First Queenslander to be sentenced for coughing on police
THE Rockhampton Magistrates Court set a precedent this week with the first sentence handed down for purposely coughing on a police officer.
Arwa Valmai Dolar, 43, was charged with assault police (coughing) after an incident at the Rockhampton Police Station on Tuesday.
Dolar pleaded guilty on July 2 in court to the assault charge, along with seven breaches of bail, one possess a syringe not stored safely and one of possessing tainted property.
The court heard there were no comparison cases to guide sitting Magistrate Philippa Beckinsale in what sentence was normal for such an act.
Read more about the discussion over penalty and vote in our online poll: POLL: Public's opinion sought for purposely coughing penalty
Police prosecutor Senior Constable Peter Rumford said Dolar had attended the station at 1.30pm on June 30.
Dolar was at the station for bail reporting for other charges.
After police searched her back pack, locating an item identified as being tainted property and a syringe, Dolar became abusive towards police.
She was requested to place her hands up on the counter for a search.
Snr Constable Rumford said Dolar was standing one metre away from the police officer when she leaned towards her and whispered "COVID" and "social distancing" before purposely coughing towards the officer.
Defence lawyer Zoe Craven said her client, who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia when she was 21, was paranoid about coronavirus and felt the officer had "invaded her space".
"She accepts she shouldn't have done that," she said.
The court heard the police officer has not been tested for COVID-19.
Dolar was asked by police at the station why she failed to report the seven other times - between May 5 to June 23 - which she told police she was living at different houses.
Ms Craven explained Dolar had been living with a sister who left town for a time, so Dolar ended up 'couch surfing' which led to her confusion about reporting.
She said her partner was incarcerated and her mother's health was failing which added to the stresses.
Ms Craven said Dolar had been on bail since June 2019 and relocated to Rockhampton in December.
Dolar had a four page criminal record.
Ms Beckinsale ordered Dolar to 18-months probation with convictions recorded.
"There's no excuse for treating a police officer that way," she said.
The Queensland Government introduced fines, effective of April 27, for people who intentionally coughs, sneezes or spits at a public official or worker. The on the spot fines were set at $1335 while court ordered fines were maxed at $13,345.
However, people can also be charged with a criminal offence for the same actions.