Student jailed for hitchhiking across a closed state border opens up on her ‘nightmare’ ordeal

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A student who was jailed and put in solitary confinement for hitchhiking across closed state borders has opened up her ‘nightmare’ ordeal.

Asher Faye Vander Sanden travelled from coronavirus-ravaged Victoria to Western Australia by road between July 30 and August 11. 

The 28-year-old had been granted permission to enter the state, but police issued a warrant for her arrest when she failed to arrive by plane at Perth Airport as expected.

The construction was arrested by police at her boyfriend’s home in Scarborough on August 11 after sneaking into the state and skipping hotel quarantine.   

Asher Faye Vander Sanden, 28, (pictured) was handed a six month jail sentence after pleading guilty to breaching the Emergency Management Act

Asher Faye Vander Sanden, 28, (pictured) was handed a six month jail sentence after pleading guilty to breaching the Emergency Management Act

She spent three weeks of her six-month jail sentence in Bandyup prison, near Perth, in what was the nation’s most severe punishment for breaching coronavirus rules.

Vander Sanden told 9 News the sentence, which involved two weeks in solitude, was ‘like I got kicked in the stomach’.

‘I was gobsmacked, I was shocked … Just completely powerless,’ she said. 

‘It was a nightmare. It was cold, it was boring. I read five books in five days, I walked around the cell for entertainment.’ 

Police stop and question drivers at a checkpoint at the NSW-Victoria border at Albury

Police stop and question drivers at a checkpoint at the NSW-Victoria border at Albury 

Vander Sanden said the sentence, which involved two weeks in solitude, was 'like I got kicked in the stomach'

Vander Sanden said the sentence, which involved two weeks in solitude, was ‘like I got kicked in the stomach’

It was reported Vander Sanden wanted to dodge the mandatory $2,500 hotel quarantine fee, but she insisted she hitched a ride with a truckie because her flight back to WA was cancelled. 

‘I felt alone and I had to make my own way home, because everything I tried at that point failed,’ she said.  

Vander Sanden was charged with one count of failing to comply with a direction of the Emergency Management Act.  

Her lawyer, John Hammond, told the Perth Magistrates Court the penalty was too severe.

He argued while she had a criminal record, it was related to a past ‘meth habit’ which was no longer an issue. 

Vander Sanden's (pictured) lawyer, John Hammond, told the Perth Magistrates Court the penalty was too severe

Vander Sanden’s (pictured) lawyer, John Hammond, told the Perth Magistrates Court the penalty was too severe

During the sentencing on last month, magistrate Andrew Matthews told Vander Sanden her actions had the potential to undo ‘what this government has done to prevent community spread’.

The woman agreed that she should be punished for her actions, and apologised to the community for putting them at risk. 

‘I understand why people are upset at me and I understand that I did take a huge risk at other people’s expense, and I apologise. Deep down, I am very sorry,’ she said. 

On Tuesday, her sentence was overturned and she was ordered to complete 50 hours of community service.

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