Vic COVID patient escaped recovery clinic

·2-min read

A Victorian man born with a heroin dependency who escaped a recovery clinic and caught a tram while sick with COVID-19 has been jailed.

Nathan Hetherington, 22, on Wednesday faced Melbourne Magistrates Court, where he was jailed for four months.

He had pleaded guilty to conduct endangering serious injury and two counts of criminal damage after twice escaping from Albert Road Clinic, in Melbourne's southeast, while withdrawing from ice and recovering from COVID in September.

Magistrate Gregory McNamara said Hetherington, who was born heroin dependent and began taking drugs when just nine years old, had faced a difficult life.

But he had to face "real punishment" for putting the lives of healthcare workers, security guard and police officers at risk.

"The danger of what you did to the community is enormous," Mr McNamara said.

"People who commit criminal acts while affected by drugs have to take responsibility for what they do.

"You've had a difficult life and you're vulnerable ... but in the end a point has to be reached where you take responsibility."

Hetherington presented himself at the Alfred Hospital's emergency department on September 14.

But he tried to leave after testing positive to COVID-19 and had to be restrained by security.

The 22-year-old was then transferred to a secure facility at the Albert Road Clinic. But he managed to escape on September 16 after he unlocked a door by kicking it several times.

He had been complaining about withdrawing from ice and made it about 30 metres before he was arrested.

Hetherington then escaped again two days later after barricading himself in a staff room and smashing open a window facing the street.

He was arrested near the War Memorial after catching a tram to the Botanical Gardens about 6.30am.

Mr McNamara said he hoped that time spent in custody would enable Hetherington to improve his life.

"It's four months - I hope you benefit from it, I hope you do better when you get out," the magistrate said.

"But any behaviour like this, the community must be aware it will be responded to with serious consequences.

"There must be real punishment."

Hetherington must also pay more than $5000 in restitution for ripping curtains, putting holes in the wall and smashing a window at the Albert Road Clinic.

He has already served 24 days in custody.

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