A MAN has been fined $300 without conviction yesterday for breaching the Covid-19 related lock-down on May 20 after he had a flat tyre at the Lungga Bridge area, East Honiara.
Smith Solodia was sentenced after pleading guilty to one count of restriction of movement.
He was seen driving a car along the Lungga Bridge road, an area designated an Emergency Zone during the restriction period by the Prime Minister.
This was at about 6.05 pm on the day of the offending.
His place of residence is at Burns Creek.
Principal Magistrate Tearo Beneteti in her sentencing remarks said it is important that though people would have their own views on interpreting the Covid-19 Regulations, it must be seriously and constantly put to the public and conveyed to the people that laws must still be respected.
“If any person has issues with the laws, there are proper avenues to raise them to the rightful institutions and authorities than just blatantly disobey and breach laws,” Beneteti said.
She added that the courts will not tolerate such and will continue to resound the same remarks on such matters.
“This is why offenders must still be penalised to address this issue of breaching the Regulation.”
Solodia’s lawyer had asked the court to exercise its discretion in not entering a conviction due to the fact that no harm was done when Solodia committed the offending.
This is in relation to section 35 of the Penal Code.
Steven Weago of Public Solicitor’s Office also asked for a fine to be imposed.
He had submitted that there was no positive patient recorded in the country with Covid-19 virus at the time of the offence.
Beneteti said she also explored the aspect of strict liability advanced by the prosecution but was unable to be satisfied she must apply it in this case.
“This is because the analysis of what the defendant did by just being at Lungga Bridge at that relevant time does not allow me to see it as strict liability.
“There is still no positive Covid-19 patient at the time and therefore no harm could have been avoided nor a potential receiver of it as we had no record of the Covid-19 then,” she said.
Beneteti said the unprepared of Solodia at the time especially when the Government had sent much information through different platforms to warn people of the lockdown and what to do when it happens is taken into account as well.
“The defendant and the public should have been aware and prepare well to avoid getting in trouble like how he encountered the flat tyre then.
“This in a certain way shows some disrespectful manner of the defendant,” Beneteti further added.
Beneteti said she is just as concerned as the Government of the day with the pandemic.
However, she said she must still remind herself that for each case that comes before her, the circumstances around that set of factual scenario remains the priority scenario she must focus on to determine the criminality of the offending and all relevant matters required at the sentencing stage.
The maximum penalty for this offence is $10,000 fine or five years imprisonment.
Solodia had a flat tyre at around 5.30 pm.
He fixed it and this resulted in him being late at 6.05 pm.
Beneteti said while she sympathize with him but the law is the law.
“Laws must be respected at all times and no one is above the law.
“Therefore when one commits a breach then he or she must be dealt with accordingly.
Beneteti said because of her view on other legal aspects of the matter (no record of Covid-19) patient, she viewed this as not a serious kind of this offence.
She said the tyre being flat is a mechanical problem beyond Solodia’s control and he should have called police to assist him.
She said section 35 of the Penal Code is applicable as this is a peculiar case with an offence that has no harm brought about its commission.
“It would be unjust to punish him by imagining if there was a virus already recorded in the country.
“It would be totally different if we have a patient with positive Covid-19 where Offenders must be punished to stop spreading the deadly virus.”
Beneteti, therefore, applied section 35 of the Penal Code and did not enter a conviction record against Solodia.
However, she said because the Regulation is a law already and has been passed and was breached and admitted by Solodia to have been guilty of it, she imposed a conditional penalty of $300 fine.
The government had issued a 36-hour lockdown and declared Honiara to be an emergency zone in May.
This is in order to test the country’s capacity to respond to an outbreak of Covid-19 disease.
The restrictions were effective from 6 pm on May 20 to 6 am on May 22 in areas from Poha, West of Honiara and Alligator Creek, East of Honiara, encompassing Honiara.
Public Prosecutor Samuel Tovosia appeared for the Crown.
BY ASSUMPTA BUCHANAN