Covid 19 Delta variant: Man pleads not guilty to MIQ escape, kicking officer’s head

A man accused of escaping a Covid-19 quarantine facility, allegedly kicking an officer in the face as he did so, can return home on bail now that he no longer has the virus.

The 23-year-old Pukekohe resident waved his vaccine card at the camera on Tuesday as he appeared before Auckland District Court Judge David Sharp via audio-video link.

The judge also allowed his interim name suppression to continue.

The defendant, who did not seek bail or enter a plea when he made his first court appearance via mobile phone on October 5, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to escape from the facility and two related offences.

At one point in the hearing, he made the sign of a cross over his T-shirt as defence lawyer Jane-Frances O’Halloran asked the judge for his release. Under the terms of his release, he cannot leave his house unless for work.

Other details discussed during the hearing cannot be disclosed due to the Bail Act.

The defendant had been isolating at the Jet Park Hotel MIQ facility in Māngere for two days when police said he escaped the facility on the afternoon of October 4. Police said they caught up to him about 30 minutes later outside a Māngere residence.

The officer who was kicked in the face received minor injuries, police said at the time of the breach, which Joint Head of MIQ Brigadier Rose King described as “disappointing and unacceptable”.

“We are investigating how this happened,” King said.

In addition to the MIQ escape charge, the 23-year-old faces charges of aggravated assault of the officer who was allegedly kicked and wilful damage of a police vehicle.

He could face up to six months’ jail if convicted of escape but up to three years’ incarceration if convicted of assaulting the officer “with intent to commit or facilitate the commission of any imprisonable offence, namely failing to comply with (a Covid-19) order”.

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