Hills wandering the streets.
Despite being given an official warning the day before, the woman alleged told police ‘it’s a free country’ – and was given a fine.
Across Australia, about $1 million worth of fines have been issued since the coronavirus lockdown began.
SOCIAL DISTANCING LAWS EXPLAINED STATE-BY-STATE: HOW TO AVOID GETTING CAUGHT OUT
Gatherings are restricted to two people, with residents only allowed out of their homes for a few essential reasons.
This includes buying food or essential goods, getting a medical treatment or engaging in physical exercise.
You can also visit a terminally ill relative or attend a funeral.
Students are also allowed to attend childcare, school, college or university.
From April 3, the state’s borders will be closed to everyone except residents and essential workers.
New South Wales
NSW officials are also enforcing the two-person limit, with residents legally obliged to stay at home unless they have a ‘reasonable excuse’.
This includes travelling to work or school, buying food or other essentials, exercise and medical reasons.
It is left up to police officers to decide who will get the fines, with the maximum being an $11,000 fine or six months in prison.
The state has also brought in the two-person limit inside and outside the home – not counting people you already live with.
Its chief medical officer Dr Brett Sutton confirmed an exception would made for people visiting their boyfriend or girlfriend if they lived separately.
Otherwise, people are allowed to leave the house for one of five reasons – shopping for food, work and education, care reasons, exercise or other extenuating circumstances.
Australian Capital Territory
The ACT is also enforcing the two-person limit, but people are allowed up to two guests inside their homes – only if there is at least four square metres per person.
It also only allows people to leave home for essential reasons, including shopping for essentials, medical reasons, exercise, work or study.
Offenders are being issue with warnings, but may get a fine if they are found to be breaking the rules again.
As well as closing its borders to non-residents, WA has also introduced fines for people who cross out of their region.
Nine regions have been carved up, and people cannot move between them for anything but an essential reason.
This includes going to work, medical appointments, school or other types of education.
Drivers are also allowed to transport freight, and people can go to a shop outside of their area if the essentials are not available closer to home.
In NT, police are still enforcing a 10-person limit rather than just two people.
But chief minister Michael Gunner warned it may take further action if people don’t stick to the rules.
All non-essential arrivals in the state must self-quarantine for 14 days, and people are not allowed to visit remote communities.
Tasmania also has brought into law the two-person limit, with residents only allowed to leave home for essential reasons.
This includes shopping, exercising, and going to healthcare apppointments.
Going to a vet is also allowed, as is going to school or caring for another person.
Arrivals must self-isolate for 14 days.
SA has also stuck to the 10-person limit, with $1,000 on-the-spot fines for people who have a larger group.
Again, all arrivals into the state must self-isolate for 14 days.