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Penalties for Environmental Offences

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 fines in excess of one million dollars as well as a term of imprisonment. This article outlines the penalties courts can impose for environmental offences.

What penalties exist for environmental offences?

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  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.

Representing yourself

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.”

If you require legal advice or representation in relation to environmental offences or in any other legal matter please contact Armstrong Legal. 

Michelle Makela

This article was written by Michelle Makela

Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning.  Michelle has been involved in all practice areas of the firm and in her personal practice has had experience in litigation at all levels (State and Federal Industrial Tribunals, the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, Federal...

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