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Get tougher on curfew breakers

Two days ago, a 35-year-old Australian by the name of Jonathan David was sentenced to six months and two weeks in prison, and fined A$2,000 (about $1,260).

His crime, admitted to by way of a guilty plea in Perth Magistrates Court, was failing to follow a directive to remain under quarantine in these desperate times dominated by the novel coronavirus.

The magistrate, in imposing the sentence, described David as “selfish in the extreme” for leaving a hotel facility to visit his girlfriend.

She added: “You chose to roll the dice with other people's lives and that was breathtakingly arrogant. We must protect the community from those who do not care.”

Law in place. Guilty offender. Straight to jail. No messing.

Now, let's pause right there for a second ...

In Bermuda on the eve of the shelter-in-place rules that came into effect for three days before something more substantial was invoked, the Premier and Minister of National Security forewarned to anyone inclined towards disobedience.

That was March 20.

The stated punishments for breaking the 8pm to 6am curfew were fines of up to $6,000 for a first offence and $10,000 or three months' imprisonment for a second offence.

This was revised to six months in jail and/or a fine of $2,880 — an interesting number.

Almost straight out of the blocks, authorities could not account for nine people who were meant to be in self-quarantine between March 26 and 28.

None of these persons, as far as we are aware, has parted with a penny — or been fitted for a set of prison fatigues, as has been the case with our lovestruck friend in Perth.

Why not?

In their frustration at residents not falling into line with shelter-at-home regulations, David Burt and Wayne Caines have complained, rightly, that the country is not taking Covid-19 seriously enough.

It can be argued, then, that the same applies to the judiciary, whose “slaps on the wrist” have continued in the past week.

Yes, those who have pleaded guilty have been hit in the pocket, some with fines as big as $3,000, but the real lasting punishment is jail time — even if only for a month or two — and to date the only person to receive a custodial sentence was someone on probation at the time of his offence while wearing an ankle monitor.

Not too clever.

Covid-19 has killed five Bermudians and infected 78 others. It does not discriminate; nor does it show mercy.

If the Bermuda Government wants its related policies to have teeth, the deterrent needs to be real.

Not the threat of jail time, but the execution of it.

We are heading into a second two-week lockdown, starting tomorrow and lasting until May 2, because the penny still has not dropped for some.

How many times does a flustered and visibly greying premier have to say “this is no joke” before the “selfish in the extreme” among us finally get it?

It is equally for this reason and because of uncertainties to do with contact tracing that the lockdown has been extended to four weeks in the first place.

On one hand, and of imminent concern, hundreds of lives are at stake; and on the other, the island's economy cannot afford much more prolonged inactivity.

Businesses large and small are hurting, and people are either losing their livelihoods or are facing a very uncertain economic future.

After innumerable false starts sheltering in place, helping ourselves starts here.

And for those who continue to look to flout the laws, hopefully with the assistance of a no-nonsense judiciary that has rediscovered its bite, they can help themselves to three square, one hour's rec and the home comforts of a nine-by-nine.

Crack the whip: Bermuda Police Service and Royal Bermuda Regiment personnel are doing their part in getting curfew offenders before the courts, it is time for the judiciary to exercise its remit to the fullest (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published April 17, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated April 17, 2020 at 8:42 am)

Get tougher on curfew breakers

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