WA COVID breach woman wins sentence appeal

A WA Supreme Court judge has overturned a jail sentence for a woman who breached quarantine laws.
A WA Supreme Court judge has overturned a jail sentence for a woman who breached quarantine laws.

A woman jailed for sneaking into Western Australia in a truck from Victoria, breaching quarantine laws, has walked free after successfully appealing her sentence.

Asher Faye Vander Sanden, 28, was sentenced to six months in prison after pleading guilty in Perth Magistrates Court to failing to comply with a direction under WA's Emergency Management Act.

Her lawyers immediately appealed the sentence, which was the toughest penalty handed down for a coronavirus quarantine breach in WA.

On Tuesday, Supreme Court Justice Jenni Hill found that the sentence was unreasonable and plainly unjust.

She imposed a six-month community-based order and ordered Vander Sanden to complete 50 hours of community service.

Vander Sanden was arrested at her partner's Scarborough home on August 11 after travelling from Victoria by road without being detected.

The court heard Vander Sanden had spent a month in Victoria looking after her unwell sister.

She applied for and was granted an exemption to fly to WA but was required to quarantine in a hotel for 14 days at her own expense.

Police made inquiries after Vander Sanden, who is a WA resident, did not arrive at Perth Airport as outlined in her application.

Vander Sanden, who tested negative to COVID-19, was remanded in custody and spent three weeks in prison before being granted bail by Justice Hill ahead of her appeal hearing.

The court heard Vander Sanden was unemployed, had a criminal record related to previous methamphetamine use and had low capacity to pay a fine.

But Justice Hill noted Vander Sanden, unlike others who had breached quarantine, had not attended public places or private gatherings.

She said magistrate Andrew Matthews' decision not to suspend Vander Sanden's sentence was not reasonable under the circumstances.

"Whilst there are no express errors in the sentencing remarks of His Honour, it is difficult to understand, with the greatest respect to the learned magistrate, how a sentence of immediate imprisonment could have been reached," Justice Hill said.

Individuals found to have breached WA's strict quarantine laws face a maximum penalty of 12 months' imprisonment or a $50,000 fine.

Australian Associated Press