Dale Vincent Symons was sentenced for illegally crossing the border.
Dale Vincent Symons was sentenced for illegally crossing the border.

Border jumper describes watch house isolation as ‘horrible’

A BORDER jumper who spent 15 days in isolation in custody at a police watch house because he couldn't afford hotel quarantine has described his experience as 'horrible'.

Dale Vincent Symons was caught at a house in Toogoom, five hours from the border, after cutting through a gate to illegally cross into Queensland.

He was sentenced today for a range of charges, including failing to comply with public health orders.

He spent the past fortnight in isolation at Hervey Bay Watch House.

Hervey Bay Magistrates court head Symons had not applied for bail at his first appearance because he was 'financially strapped' and did not have the funds to pay for a two-week stay in hotel quarantine.

Police prosecutor Senior Constable Sonia Edwards said it was difficult to recommend an appropriate sentence.

"He is a young man, he has made a major mistake and did put our state jeopardy both economically and health-wise due to him blatantly wanting to visit his girlfriend."

"But due to his young age and no criminal history before the court he mainly appears for traffic matters."

Snr Cst Edwards told the court she had witnessed Symons pacing around his cell in the watch house.

She said two weeks in a watch house was quite different to that in a correctional facility.

"Even though it is 15 days on that piece of paper, it would seem like a lot longer," she said.

"He had no access to a telephone, he was self-isolated.

"Staff would only attend to him with proper PPE equipment so it was quite a restrictive process for him for a stupid mistake to see his girlfriend."

"He did have an exercise yard that does have a TV and some outside light."

Senior Psychology lecturer at University of the Sunshine Coast Dr Rachael Sharman told the Chronicle the way people responded to extended periods of isolation would depend on a range of factors including personality types.

She said studies in the past showed that some people started to hallucinate after a period of being unstimulated.

"People can have some extreme responses sometimes; the more extreme the isolation, the more extreme the response."

She said pacing was described as a self-stimulation behaviour, which was common in people who were bored or under-stimulated.

Dr Sharman told the Chronicle extreme isolation could be buffered by things like reading material or a television.

Symons first attempted to enter Queensland on September 6 when he was denied entry at the Goondiwindi border crossing.

He then drove on to an unmanned crossing at South Talwood, where he used an angle grinder to cut the metal chain on a closed gate at the crossing to enter Queensland.

He was arrested the following day at a home in Toogoom where he admitted to police what he had done.

He has since tested negative for COVID-19.

Defence lawyer Warren Hunter said he hope the court would have regard to Symons' early guilty plea and young age when sentencing.

Acting Hervey Bay Magistrate Trinity McGarvie said Symons was not an "18-year-old with youthful exuberance showing disregard for the law".

"This is a man, while not an old man, it was someone who ought to have some level of maturity."

In her sentencing remarks Ms McGarvie highlighted the seriousness of the pandemic and the risk to the community.

She said Symons had put his needs above that of others.

"Public health directions are put in place to reduce the risk to the community," she said.

"We have very vulnerable people, Mr Symons, that you showed no regard for."

She acknowledged that he had limited financial means to pay a fine.

He was sentenced to 60 hours unpaid community service.

No conviction was recorded for failing to comply with a COVID-19 public health direction or the wilful damage charge.

A conviction was recorded for driving while unlicensed and driving while a relevant drug is present in blood or saliva.