Jail for man who escaped Melbourne clinic twice while infectious with COVID-19

A young man who escaped from a secure recovery clinic twice in three days while infectious with COVID-19 has been jailed for four months because he posed an unlawful risk of making others sick with the virus.

Across five days last month when he knew he had COVID-19, Nathan Hetherington tried to flee from The Alfred hospital and twice broke out of the Albert Road Clinic, a Melbourne recovery centre for people with mental health problems.

The Albert Road Clinic, where Nathan Hetherington was held last month.Credit:Eddie Jim

Police said he posed a risk of making others seriously unwell through his behaviour, which included riding on the back of a tram on September 18 and entering the grounds of the Royal Botanic Gardens. He was arrested at the gardens and taken into custody.

Hetherington repeatedly kicked and damaged doors in the clinic to breach its “red zone” and left through a fire exit on September 16. He then smashed the window of a staff room to get outside on September 18. Melbourne Magistrates Court heard he also had to be restrained by security staff at The Alfred on September 14 when he tried to leave the hospital after he tested positive.

Magistrate Gregory McNamara on Wednesday jailed the 22-year-old for four months after he pleaded guilty to reckless conduct endangering serious injury and two counts of criminal damage. Hetherington chose to be sentenced after his lawyer had asked the magistrate for a sentence indication for a guilty plea.

Mr McNamara said he had no option other than to impose a jail term.

“A lot of people have been put at risk of catching this illness by his behaviour. It’s such a serious thing to do,” he said.

The magistrate said Hetherington put police officers, security guards and medical staff at The Alfred and the clinic at risk while those workers were protecting and serving the community.

Hetherington’s lawyer, Tut Tut, conceded on Tuesday his client’s behaviour was “appalling” but said he was now COVID-negative.

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