Inmate’s sick COVID quarantine act

A BRISBANE man who was placed in mandatory prison quarantine after his arrest for a crime he didn't commit became so "agitated and distressed" he chucked a bottle of his own urine at a prison guard, a court has heard.

Michael John Collins, 45, was arrested in April and taken to the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre where he was placed into mandatory coronavirus quarantine in a room where he was forced to use a bucket and a bottle to go to the toilet and was not allowed outside or to make phone calls.

Collins faced the Richlands Magistrates Court this week where his defence lawyer Chris Nyst said his client had been taken to the prison in April after being falsely accused of an extremely serious offence but the charge was dropped earlier this month.

"At 2pm on Saturday April 18, the defendant was accommodated in the Arthur Gorrie medical centre detoxification cell to isolate from other prisoners due to COVID-19 guidelines," police prosecutor Sergeant Shane Stephenson said.

"It's alleged the defendant became agitated at his inability to exit his cell.

"He began banging on the detox doors making a demand to access phone calls, toilet and a shower."

Sgt Stephenson said the corrections officer tried to calm Collins by explaining the mandatory guidelines which meant all new prisoners were required to undergo 14 days of isolation before joining the general prison population.

"He became aggressive and shouted words to the effect, 'I'm not a dog and you guys are treating me like one'," the prosecutor said.

"It's alleged he picked up his urine bottle and threw it at the cell door causing urine to pass through the gap in the door to cover the complainant in urine down his left shoulder and arm."

Police Detectives later interviewed Collins who admitted to throwing the urine but said he did not mean to his the guard and apologised for his behaviour, explaining he was in a "bad mental state" at the time.

"I submit that offending in prison generally is subject to a very high level of general deterrence," Sgt Stephenson said.

"It is a serious offence and there must be a message of deterrence and condemnation sent to other prisoners that this conduct won't be tolerated."

Mr Nyst said his client had been a successful person trainer and gym manager who had lectured at the Australian Institute of Personal Trainers for several years.

He said Collins' life "spiralled rather badly" after the 2016 breakdown of his marriage and the subsequent false allegations against him brought and dropped this year.

He said the offending occurred two days after he was locked up in the prison.

"He instructs me at that point in time he was in a very poor state of mind," he said.

"In particular the defendant was feeling tormented by a sense of frustration at having been falsely accused of (an offence) and it was that sense of frustration and his poor mental health at the time which were compounded by particularly difficult conditions at the time in the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre due to the COVID-19 situation.

"In particular he was being quarantined in an isolation cell which had no toilet facilities or running water and as a result he was required to use a bucket and bottle instead of toilet facilities."

Mr Nyst said Collins was apologetic for his actions and his mental health was at a "low ebb" due to the combination of conditions he found himself in.

"He was also not allowed to have any telephone access for a period of 14 days, the jails at that time were in a period of lockdown and as a result he became highly distressed," he said.

"Your honour has heard he began banging on the door. The officer concerned approached the door and tried to settle him and he accepts the officer was doing his best to settle him down but he nonetheless became so agitated that in a spontaneous overflow of his emotions threw the urine bottle at the cell door.

"It was on my instructions an unpremeditated, spontaneous action committed on the spur of the moment in circumstances where he was suffering. He had no intention of striking the officer."

Collins, who faced court via video link, pleaded guilty to a charge of common assault and was sentenced to 14 days imprisonment which was declared as time served.

"The circumstances of this were at a time when such behaviour could have caused extreme injury to the person concerned had you been perhaps infected with COVID at the time," Magistrate Deborah Turner said in sentencing.

"It is concerning to the community that such behaviour would occur. It's important that we protect the people that are trying to protect the community and officers working in correctional facilities take on a very difficult job."

She conceded Collins had been through "some significant and difficult stresses" and she encouraged him to get help upon his release.

"It's very clear to me and I hope it's become clear to you that you need to get some assistance for your mental wellbeing," she said.

"Everybody at some time in their lives have mental health issues."


Originally published as Inmate's sick COVID quarantine act

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