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Thematic Issue: Rights Protection amidst COVID-19 / General

Pandemics, Punishment, and Public Health: COVID-19 and Criminal Law in Australia

Author

Joseph Lelliott, Andreas Schloenhardt and Ruby Ioannou

This article examines the scope, application, and implications of criminal offences relating to the containment of COVID-19 in Australia. Drawing in part on existing research concerning criminalisation of HIV transmission, the article highlights actual and potential discriminatory consequences of the criminal justice approach to COVID-19, as well as consequences for persons’ right to health. The article concludes that criminal offences relating to the spread of the virus must be precisely and narrowly circumscribed to be both fair and meaningful. Criminal prosecution and punishment can only be justified in a very small number of situations. Broad use of coercive and punitive powers, together with stigmatising rhetoric, may well be counterproductive to public health goals.  

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