A woman and her three children have admitted trying to escape quarantine from a Hamilton hotel and pleaded guilty in court this afternoon.
The woman, 37, and her children aged 18, 17, 16 and 12, fled the Distinction Hotel on Friday night in the hope of getting to the funeral of a relative.
The group was in managed isolation after flying into New Zealand from Brisbane earlier this month.
Four were found soon after their Friday night dash, while the last person was found in Auckland hours later.
Four of the five all originally appeared in the Hamilton Youth Court on Saturday jointly charged with failing to comply with an order under the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act 2020.
They all reappeared in the Youth Court again this afternoon via audiovisual link and all separately entered guilty pleas to the charge.
A 12-year-old who also left the facility has not been charged by police.
Judge Noel Cocurullo, suppressed details of the accused due to the strict youth court jurisdiction rules, allowed media to report on the results of their appearances.
The woman’s children were remanded to reappear in the Auckland Youth Court on August 27.
The 37-year-old was convicted and remanded to appear for sentencing on the same day.
Political co-leader Billy Te Kahika was earlier asked to leave the youth court hearing of the family.
Te Kahika earlier said he would be attending the hearing in the Hamilton District Court as a sign of solidarity but reiterated he did not encourage the group to flee the hotel on Friday.
But Judge Cocurullo told Te Kahika in the hearing that although he appreciated he was wider whanau with the defendants he felt his presence had been in part politicised due to a media release he issued earlier today announcing he would be in court to support the whanau.
Te Kahika told the judge he drove down to Hamilton with his own whanau as he was concerned about their welfare and there wasn’t any agenda however he accepted it was a “fair question”.
“I haven’t driven down here for any time in front of the camera.”
When shown the release by the judge, Te Kahika admitted it was his statement but he didn’t write it – but did approve it.
He said he would report back to whanau who couldn’t make the court appearance today.
He said he didn’t feel it was appropriate to make clear his whakapapa and whanaungatanga.
“I didn’t feel it appropriate it to be known that our families are entwined,” he said.
Judge Cocurullo said while he appreciated Te Kahika’s gesture he said if their welfare was the reason he was in court it should have been made clear in his press release.
The judge said he couldn’t help but think that the release had a predominance that it was “politically motivated” and that the country was currently in the lead up to an election.
“While he expresses, what I clearly accept are well meaning sentiments, there is a predominance in his appearance today of the standpoint that it is a political media release that he has issued and we are currently in an election cycle.”
He said Te Kahika was not close whanau and was concerned that he had never met the 37 year old accused before.
“I am concerned that Mr Te Kahika has not had any formal connection before this court hearing and the media release is quite a clear illustration that at the heart of him being present is in part, a political agenda.”
The judge also noted Te Kahika’s critical comments about the group’s quarantine after arriving from Australia.
However, while he appreciated those concerns, it “was trying times for all” including those who missed funeral and tangi with loved ones during lockdown.
“But one needs to understand the wider aspiration here given that the world is currently being ravaged by the Covid-19 virus and what is being endeavoured to be achieved.”
The judge said New Zealand’s team of 5 million had suffered much in the six weeks of the lockdown and many suffered in exactly the same way as this family has had to endure.