Prosecution for unlawful access to Marine Park

12 February 2018
Stafford Hopewell, Partner, Brisbane

The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service has successfully prosecuted a person who drove their vehicle onto a designated pedestrian-only beach in the Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park contrary to regulatory notices.  The person was fined and ordered to pay legal and investigation costs by the Magistrates Court for the offence.

Implications

  • It is an offence to bring a vehicle prohibited under a regulatory notice into a marine park or a part of a marine park.
  • In determining the appropriate penalty to award, amongst the factors to be taken into account, the Court had regard to:
      • the risk of harm to the environment, including nesting turtles in the area at the time of the offence;
      • the need to send a strong message so that the person and likeminded people would realise notices must be complied with;
      • the defendant’s knowledge and awareness of the obligation not to drive a vehicle in the prohibited area.

Decision

Five Rocks Beach is part of the Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park and is accessed along a designated track through Byfield National Park in Central Queensland.  Three regulatory notices made under the Marine Parks Regulation 2006 were located just before the access track onto the beach which directed persons that the beach to the north of the access track into Five Rocks Beach is prohibited to vehicles and penalties apply for contravening the direction.  However, on 1 January 2017, the person in contravention of the regulatory notices drove their vehicle into the prohibited area.

The person was charged with one offence of unlawfully bringing a vehicle into a part of a marine park in contravention of the Marine Park Regulation.  The person subsequently pleaded guilty to the charge and was sentenced in the Rockhampton Magistrates Court.

In sentencing the person, the Magistrates Court took into account a range of factors, including:

  • early plea of guilty by the defendant;
  • the maximum penalty for the offence;
  • the law was designed to protect and maintain the marine environment;
  • that at time of the offence, nesting turtles were in the area;
  • the defendant had previously been issued two penalty infringement notices (PINs) for committing similar offences on two separate occasions.

The Court fined the defendant $900 and ordered that he pay legal and investigation costs of almost $1,000.

This case highlights the importance of complying with regulatory notices and that relevant authorities will take prosecution action in appropriate cases to enforce compliance.  The Courts are also more likely to award higher fines and legal and investigation costs where the conduct is deliberate and knowingly in breach.

 

 

Authored by:
Stafford Hopewell, Partner, Brisbane
Elton Morais, Senior Associate, Brisbane

This update does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest and it is not intended to be comprehensive. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.

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