A woman accused of walking out of a Perth quarantine hotel and then criss-crossing the city for almost nine hours after refusing a COVID-19 test has pleaded not guilty and been released on bail.
Magistrate Benjamin White said while the prosecution case was “overwhelming”, Jenny D’Ubios was “highly unlikely” to receive an immediate term of imprisonment if found guilty and had already spent more than a week in jail.
Ms D’Ubios, 49, is charged with failing to comply with a direction under the Emergency Management Act in Perth on December 26, 2020.
She was seven days into her mandatory 14-day quarantine period when she allegedly left the Pan Pacific Hotel.
Police found her at Rockingham General Hospital that evening and took her into custody.
Authorities did not alert the public for more than nine hours after her escape, during which time she allegedly caught public transport, went to a beach and visited friends, despite the potential risk to community health.
Ms D’Ubios tested negative to COVID-19 after being taken into police custody and agreeing to a voluntary test.
She appeared in the Perth Magistrates Court today via video link from Bandyup Prison and pleaded not guilty to the charge against her.
Jail term ‘highly unlikely’
Ms D’Ubios’s lawyer applied for bail on the grounds she had now pleaded and had already spent time in jail.
The prosecution opposed bail on the grounds she had posted a social media post in hotel quarantine saying she was going to flee and “openly advocated for members of the community to break COVID restrictions”.
But Magistrate White granted bail due to the length of time she had already spent in custody, the fact her quarantine period had finished, her not guilty plea and the fact there would be a significant delay before trial.
The maximum penalty for the charge is 12 months in jail, but Magistrate White said although there was an “overwhelming” prosecution case, Ms D’Ubios was “highly unlikely” to face a term of immediate imprisonment if found guilty.
Ms D’Ubios had to give a $5000 personal undertaking, must report to police three times a week and has to surrender her passport.
She is due back in court on February 23 for a trial allocation hearing.
Premier confident in hotel quarantine system
WA Premier Mark McGowan on Monday said he was confident in the hotel quarantine system since the alleged breach by Ms D’Ubios.
In the days after the alleged incident, the state government announced several measures designed to strengthen hotel quarantine.
Security guards at the hotels are being given specific powers to stop people leaving and breaching quarantine directions.
The Health Department is also reviewing the physical barriers designed to stop people from leaving hotels before the end of their two-week stay.
The rules used to assess if travellers are high risk are also being tightened.
Mr McGowan said he was outraged by Ms D’Ubios’s conduct.
“She was selfish, she was immature, she acted in her own interest and not the interests of the West Australian community,” he said.
He urged people in hotel quarantine to accept they had to stay there for two weeks, to do it with grace and understand it was in the interests of their fellow citizens.