An Australian couple fined for nonessential travel after they posted vacation pics from last year to social media have had their fine rescinded by the Victoria Police Department — because apparently even faceless officialdom has some shame when the media is contacted.
The couple won’t be able to post any more pictures from their vacation on their account, however, because faceless officialdom doesn’t have that much shame left.
According to the U.K. Independent, Jaz and Garry Mott had some time on their hands due to the coronavirus lockdown, so they decided they would go through the photos they’d taken during a 2019 vacation to the coastal town of Lakes Entrance, roughly two hours from where they live in Traralgon, Victoria.
Apparently, someone was paying attention and didn’t like it. The pictures were posted on April 5. On April 9, an officer with the Victoria Police Department came knocking on their door.
Jaz Mott said the officer “just handed me the fine and walked off,” which didn’t leave a whole lot of time to explain that the couple was being fined for “infringement” of the lockdown order there banning nonessential travel.
The fine was $1,652 Australian dollars — $1,041 in U.S. dollars.
The obvious reason for the fine is that police thought the photos were posted on the same day they were taken. The question is how they actually found out about this, but we’ll get there later.
The ticket said the Motts were in violation of “failure to comply with a direction given to a person in the exercise of a power under an authorization given under section 199.”
It went on to note that they were “going for a drive to Lakes Entrance (non-essential travel).”
No one had observed them driving there, of course, and the only way they’d be able to tell is by looking at the photographs of Jaz and Garry Mott in a car. Nothing in the pictures could have led anyone to determine when or where the pictures were taken.
These salient pieces of information tying them to a violation of the law in the time of coronavirus weren’t an impediment to the police, though.
So, yes, after the couple contacted local media, the fine was canceled. Sanity prevailed, right? Not quite.
“The Sargent told me if I posted any more photos I will be arrested,” Jaz Mott told the Independent.
The Victoria Police Department issued the pro forma “mistakes were made” statement.
“This incident has been reviewed and the decision has been made to withdraw the infringement notice,” a department representative said.
“On occasion, errors will be made however that is why a review process exists to ensure instances such as these are identified and rectified.
“Police are not specifically monitoring social media accounts to identify breaches of the Chief Health Officer directives.
“In general, police will follow up and investigate the circumstances surrounding individual potential breaches reported by the public.”
This would have had to have been reported by the public; a screen shot of the photos posted to Facebook seems to indicate it was set to friends-only status, meaning that the police couldn’t have just been trawling the accounts of public places, looking for people foolish enough to tag themselves in photographs visiting there.
On the other hand, was there any questioning? Could they have done some follow-up work with the Motts before they wrote a pretty hefty chit for them and wordlessly handed it over at their residence? Did they not see the ways this could backfire?