Environmental offences - Types of penalties


There is a wide range of penalties that a court can impose in relation to environmental offences. Depending on the offence and the Act under which a defendant is charged, maximum penalties may be in excess of $1 million and possible imprisonment.

In addition to substantial fines, other penalties for environmental offences include:

  • Environmental service orders requiring the convicted person to carry out remediation works or other works designed to repair or improve the environment. The monetary value of these works may be several hundreds of thousands of dollars (see for example, section 205(1)(c) of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974)
  • Publication orders requiring, for example, the defendant to publish a notice in a major metropolitan newspaper (such as the Sydney Morning Herald), which sets out details of the offence, whether the defendant pleaded guilty, and the penalty imposed by the Court (see for example, section 205(1)(a) of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974)
  • An order requiring the defendant to pay the prosecutor’s costs in relation to the proceedings, including legal fees and costs relating to the investigation of the offence (see for example, section 257B of the Criminal Procedure Act 1986). In some recent cases, these costs have ranged from $100,000.00 – $200,000.00.

What can happen when you represent yourself in an environmental case:

A tale to be wary of from Lawyer John Sutton

Friday September 10th 2010. “I was in court today when a fellow pleaded guilty to a Local Government Act infringement notice” – the penalty was about $400 on the ticket but he, unrepresented, elected for it to be brought to court.

He had knocked a bucket over (allegedly) and the contents flowed across the footpath and into a drain. The maximum penalty is $250,000, the jurisdictional limit is $22,000, his Honour made the comment “it won’t take me long to get to that [the jurisdictional limit]”. The defendant went very pale and sought an adjournment.

The Magistrate pointed out (due to the appealed decision of Cameron v Eurobodala Shire Council – where the Land and Environment Court up held his decision and penalty) that the infringement penalty notice amount was not relevant and the Magistrate was obligated to fit the penalty within the scheme of the maximum offence BUT he could not exceed the jurisdictional limit.

In Cameron v Eurobodala Shire Council   the ticket price was about $400, the maximum penalty was $110,000, the court limit $11,000, so the Magistrate fined the person $10,000.”

WHERE TO NEXT?

If you suspect that you may be under investigation, or if you have been charged with an offence, it is vital to get competent legal advice as early as possible. Our lawyers are highly specialised in corporate crime and will be able to guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.

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