LONDON — On Thursday, Dale Mclaughlan bought a Jet Ski.
On Monday, the 28-year-old Scotsman was sentenced to four weeks in jail.
What happened on the three days in between, according to court documents, may be one of the more unusual instances of rule-flouting during the coronavirus pandemic.
The day after purchasing the watercraft, Mclaughlan set off at 8 a.m. for what he thought would be a 40-minute trip from the southwestern coast of Scotland to his girlfriend’s home on the Isle of Man, between England and Ireland. He later told authorities that he had never ridden a Jet Ski before and that bad weather on the Irish Sea caused the trip to stretch to 4 1/2 hours.
Mclaughlan finally reached his girlfriend on Friday night, after walking 15 miles from the Isle of Man’s coast to her home in its capital, Douglas. The couple spent the weekend enjoying the city’s nightlife, but their reunion was cut short, when he was arrested and later charged with one count of violating the Isle of Man’s coronavirus restrictions.
On Monday, he received a four-week jail sentence.
“This individual was aware of the law and showed a flagrant disregard when they chose to break it, mixing in the community and potentially putting lives at risk,” Howard Quayle, chief minister of the Isle of Man, said in a statement Tuesday.
The Isle of Man, which relies on Britain for defense but is self-governing, is closed to nonresidents, except for those who have special permission. Mclaughlan arrived without an entry permission and failed to declare his arrival or self-isolate, Quayle said.
The island, which has a population of about 85,000, has only four active coronavirus cases and has not had a locally transmitted case for more than six months, Quayle said.
With isolation fatigue setting in, thousands of people around the world have been caught, fined and even jailed for defying coronavirus restrictions. In a case in Italy this year, a man was fined after leaving his house to cool off after an argument with his wife, breaching the country’s curfew. In Taiwan, a man was penalized for leaving his quarantine room for eight seconds, and in Australia, a man was caught violating lockdown to get butter chicken curry.
Mclaughlan, like many who have been separated from loved ones during the pandemic, was having trouble coping with the distance, according to the BBC, citing his lawyer. He told authorities that he had met his girlfriend in September, when he had visited the island for his job as a roofer. After returning to Scotland, he had twice applied to travel to the Isle of Man to see his girlfriend, but both requests had been denied, according to court documents.
The government was unmoved. “On the Isle of Man, we’re all for ingenuity,” Quayle’s statement said. “But unfortunately, this was an incredibly reckless, dangerous endeavor, which could have ended very differently given the time of year.”
As for why it took Mclaughlan more than four hours to cross a short distance, Allan Stirling, owner of a boat dealer in Linwood, Scotland, said the trip should have taken less than an hour.
“You can see the Isle of Man from the peninsula where he set off from,” Stirling said. “To cover that distance is not a great feat.”