The apologies of a Wollongong tradie who faked a positive COVID test to get out of work have been met with silence from his employer, who was left to foot the bill for a costly site shutdown, a court has heard.
Late Tuesday at Wollongong Local Court, Jamie Pitman-Muir was convicted of conveying false information that a person is in danger.
The 23-year-old had been tasked to a Newcastle worksite for the week of August 2, but early that morning he sent his employer a text saying he couldn't work because he'd contracted COVID-19.
The court heard he used an app to alter a negative test result so it looked authentic.
Defence lawyer Greg Melrose said Pitman-Muir had been dreading going to work at the time.
"He was doing well at the job but ... there were problems on the site with some violence and threats from other workers on the site, and Mr Pitman-Muir found the going quite tough in that environment," Mr Melrose said, noting his client's young age and slight build.
"He became quite fearful about going to work. He was hoping simply to get some days off to try to formulate some position as to whether he was going to continue with the work or resign. He didn't consider what ... the ramifications of his actions might be in terms of the possible effect on the building site, persons having to get tested or things like that.
"He had also, because of this stress that he was under, consumed an amount of alcohol in the 24 hours before this incident took place, and he was feeling very ill and distressed when he in fact committed the offence."
Pitman-Muir's co-workers were stood down and had to self-isolate while awaiting test results. Several locations near his workplace, believed to be a construction site, required deep cleaning.
Pitman-Muir allegedly sent another text to his employer later that day, advising his second test returned a negative result.
Inquiries with NSW Health confirmed he never received a positive result. Pitman-Muir quickly admitted the ruse when police came calling.
"He has since apologised at great length to his employer. He hasn't received any response," Mr Melrose said.
"He acknowledges that's understandable, that his former employer doesn't want to communicate with him. He has lost his employer and prejudiced any further work in that industry as a result of his behaviour, which is quite a significant penalty for him because he has been supporting himself in the community as a young man and he has relied on this sort of construction work for a long time and he will have trouble getting back into the workforce because of this incident."
Police prosecutor Tanya Pavlin said Pitman-Muir had cost health authorities and police hours of time in contact tracing and investigative work.
Magistrate Susan McGowan found Pitman-Muir had gone to some effort to falsify his test result, at a time of heightened community concern about the virus.
"It must have been a trying and worrying time for [affected colleagues] ... there would have been grave concerns to the people who came in close contact with the defendant," she said.
"Why he didn't turn up in that usual Australian tradition and ask for a sickie, I don't know."
Pitman-Muir was convicted and placed on a 12-month community corrections order. He was also fined $1500.