Coronavirus: Judge warns Government over 'illegal' ban on compassionate leave after Kiwi misses chance to farewell dying father

A High Court judge is questioning the legality of the Government's ban on compassionate exemptions from managed isolation - and warned them to fix it.

It follows a case of a returning Kiwi who challenged the ban, but tragically never got to say goodbye to his father, who died before he got his day in court.

Graeme Hattie returned from London and was going to sit out the 14-day quarantine to see his dying father. 

On arrival, he found out his father had deteriorated and had "hours to days left to live", according to a ruling from Justice Muir.

It says the medical advice was it was "highly unlikely he will survive [the quarantine period]". Hattie had a plan to see his father at a hospice just 15 minutes from his managed isolation and a plan was in place for him to wear full PPE gear.

However this was declined because of the ban on compassionate exemptions after two sisters were allowed out without being tested and turned out to be COVID-19-positive. 

So Hattie called for a judicial review, and was going to argue there had been an "error of law" and "unreasonableness" by the Government in taking action against Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield.

Auckland High Court was ready to host the hearing this week, but sadly Hattie's father died overnight. Hattie therefore withdrew his court action. 

However Justice Muir has issued a warning to the Government in a note.

"The extent the Director-General purports to have currently suspended all compassionate leave from managed isolation... would appear to be inconsistent with proper exercise of discretion in [the order]," he said.

"There appears to be an urgent need for the Director-General to address the terms of the current [purported] blanket suspension." 

Hattie's lawyer went a step further, saying the ban on compassion exemption was "illegal".

"They have an obligation, at law, to consider the particular circumstances of each applicant who applies for compassionate leave. They cannot refuse them all on a blanket basis. That is illegal," Foote said.

Justice Muir also issued condolences and a message to Mr Hattie.

"He should always carry with him that he could not conceivably have done more to console his late father in his final hours. He demonstrates the finest qualities possible in a son."