A young woman who was caught red-handed breaking covid travel rules after posting on Instagram was “foolish”, “cavalier” and “prioritised her own desires and wishes over those of her public duty” – but shouldn’t have been fined £6,600, according to the Royal Court.
Then 22, Carys Ann Ingram was dealt the island’s largest covid-related fine to date in the Magistrate’s Court in October 2020 after admitting to failing to isolate and failing to follow instructions from the Contact Tracing Team.
But the Royal Court has now concluded that the fine was "excessive" and "manifestly so" in comparison to other sentences imposed at the time, and decided to reduce it by £1,000.
Ingram travelled from Manchester on 12 October 2020 to visit family in Jersey and had a PCR test on arrival.
Coming from what was then an 'amber' zone, she had then to isolate until a negative result from a second test five days later. But three days after arriving, she was found shopping in St. Helier.
Pictured: Rather than self-isolating, Ingram went shopping in St. Helier, and later went to restaurant El Tico.
It later emerged that someone on her flight had tested positive, so she was contacted and told she must self-isolate and take another test eight days after arriving.
She failed to do this and was seen at First Tower on 18 October and again at El Tico on 21 October – this later sighting coming to light through her own Instagram posts.
A number of attempts were made to contact her at her home address but there was no answer. Ingram was finally contacted by telephone by the Contact Tracing Team and then arrested.
The breach and subsequent fine imposed by the Magistrate's Court generated substantial national and international media coverage – including as far afield as the New York Post in the US.
After this, she started an online petition sharing her experience and asking for a change in the law so that people involved in "minor criminal" activity are not named. It received just under 130 signatures.
Pictured: The petition started by Ingram after she was convicted of breaching covid laws.
Last Wednesday, Ingram came before the Royal Court to argue that her sentence had been unfair.
According to a judgment published today, Ingram "raised concerns with the way she has suffered at the hands of others on social media" and "raised issues relating to the prejudice to her finances in that she lost her job."
The Royal Court - presided by Bailiff Sir Timothy Le Cocq, sitting with Jurats Kim Averty and David Le Heuzé - said it was unable to take these matters into account, but did, however, closely examine the Magistrate's sentence.
"There are no guideline cases in connection with offending of this nature and we entirely accept that the Assistant Magistrate was faced with scant, if any, guidance on the level of sentencing that it was appropriate to impose. We are cognisant of the fact that it is not for us to tinker with what is otherwise an appropriate sentence, even if we would ourselves have imposed a lower sentence," the Court noted in its judgment.
"There is no doubt but that this Appellant was cavalier and foolish in her approach to the requirements under regulations which were there for protection of the public and keep all of us safe. She prioritised her own desires and wishes over those of her public duty and the public in general in breaching the regulations. On the other hand, she has no previous convictions and on being arrested was entirely co-operative with the prosecution authorities, pleading guilty at the appropriate time."
Having considered a previous case in which the defendant had gone on a pub-crawl and been fined just under £6,000, the Royal Court decided that it would have been appropriate to sentence Ingram along these lines.
Pictured: Having heard her appeal, the Royal Court concluded that Ingram had been "cavalier and foolish", but that ultimately the fine imposed on her was "excessive".
This, the Court said, would "adequately reflect the seriousness of the offending coupled with the mitigating factors, especially good character and the guilty plea, and indeed the positive good character that may be raised in favour of this Appellant."
The Crown, represented in Court by Advocate Simon Crowder, "accepted that the substitution of a fine of £5,000 for the £6,000 imposed would not be tinkering".
"Accordingly, we allow the appeal and we reimpose sentence of £5,000.00 for the Regulation 8 offending. We maintain the sentence of £600.00 for the Regulation 4 offending. The total fine is therefore £5,600," the Court concluded.
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