Whitsunday boat owner claims he was unaware of lockdown rule
A Whitsunday boat owner claims he did not know about changed coronavirus restrictions when a group of people were found gathered on his vessel during lockdown.
Stephen Aldred told Proserpine Magistrates Court on Monday they had been at sea and were not aware residents had been ordered not to gather together.
Police prosecutor Senior Constable Sarah Rowe told the court police went to Tongue Bay on April 6 last year to conduct compliance checks on a vessel called Waltzing Matilda.
Sen-Constable Rowe said police saw people attempting to hide under the deck and eight people were ultimately found in the cabin area.
The court heard Aldred, the boat owner, was on the deck when police arrived and he told officers he did not know about the ban on gatherings.
Aldred said the Chief Health Officer made the directive on April 2 and the group was at sea so they did not know about it.
"We spent three weeks out there. We came in, got some groceries and went back out," Aldred said.
"We did not have any way of knowing about this.
"We have emergency radio, but we have no communications, there are no iPhones or anything out there."
The 69-year-old Dingo Beach man said he owned two tourist boats worth $500,000 each but they had not been used for work since March last year because of COVID-19.
Aldred pleaded guilty to failing to comply with a COVID-19 public health direction.
Magistrate James Morton pressed Aldred on his explanation, questioning what he thought when there were no people swimming at Whitehaven Beach.
"You would be the only person that would not have known that a direction was made that you could not have gatherings," Mr Morton said.
The court heard Aldred had initially pleaded not guilty, but changed his plea to guilty on Monday.
"You've imposed a fee on the state of Queensland ….by making the prosecution get their statements and their evidence together," Mr Morton said.
Aldred was fined $1000 with no conviction recorded.