A man who left Sydney's COVID lockdown and drove to Canberra in the hope of finding work ended up being caught with cocaine and breaching a public health direction.
Walid Haydari, 29, came to the territory in early August to find work as he was on a bridging visa and was not entitled to government allowances.
The ACT Magistrates Court on Thursday heard he was arrested after driving erratically in the city and after trying to flee police.
He was found with about 0.5 grams of cocaine, worth about $200.
Haydari faced sentencing after pleading guilty to one count each of failing to stop for police, failing to comply with a public health direction and possessing a drug of dependence.
Magistrate James Stewart said the fact he was not COVID-positive meant it was not the most serious offending of its type, but it was still reckless as it placed others at risk.
"He should not have been here, he should've been at home in Sydney," Mr Stewart said.
"I accept that because of his cultural background, being confronted by the police would've been more startling than it would be for someone who didn't grow up in war-torn Iran."
Mr Stewart convicted and fined Haydari $3800 for all offences, plus court fees.
He was also disqualified from holding a driver's licence nationwide for three months, starting on Friday.
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The court heard Haydari was receiving about $2500 a week when he was working in NSW and was in the process of starting his own skip bin business.
Earlier in the hearing, defence lawyer Hikmat Al Malliki, appearing via audio-video link from Liverpool, asked for fines and said the failure to stop for police was short in duration.
"When he was noticed by police, he fled because he knew he was breaching the public health [direction]," Mr Al Malliki said.
"He was honestly scared of what might happen."
Mr Al Malliki said his client was not COVID-positive and did not interact with any members of the public or stop in crowded places.
Prosecutor Emma Bacchetto said she accepted Haydari's reasons for being in the ACT.
However, she said "public health directions are only effective when they're complied with ... even in personal circumstances".
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Toby Vue joined The Canberra Times in April 2021 and is a court reporter after covering the round in NSW and Queensland. He has also reported on regional and rural affairs, local government and sport. He was a Sunday Canberra Times reporter. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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