BRADLEY John Hill - the licensee of a Hunter Valley pub that repeatedly breached public health orders and refused to turn away unvaccinated patrons - walked from Singleton courthouse on Thursday to cheers, applause and shouts of "justice" from a throng of placard waving supporters.
But the reaction outside had belied the reality of what had occurred inside, a bizarre spectacle during which Mr Hill refused to acknowledge who he was and was promptly convicted and fined $3000.
Mr Hill had come for his day in court and had hoped to say something, presumably, judging by the signs outside, about the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines.
But Magistrate Mark Richardson was not willing to entertain anything but a plea and things immediately got off to an unusual start.
Unmasked, Mr Hill approached a microphone and was asked if he was Bradley John Hill.
"Mr Hill is not in the court," he replied. "I am Bradley John."
Mr Richardson then asked a sheriff to have Mr Hill called outside, and despite the fact he was standing right there, Mr Hill said nothing.
The magistrate then asked the police prosecutor what she wanted to do and she made an application to have the matter dealt with in Mr Hill's absence, again despite him standing there.
When Mr Hill began speaking, asking if Mr Richardson had read his affidavit, the magistrate replied: "I do not recognise you, sir. "You are not Bradley John Hill."
Then, in a flash, while Mr Hill was standing there, he was convicted in his absence and fined a total of $3000 for three separate breaches of the public health order relating to having unvaccinated people at Singleton's Caledonian Hotel.
Mr Hill then walked outside to a round of applause from supporters, who asked what had happened, quickly declared it a victory in their favour and asked if they could "come and drink at your pub now".
There were about 80 or so people outside the courthouse in suburban Elizabeth Street, Singleton on Thursday morning, many waving flags or signs that read things like: "Brad stood with us, we stand with him" or "we will never comply with tyranny" and one with "COVID is a scam".
They played music and peacefully chatted while a large contingent of police officers looked on.
The Caledonian Hotel in Singleton had become a focus of discussion around COVID-19 vaccines in October after Mr Hill was repeatedly warned, fined and charged over breaches of the public health order, culminating in NSW Police shutting the venue down for four days.
According to court documents, Mr Hill was fined on October 11 - referred to by some as "Freedom Day", the first day public health orders came into effect banning unvaccinated adults from venues like pubs - when police found that he was working at the pub without being vaccinated against COVID-19.
Mr Hill elected to have that matter heard in court and it was re-listed to Thursday where he was convicted and fined $1000.
Police say he was warned about being in the hotel while being unvaccinated.
The next day, after receiving information from the public, police went to the pub and Mr Hill was fined again for being unvaccinated and allowing other unvaccinated people on the premises.
He was warned that next time he would be charged, but three days later they found Mr Hill in the pub again and again the pub was not checking the vaccination status of patrons.
He was charged and on Thursday got his day in court, sort of.