‘Bitter regret’: COVID border dodger pleads guilty

 

A woman who failed to comply with a COVID-19 health direction regarding her interstate movements at Brisbane Airport has pleaded guilty.

Haja Uma Timbo, 21, pleaded guilty to failing to comply with a direction to declare being in a COVID hotspot when applying for a border pass at Brisbane Airport on July 21.

Charges of one count of fraud and producing false or misleading documents were withdrawn by the prosecution in the Brisbane Magistrates Court. Her co-accused Diana Lasu, 21, is also due to appear before court today.

The court heard Timbo flew to Brisbane from Melbourne on July 22 after spending four nights in the southern capital where she attended a party. One of her friends who she stayed with in Melbourne tested positive for COVID on July 22 after returning to Queensland the day before, the court heard.

Haja Uma Timbo leaves court in Brisbane Picture: NCA NewsWire / Jono Searle.
Haja Uma Timbo leaves court in Brisbane Picture: NCA NewsWire / Jono Searle.

On July 3 all of Victoria was declared a COVID hotspot.

The Court head Timbo went online to secure a border pass to return to Queensland, failing to declare that she had been in a COVID hotspot within the last 14 days which meant she bypassed mandatory quarantine.

Police prosecutor Sgt Lisa Pye said when two of Timbo's travel companions contracted COVID this became known as the case one and case two Logan cluster.

As a result of the Logan cluster Queensland saw a 42 per cent increase "overnight" in testing by members of the community.

Sgt Pye said the cost of the investigation into the cluster was significant, with the increase in testing alone costing tens of thousands of dollars.

Timbo's lawyer said Rebecca Fogerty said her client never went into the community on returning to Brisbane having self-quarantined before later being taken to hotel quarantine by police.

There was "no real threat in fact to the community" she said.

Timbo has been subjected to hundreds of threatening, upsetting and "vile messages", Ms Fogerty said

Haja Uma Timbo arrives at court in Brisbane Picture: NCA NewsWire / Jono Searle.
Haja Uma Timbo arrives at court in Brisbane Picture: NCA NewsWire / Jono Searle.

She urged the court to find the media attention and ensuing public "opprobrium" acted as extra curial punishment on her client which should lessen the court's penalty.

"Denunciation has been achieved .. in the most public and humiliating way and that has served as a deterrent," she said.

"If what she has gone through over the last nine months is not atoning I don't know what is."

Timbo had suffered mental health issues as a result of the attention.

"She is notorious. It is an experience she bitterly regrets. And an experience which has permanently changed her," she said.

The offending was motivated by financial constraints related to the cost of hotel quarantine she said.

Originally published as 'Bitter regret': COVID border dodger pleads guilty



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