The State government has just established a coronavirus enforcement squad of five hundred police officers to ensure containment measures that have been put in place to combat the virus are followed.
What will this look like?
- on returning travellers who are in 14-day isolation
- on indoor and outdoor gatherings
- on the shut down of specified businesses
The government is taking these very seriously and penalties will be handed out.
What sort of penalty could I face?
With a State of Emergency declared on 16 March 2020 for a four week period, under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (Vic) the Chief Health Officer has the power to issue directions to maintain health and wellbeing in Victoria.
On 16 March 2020, mass gatherings were restricted to 500 people.
On 18 March 2020, this was further restricted to mass gatherings of no more than 100 people.
On 23 March 2020, Stage 1 of the shutdown in Victoria announces the closure of all pubs, clubs, nightclubs, Crown Casino, gyms, indoor sporting venues, places of worship, cinemas and entertainment venues from midday the same day. Restaurants and cafes are allowed to provide home delivery or takeaway services only.
On 24 March 2020, these restrictions were further defined to a shutdown of all food courts, auction houses and open inspections are no longer permitted, as are birthday parties and house parties. Weddings are limited to only five people and funerals are to include no more than ten.
It is an offence to fail to comply with these directions.
As an individual, you could be liable for a maximum fine of close to $20,000.
Businesses could receive maximum fines of close to $100,000.
A defence of ‘reasonable excuse’ is available and you should discuss this with a lawyer before paying a fine or pleading guilty to a charge.
In addition to the above, the Biosecurity Act 2015 (Cth) gives the federal government power to manage biosecurity risk. On 18 March 2020, the Governor-General declared a ‘human biosecurity emergency’ and COVID-19 was designated as a ‘listed human disease’.
The Health Minister may give any direction necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19. A direction may include regulating the movement of persons and closing premises.
Any person who fails to comply with a direction is liable for a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment or up to $63,000.
The Health Minister may also determine any requirement necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19. A requirement may include a requirement for people to remain at home, enter, leave or evacuate a place.
Any person who fails to comply with a requirement under this section may be liable for a maximum penalty of 5 years’ imprisonment or up to $63,000.
If you are charged with failing to comply with these new regulations, you need to speak with defence lawyers who are updated on these offences and can assist you in your defence. Call Doogue + George on (03) 9670 5111.