The NSW government plans to increase fines after a man with “significant mental health issues” plunged Sydney into chaos by climbing the Harbour Bridge.
The 44-year-old man sparked a major police operation lasting five hours when he scaled the bridge about 4.30am on Wednesday. He surrendered to authorities just after 9.30am, when he was handcuffed by police rescue officers and brought down.
NSW Roads Minister Melinda Pavey said she would increase the fine for climbing the bridge from the current $3000 to “send a message”.
“No matter how sad their personal circumstance may be you cannot hold this city to ransom and if you do there will be a bigger financial penalty,” Ms Pavey told reporters on Wednesday.
“The fines are going up, there will be a very big punishment.”
Ms Pavey did not specify her preferred penalty, but noted that climbing the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco carried a fine of $US10,000.
Earlier in the day, Detective Inspector John Maricic said the man was known to police and climbed the bridge due to a “family issue”.
“He has got significant mental health issues, which hopefully the expertise of St Vincent’s Hospital will address those this morning,” Det Insp Maricic told reporters in Sydney.
Police were very concerned about the man’s safety during Wednesday’s incident.
“We were concerned that he was going to harm himself but also we were concerned about what harm could have been occasioned to innocent members of the public driving underneath him,” Det Insp Maricic said.
The man was taken to St Vincent’s Hospital for assessment, NSW Ambulance said in a statement.
During the incident, two Special Operations Team paramedics had also ascended the bridge in harnesses to assist police in the event that the man required sedation.
Traffic across the city was thrown into chaos, with authorities having to close several northbound lanes on the bridge as negotiators talked with the man.
Det Insp Maricic apologised to motorists but said “safety was paramount”.
He also said authorities would work with Roads and Maritime in regard to make the bridge more secure.
By 8am, traffic heading to the bridge was backed up more than 20 kilometres in both directions.
All bridge lanes reopened at 10am, but motorists were warned by the Transport Management Centre that significant delays would continue during the morning.
Traffic had eased by 11am and bus services were returning to normal.
Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge is illegal unless authorised and trespassers can be fined $3000.
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