Analysis | NEWS

Judiciary Must Take A Hard Line Against COVID-19 Law Breaches

Countries worldwide have enforced strict punishment for those breaking laws put in place to stop the spread of coronavirus. In Fiji, people have been getting away with fines as low as $150 and in some instances, without conviction. These breaches need to be looked at far more seriously.
15 Apr 2020 09:57
Judiciary Must Take A Hard Line Against COVID-19 Law Breaches
K9 Qiwi, K9 Que, and K9 Quiz were deployed with their handlers PC Jasa Kadivuka, PC Valevatu Rabuku and PC Niumaia Draunimasi to assist with the monitoring of unnecessary movement within the Suva lockdown areas. Photo: Police Media Cell

Analysis:

Countries worldwide have enforced strict punishment for those breaking laws put in place to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Anyone not complying with new isolation rules in Australia face the threat of heavy fines and even jail time in some areas.

The most expensive punishment is in Western Australia, where those in violation could face handing over up to A$50,000 (FJ$73,000).

According to reports, in Italy anyone showing symptoms of the disease who refuses to self-isolate risk being charged with causing injury and being jailed for six months to three years apart from being slapped with a fine.

And if a “careless” coronavirus sufferer goes on to pass the bug to an elderly person or someone made vulnerable by a pre-existing health condition, they can be charged with intentional murder and can spend up to 21 years in jail.

In the United States, depending on state and local statutes, individuals face fines, criminal charges, and even jail time for breaking quarantine.

Saudi Arabia has announced fines of up to £110,000 (FJ$314,000) for people failing to declare correct health-related information and travel details as they enter the country.

Governments of these countries took serious measures, passed laws which is mandatory for people to comply with.

People world-over were caught breaching curfews, lying about their whereabouts, not disclosing their correct travel history and they were taken to task.

The Judiciary in many of these countries also took a hard line against violators of laws during these unusual times.

The Judiciary all over the globe has played an important role. They have understood that these unusual times have meant that some tough decisions need to be made.

The Judiciary in these jurisdictions understands that they are in the position to discourage others from breaking COVID-19 related laws.

While some jurisdictions have given out community work, it had been accompanied with heavy fines as well.

In Fiji, the varying sentences given out to those found breaching curfews have been lenient.

People have been getting away with fines as low as $150 and in some instances, without conviction. These are not minor cases of curfew breaches.

These breaches need to be looked at far more seriously.

Fiji is at a stage where we may not know how many asymptomatic cases we have.

We expect the Judiciary to take a hard line against people who are breaking these laws and putting the lives of thousands of Fijians at risk.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has also been concerned about the lenient sentences passed.

He has urged prosecutors to put forward harsher sentencing submissions and to implore to the Judges and Magistrates that these are not normal circumstances.

Fijian laws:

A person is liable, on conviction to a fine up to $10,000 or imprisonment for up to five years or both if found guilty of non-compliance with an order, prohibition, declaration or directive issued pursuant to section 69 (1) ( c)  or (3) of the Public Health Act 1935.

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