A returnee who admitted breaking out of his managed isolation hotel and going on an early evening booze run has been sentenced to 40 hours community service.
Appearing in the Hamilton District Court, Martin James McVicar, 52, also has to pay $1000 in reparations by 4pm today for damaging a large flat-screen TV in his room.
He was one of the country’s early isolation absconders.
McVicar arrived in the country early last month.
Officials said at the time of his breakout that ties on a 1.8 metre fence had been cut through to break out of Hamilton’s Distinction Hotel.
A police officer was posted there at the time.
He was away for about half an hour, from 6.30pm to 7.00pm.
In that time he went to the nearby Brews liquor shop and brought four beers and a bottle of wine.
The store had to clean its premises when the breakout came to light.
Local health staff were also forced to contact local businesses and scour security camera footage to confirm McVicar’s whereabouts during his escape.
Health Minister Chris Hipkins defended the government isolation facilities at the time of the escape.
“Just to be clear, these are not maximum security prison – they are hotels,” he said last month.
“I don’t accept people knowingly and willingly breaking the law represents a failure of the system.”
The Distinction Hotel was classed as a “low risk” isolation facility.
But the court was told that staff were told days before that McVicar was “causing issues” and had been attempting to escape.
He was also “regularly” requesting alcohol from others there.
At one point McVicar was spoken to by police and warned.
But on Thursday, July 9, which was day eight of his 14-day isolation, he left.
Prosecutors said he left the building through a side door and cut the cable ties being used to secure the fence.
“He went to a nearby alcohol store on Te Rapa Road and purchased four beers and a bottle of wine,” the prosecutor said.
“The defendant was initially approached and asked if he left the facility, to which he stated he did so to purchase alcohol from a liquor shop.
“Later in the evening the defendant was in an intoxicated state, he had also consumed some prescribed medication – a nurse was called to assess him but he was unresponsive.”
The next day when police arrived they also discovered the smashed 55-inch television.
Judge Garry Collin said tragic family circumstances made McVicar return from Australia and, while he applied for an exemption to leave isolation, it was not granted.
“However, it’s clear you know what the rules were… You were spoken to about not leaving the facility.
“You chose to leave,” Judge Collin told McVicar.
The judge said he had no reason to doubt that McVicar was remorseful.
Judge Collin also cited the six days McVicar spent in Spring Hill Prison, where he was placed for the remainder of his isolation after being charged.
McVicar’s lawyer, Mike Curran, said his client had been “severely punished” already by his time in the prison.
“I don’t think anybody else has had that privilege,” Mr Curran said.
“He apologises for his actions,” he told the court.