In brief –The Magistrates Court has sentenced a man to two months’ imprisonment after being convicted of four offences under the Environmental Protection Act 1994, in a decision that demonstrates that courts will not shy away from prison time when dealing with the provision of false and misleading information.
Mr Brett Stevens was subcontracted to manage a Tingun quarry in early 2013. As part of the role, he was responsible for applying for the environmental authorities (EAs) for extraction and quarrying activities. He applied for two EAs for different companies, one in April 2013 and another in January 2014.
In order to give effect to the EAs, additional development permits were required; however, these were not obtained for the extraction and screening activities being carried out on site. This resulted in the EAs not being in effect, and meant that the quarry was operating without a valid EA.
On this basis, Mr Stevens was charged with and convicted of two offences under section 426(1) of the EP Act for carrying out an environmentally relevant activity (being a quarry operation) without a valid environmental authority. Mr Stevens plead guilty and a conviction was recorded for each offence.
Mr Stevens was further charged with two offences under section 480 of the EP Act, after providing the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection with documents containing information that was known, or ought to be known, to be false or misleading in a material particular.
The offences under section 480 of the EP Act related to the two EA applications prepared by Mr. Stevens. When preparing the EA applications, in response to a question as to whether a required development permit had been obtained, Mr Stevens falsely ticked the “N/A” box, which was considered to be a material particular.
Mr Stevens pleaded guilty to the two section 480 offences. A conviction was recorded for each of the offences and he was sentenced to two months’ imprisonment for each of the offences, to be served concurrently. The maximum penalty for the offence is two years imprisonment.
In considering the sentence to be imposed, the Court took into account the fact that Mr Stevens is currently serving 13 years imprisonment for unrelated drug trafficking offences and as such, he will not realistically be able to pay a fine or costs.
The extra jail time for the EP Act offences is required to be served in addition to the time being served for drug trafficking offences.
This case is a pertinent reminder of the importance of providing correct information to administering authorities under the EP Act and the serious consequences, including jail time for individuals, which can arise from providing false or misleading information.