A man from Alice Springs, Australia has been arrested and fined $5,056 for drinking a coffee without a mask.
Hayden Williams, 27, a freelance artist, bought a coffee to support his local café during Covid-19 restrictions in Alice Springs when an altercation with police led to his arrest and a $5,056 fine.
His lawyer Cameron Shamsabad said Mr Williams was confronted by police before he bought his coffee and explained to them he had a medical exemption from wearing a mask.
Those suffering from any physical or mental illness that makes wearing a mask unsuitable can get an exemption.
However, three police officers harrassed the man by following him closely as he walked down the street towards his car while drinking his coffee.
Footage taken on Mr Williams phone records him saying: ‘So, I’m just drinking my coffee and these officers have started following me. And harassing me’.
One policeman shouts to Mr Williams ‘you need to wear a face mask’ before the trio converge to confront him.
The situation escalated quickly after Mr Williams asked for the officers’ names and badge numbers.
‘I don’t have to give you my name,’ a policewoman responded, in turn requesting Mr Williams details.
‘I do not have to provide my name because I have not committed an offence,’ Mr Williams replied.
The officer then tells Mr Williams he is committing an offence by not wearing a mask while drinking his coffee.
‘So sir, you are committing an offence,’ she said. ‘Hey listen, I need you to listen to me.
‘Okay, so there’s a pandemic going on. This is a very vulnerable community. There’s lots of sick people.
‘I need you to provide your name and your reason for exemption.’
Mr Williams continued to argue with the officers while still trying to drink his beverage.
‘I need you to wear a mask. Okay?’ the female officer said.
‘If you do not provide your name and wear a mask you will be arrested, all right?’
‘I’m drinking a coffee.’ Mr Williams responded as he proceeded to walk away.
The policewoman then motioned to her fellow officers to arrest Mr Williams, with the men handcuffing him as he maintained grip of his coffee.
His coffee was eventually forced from his hand, splattering on the road.
Mr Shamsabad, from Legalbit Lawyers, said in his opinion the situation was legally ‘a waste of police resources’.
He admitted that although at the time of the alleged offence Alice Springs had a mask mandate, residents were permitted to leave home to buy food, drink, and other essentials.
Mr Shamsabad Cl 18 of the health direction required mask-wearing at all times, subject to seven specific exceptions, one of which he said applied to Mr Williams.
Alice Springs has not recorded one death from Covid-19 with 185 cases and 177 recoveries.