Hunter Valley ‘freedom pub’ licensee convicted, fined for breach of COVID-19 vaccination

A crowd of protesters cheered and shouted “justice” as the licensee of a Hunter Valley “freedom pub” came out of court after being convicted of repeated violations of COVID-19 health orders.

Bradley John Hill, the 57-year-old licensee of the Caledonian Hotel in Singleton, led a public campaign against the COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

Hill was hit by several notices of fine violations in October for non-compliance with COVID-19 public health orders, leading to the temporary closure of the venue.

He was later charged with two counts of allowing unvaccinated persons into his inn.

Hill was cheered into Singleton Court by a crowd of 80 protesters, some holding signs criticizing “tyranny” and “discrimination.”

A man wearing a black shirt talks to a woman outside a courthouse.
Bradley John Hill, left, said “of course” that the audience could drink at his pub after his trial.(ABC Upper Hunter: Jake Lapham)

After a five-minute hearing, Hill told his supporters the case was “done.”

“I was trying to read my statement and he would not listen,” he said.

Despite Hill’s verdict a few minutes earlier, protesters shouted “justice” before asking to drink at the pub.

Exterior of a hotel with reading signs "free Australia" and others who make anti-vaccination messages.
Caledonian Hotel, pictured in August, is located on a corner of Singleton’s main street.(Facebook)

‘Who are you?’

Inside the court, Hill, who was not wearing a mask, approached a microphone before instantly questioning his identification.

Magistrate Mark Richardson asked if he was Bradley John Hill, to which he replied, “Mr. Hill is not in court, I am Bradley John.”

“Who are you? Why are you in court?” said Judge Richardson.

“You have no right to stand there.”

With the accused and the judge in dispute, Hill’s name was called three times by the court sheriff before an application was granted to have the case treated as if Hill were absent.

He was convicted and fined $ 3,000.

Exterior of a courthouse with a sign reading "we stand with Cali" out front.
The Caledonian’s position has shared opinion in Singleton.(ABC Upper Hunter: Jake Lapham)

‘Severe anxiety’

Police facts given in court detailed repeated violations of COVID-19 public health orders at the Caledonian Hotel.

Police instead attended several times, warning Hill to be at the hotel while he was not vaccinated, and to refrain from checking vaccination status for patrons.

On October 15, Hill sat “in the public bar on a bar stool and sipped a schooner beer with another person,” the document said.

A group of protesters is standing outside a courthouse.
En gruppe politi observerede demonstranterne, som udtrykte ønske om at drikke på “frihedspuben” efter Hills domfældelse.(ABC Upper Hunter: Jake Lapham)

When asked if he had updated his vaccination status, he said he had spoken to a doctor who had given a letter.

Police believed the letter did not meet the requirement under the Public Health Act, and later that evening, staff did not experience verifying vaccination status for patrons.

A woman holds a poster that says "on the other side of the fear lies freedom".
Fiona says she has lost her job because of her attitude toward vaccination.(ABC Upper Hunter: Jake Lapham)

‘So unfair’

A protester outside Singleton Court named Fiona said she was a preschooler and had been unable to work due to vaccination requirements.

“I’m here because it’s so unfair what’s going on,” she said.

Another protester named Tony Sosich said he was at the courthouse to “keep Australia free”.

Clay Hill, who claimed to have organized the protest, said Bradley John Hill had been “exposed” by NSW police.

He said he organized the demonstration via social media and that participants had traveled from Port Macquarie and Taree.

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