Three charged for breaking quarantine
The first three persons to be charged with breaking quarantine under the Public Health (Amendment) Act 2020 appeared in court this week and two of them are expected to be sentenced today, October 2.
Tedecia Williams, a 27-year-old from Layou was the first to be brought to the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday, September 30. Jamal Martin, a 29-year-old cruise ship worker of Fairbain Pasture, and Ivan Burgin, a 78-year-old of the USA/Fountain, were brought on the following day, Thursday, October 1.
They now face the possibility of a maximum fine of $2000, and a prison term not exceeding six months.
When Williams was brought to the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday, she was not wearing a mask, which was corrected at the request of the court.
The defendant, who has no legal representation, pleaded guilty to, contravening an order made by Dr Roger Duncan, Health Officer, under section 27 (a) of the Public Health Act requiring her to quarantine herself from other persons.
Williams arrived in the country from Tortola in the British Virgin Islands on September 19, and she is charged with breaking quarantine on that day, in Layou. She had been placed on mandatory quarantine for 14 days, five of which were to be spent in an approved facility.
“I’m not going to sentence her today because any sentence that I give is going to be important to the rest of the country,” Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett stated.
The sentence will become precedent and “I always want to set good precedent,” the judicial officer said.
The original date for sentencing Williams was set at October 5, for the magistrate to reflect on her sentence, but this changed the following day.
This is because the prosecution noted that the defendant Burgin, who appeared the following day, has plans to leave the country tomorrow, Saturday, October 3. Consequently, although his sentencing was going to be adjourned until October 5, the court moved it up to today, October 2.
Williams’ sentence is now expected to be tomorrow as well.
Burgin still insisted that it could be done on that day, but the magistrate told him that when sentencing is done is determined by him, and no one else.
The United States resident is charged that he, on September 13, contravened an order made by Dr Roger Duncan, Health Officer, under s 27 (a) of the Public Health Act, requiring him to quarantine himself from other persons.
Burgin was granted bail on his own recognizance in the sum of $500.
He was vocal when he walked out of the court, telling a journalist outside the court that he had a negative Covid-19 test but they still put him in quarantine.
He said that there were mosquitos at the hotel he was quarantining in, they weren’t feeding him properly, and he has a heart condition. Therefore, he moved himself to another hotel.
“They not supposed to put me in no quarantine, what happen y’all better than America?,” Burgin also said publicly.
Defendant Martin is charged with, between August 29 and September 11, at Spring Estate, contravening an order made by Dr Roger Duncan, health officer, under s 27 (a) of the Public Health Act, requiring him to quarantine himself from others.
He pleaded not guilty, and a trial date was set for October 16.
Bail in the sum of $2000 was allowed, with one surety.
In April of this year, Parliament passed the Public Health (Amendment) Act 2020, with several changes included, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic with which the world is contending.
The new penalties are an increase over those that had been outlined in the Public Health Act (1977), that recalcitrant persons who willfully expose themselves and put the public in danger of contracting a communicable disease are liable to a fine not exceeding $100 or imprisonment not exceeding three months.
Another amendment to the Act is that for each day a person breaks quarantine, they may be charged as having committed a new offence.
“This amendment before us would say to people, you cannot do foolishness and get away with it as you want,” Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves had stated in Parliament on April 7.
[Updated at 12:23pm on Friday, October 2 to reflect that defendant Williams’ true age is 27 years and that she is not a domestic worker. Additionally, the Public Health (Amendment) Act 2020 outlines the penalty as imprisonment and a fine, rather than imprisonment or a fine]