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Police to bring further charges for alleged quarantine breach

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Sophia Cannonier outside her residence speaking with the Bermuda Police Service. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Sophia Cannonier speaks with police officers outside her home (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Police have reported a quarantine breach at the Cannonier-Watson residence, which a spokesman said would result in another court appearance for the family.

Sophia Cannonier and her husband Michael Watson said a “sea” of police officers appeared at their Devonshire home after they attempted to resume life as normal yesterday.

The couple appeared in Magistrates’ Court last Friday, accused of breaching quarantine laws when they returned to the island from the UK on July 11 with their two children.

The parents, who maintain that they present no health risk because of their high level of antibodies after the whole family caught Covid-19 last Christmas, refused to undergo the 14-day supervised mandatory quarantine required of unvaccinated travellers.

Appearing before Juan Wolffe, the senior magistrate, they denied refusing to comply with an order from a health officer as well as failing to complete a Travel Authorisation Form.

A court order by Mr Wolffe, who adjourned their case until next Monday, required the couple to remain at home until a negative result for the coronavirus on their Day 8 test.

But according to a Government spokeswoman on Monday night, the family were required under government health rules to quarantine until Day 14.

Ms Cannonier said yesterday that, based on their court order, the family left their home yesterday morning.

According to Mr Watson, his wife set out at about 6.30am to drop two of her children at their summer camp on the way to her workplace in Devonshire.

Mr Watson headed straight to his Pembroke job.

He said Ms Cannonier returned home with the children at about 12.30pm to have lunch and was met with “a sea of police”.

Mr Watson returned at about 1.15pm.

Speaking to The Royal Gazette from inside the home yesterday afternoon, Mr Watson said: “They came here representing the Ministry of Health in an attempt to try and arrest us on breach of the quarantine.

“We left the property this morning as per the condition of bail issued by the senior magistrate. We were met with a sea of police.

“By the time we got back we couldn’t get up the driveway as the police blocked the driveway – it was disproportionate. There were ten to 12 police officers.”

Mr Watson said police were attempting to contact Mr Wolffe for clarity over whether they could leave the residence.

He added: “We are not guilty because we were following the bail conditions of the magistrate.

“We are aware of the government’s order but this is where confusion lies – we are getting told two different things from two different authorities.”

Asked whether the family had considered erring on the side of caution, Mr Watson responded: “No, because we never signed anything agreeing to a 14-day quarantine – there was no official signing of anything.

“They were not officially served in a legal way.”

Mr Watson claimed that a letter from the Government instructing the family of their mandatory quarantine was posted in a mailbox that the family did not use.

He said the couple “rejected” a second letter left on their doorstep.

Mr Watson added: “We rejected it as we still had the official ruling from the senior magistrate. In my experience, one does not question a court ruling.”

Mr Watson said he believed that the Government should only have statutory powers in “exceptional circumstances”.

“It gives the Government power to change their minds when they see fit – it gives them too much control.

“I definitely disagree with the hotel quarantine for residents. I only agree with quarantine where they see the person is a significant risk to the community.”

Supporters gathered once more outside the home, where activist Eugene Dean said the police stationed on the property had approached the family as they headed out.

“They showed police the order given by the senior magistrate, and went on their way.

“When they returned home for lunch, they found more police officers in the yard. They are being told by officers on site that they are in beach of government quarantine.

“As a result, should they decide to leave again, police have been instructed to arrest them.”

Mr Dean said police had “done their utmost to be reasonable and amicable” with the family.

Ms Cannonier, who appeared at her doorway to speak with officers, said: “What a mess.”

She said she had gone out to have “a normal day” and presented no health risk.

Ms Cannonier said there had been confusion over which order was in force, adding: “They all need to get into a room and start talking.”

A police spokesman said: “As a result of the offences committed today, a further file is being prepared with an anticipated court appearance.”

The couple said they preferred not to identify where they worked.

The Gazette lodged a query with the Ministry of Health to check if people at the couple’s workplaces, as well as their children’s camps, would be required to undergo contact tracing and other measures.

There was no response by press time last night.

Eugene Dean (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Bermuda Police Service outside Sophia Cannonier residence (Photograph by Akil Simmons)