It was supposed to be one of the busiest trading weeks of the year for Jindabyne’s only organic produce store. But that changed in an instant for owners of The Market Jindabyne when several police from Sydney swooped into the Snowy Mountains town on 30 June.
After walking into his store with his morning coffee, Scott Kraus soon found himself in the back of a police vehicle. His partner Sheridan Gill was later grabbed by a police officer twice her size when they came back to arrest her. Their three-year-old daughter was left with a friend while the couple were taken to the local police station for four hours and charged for not wearing masks.
“We have a medical mask exemption, but they didn’t want to listen,” said Sheridan.
After Sheridan and Scott’s arrest, The Market remained in the sights of NSW authorities. Police arrived on the doorstep of the couples home a few days later with an order for the store to be closed until 16 July.
“This was supposed to be the two best trading weeks of the year, and it has all gone. Once I use the savings to pay off my suppliers, we won’t have any money left,” said Sheridan.
She estimates the store will lose close to $30,000 in the first two weeks of the closure, which does not include the thousands of dollars worth of fresh produce set to perish.
Arrested despite mask exemption
Xenophon Davis partner Mark Davis, who is acting for the Sheridan and Scott, said: “These people both had exemptions, medical exemptions from wearing masks. Nevertheless, they were arrested, manhandled and taken back to the station when they could have simply been issued a fine which they could rightly dispute.”
“What has flowed from that arrest is a bureaucratic decision to shut down their entire business and their livelihood. This is a young family who rely upon this business for their survival. The store is a wholefoods store. It is packed with perishable goods which are now rotting.”
Davis said that Sheridan and Scott are fully committed to complying with every directive from the NSW Government, including the installation of new QR Codes, keeping a COVID register and ensuring all staff and customers not medically exempt wear a mask.
“These people are not seeking to martyr themselves to any cause, they simply want to conduct their business as they are rightfully entitled to do,” said Davis.
“There can be no confusion on this point, this couple were absolutely and totally compliant with the department, they undertook through us that they would comply with any COVID requirement put upon them. If they breached those undertakings the consequences would have rightly been swift. They were not given that chance.”
More interested in a headline
Sheridan said: “They weren’t interested in our compliance, they were just interested in the headline. They had a press release ready”
“We were absolutely terrified when the local paper printed that we were going to be put in jail via a detention application. After our lawyer checked up on it, it turned out to be a totally false claim.”
“I spent two days worrying about our child alone or with strangers if they came for us. A thought I wouldn’t wish on any mother,” said Sheridan.
Davis said: “Our offer was totally ignored in an iron fisted act of bureaucratic heavy handedness. There has to be a more rational and more humane way to address this issue.”
Meanwhile, the owners of The Market can only look on as their business disintegrates. “We are here to serve our community, that is what we do. That is what we always have done,” said Sheridan.
Click the link below to Help Save Small Family Business by Sheridan Gill