Quarantine dodger gets community service after admitting lying on her border declaration – in case Queensland plunges into Covid panic
- Diana Lasu, Olivia Winnie Muranga and Haja Timbo were given community service
- The friends are said to have lied about their stay in Melbourne when they entered Brisbane
- Their sentences were reduced after they received racist reports
A 20-year-old Queensland woman who lied on a border declaration form after traveling to a declared coronavirus hotspot for a party has been sentenced to community service.
Olivia Winnie Muranga is the last of three women to travel to Victoria together to plead guilty.
She was sentenced to 40 hours of community service in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Thursday.
Olivia Winnie Muranga, 20, (pictured, center) was charged with lying on her border declarations to avoid quarantine in Queensland last July. She later tested positive for Covid
Deputy Chief Magistrate Janelle Brassington lowered sentences Diana Lasu (photo right) and Haja Umu Timbo (left) received for ‘racist and threatening’ messages the couple received
Her co-accused Diana Lasu and Haja Umu Timbo were each sentenced to 80 hours of community service last month.
All three women were initially charged with making false or misleading documents and fraud.
But they pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of not complying with a public health directive.
Muranga and Lasu tested positive for COVID-19 after the trio returned to Queensland after attending a party in Melbourne.
Muranga received infringement notices while still in Victoria for failing to comply with collection restrictions, but these “did not act as a deterrent,” prosecutor Lisa Pye told court Thursday.
She moved around the community unaware she was infected, went to a school, restaurant, and other public places, which had a “ knock-on effect ” requiring businesses to be closed for cleaning, Ms Pye added.
Muranga realized she was “doing the wrong thing” and accepted responsibility for her actions, attorney Dominic Brunello said.
“She was a young woman who was just a little selfish and immature and thought the rules didn’t apply to her,” he said.
Muranga’s attorney Dominic Murello told court that ‘public vitriol was heavily turned on’, describing some comments on social media as ‘troubling’
After the quarantine incident went public, Muranga’s mental health was affected, she was fired from her job as a cleaner and dropped out of college
But the treatment she received, which was subjected to “persistent blows” in the media, was “grossly disproportionate” to her actual guilt.
He told the court ‘public vitriol was badly turned on’, describing some of the comments on social media as ‘troubling’.
They had had a major impact on the 20-year-old’s mental health, she was fired from her job as a cleaner and dropped out of college.
“Ms Muranga could not have been charged more severely than she has been by the masses and social media so far,” said Mr Brunello.
“She has been extremely abused and slandered.”
The court was told that Muranga had a ‘very difficult start to life’ and was six when her family was granted asylum in Australia.
In delivering the verdict, Magistrate Sue Ganasan said Ms. Muranga had made an “extremely foolish decision” when she was unable to afford the cost of hotel quarantine.
“Obviously that was a misguided thought,” Mrs. Ganasan said to Muranga.
“It was indulgent, careless, an act that put itself in danger.”
Ms. Ganasan took into account that Muranga is a young woman who had been ‘demonized’ and subjected to racial slander.
She said Muranga was “ persistently and viciously offended ” on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.
Muranga is required to complete the 40 hours of community service within 12 months.
No conviction was registered.
Ms. Pye told the court that the maximum sentence for the crime was more than $ 13,000 or six months in jail, and argued that a significant fine was appropriate given the costs to the community.