A judge sentencing a woman who escaped from managed isolation has raised questions about what mental health support is available to returning Kiwis.
Suzanne Marie Derrett, 43, was charged after leaving the Pullman Hotel in Auckland on July 4. She was found less than two hours later on nearby Anzac Ave.
Her case was transferred to the Dunedin District Court, where she entered a guilty plea last week.
Her lawyer said she was seeking diversion but police indicated that would not be an option.
* Coronavirus: Man handcuffed after leaving isolation at Crowne Plaza in Auckland
* Family who fled isolation hotel plead guilty to charges
* Woman who fled Auckland isolation hotel pleads guilty in Dunedin court
Judge Kevin Phillips questioned why she was not granted diversion and said it may have been in the “too-hard basket’’ for authorities.
A police spokesperson said prosecutions over managed isolation and quarantine breaches were approached on a case-by-case basis.
Securely managing isolation requirements for travellers was vital to limiting the spread of Covid-19, they said.
Judge Phillips expressed surprise at the lack of support for people with mental health concerns in New Zealand’s managed facilities.
The judge said while Derrett’s time in the facility amplified her discomfort, her behaviour placed the public at risk.
Absconders were a '’major concern’' for the community, he said.
He was satisfied Derrett’s actions were the result of her mental health difficulties.
A government spokesman for managed isolation and quarantine said it was a “challenging time that will affect people going through it in different ways”.
Returnees were given welcome packs, which included online tools and free phone and text services for support services.
They were also questioned about their health and wellbeing needs.
'’While mental health and wellbeing services may vary from region to region, depending on DHBs and providers, they all seek to meet the requirements around mental health support,'’ the spokesman said.
The maximum penalty for intentionally breaching the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act is six months’ jail or a $4000 fine.
Derrett’s lawyer said her client had suffered from mental health issues while in Australia, and before returning home had become “effectively homeless’’.
Derrett, who had no previous convictions, arrived in New Zealand from Brisbane about 10.55pm on June 27.
She was meant to be at the facility for 14 days, until July 11, but she escaped on July 4 after going to the hotel’s courtyard to have a cigarette.
Derrett had been under stress, and was talking to herself and yelling. She yelled at site staff, before jumping over a brick wall and fleeing the facility.
Five of the police officers involved in her arrest had to go into self-isolation.
Derrett was tested for coronavirus and returned a negative result on June 30.
Judge Phillips sentenced her to a six-month suspended sentence.