Two Logan women accused of breaching Queensland’s strict COVID-19 border rules by trying to avoid quarantine upon return from Melbourne, have been sentenced after pleading guilty to a lesser charge in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Friday.
Last July, Diana Lasu, Haja Timbo and another woman lied to health officials when they returned to Queensland after travelling from Victoria, which was a known hotspot at that time.
In a bid to evade hotel quarantine, they deliberately falsified their border documentation.
The court heard after Timbo returned to Queensland she self-isolated at home but was ordered into hotel quarantine when the two other women tested positive to coronavirus.
The court heard Timbo refused to answer questions from police and she was issued a notice to appear in court.
Timbo’s lawyer Rebecca Fogerty told the court there was a “powerful differentiating factor” to her offending compared to her co-travellers, as she was no “real threat” to the community and did not spend time in the community.
“She only became aware of the requirement for hotel quarantine and that she would be personally liable to bear the cost after she left Brisbane,” Ms Fogerty said.
“That cost of hotel quarantine was prohibitive like it is for many people – she was motivated by financial restraints.”
Ms Fogerty said her client had suffered significant humiliation, abuse and mental health impacts from the media attention she was subject to which she described as “disproportionate to her criminality”.
“Like most 21-year-olds, last year she made an error of judgment,” she said.
“It is an experience she bitterly regrets and an experience that has permanently changed her.
“It made her a target, it has generated safety concerns for her, she is fearful of leaving her house.
“She was personally subjected to hundreds of threatening and upsetting and vile messages.”
Ms Fogerty said her client was remorseful and wanted to “put this behind her”.
“Denunciation has been achieved in the most public and humiliating way and that has served as a deterrent.
“These experiences have been so profound then it should be accepted that this will be her last time before the courts”
The court heard both Timbo and Lasu had previously been involved in a “stealing spree” in a Brisbane shopping centre, but it was considered by the magistrate as a “minor” criminal history.
It also heard Timbo had been at a party at a hotel while in Melbourne and was fined by Victorian Police for breaching gathering restrictions.
All three were initially charged with providing false and misleading documents and fraud, but in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Friday, the prosecution said they were dismissed for Timbo.
Instead, she pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of failing to comply with a COVID-19 border direction.
Timbo was sentenced to perform 80 hours of unpaid community service with no conviction recorded.
Lasu also had both charges dropped and pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of failing to comply with a public health direction. She was sentenced to 80 hours of community service with no conviction recorded.