On 26 July 2022, a demolition company was sentenced in the Brisbane Magistrates Court for breaching section 43(1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (‘the Act’), having carried demolition work without being authorised to do so.
Between 1 March 2019 and 30 June 2019, the defendant company undertook demolition works on Hook Island in the Whitsundays. It did not hold a licence issued in Queensland to carry out the works.
In March 2019, the defendant approached the director of a company which had successfully tendered for clean-up works on Hook Island in relation to damage caused by a cyclone. The defendant company, through its sole director, stated that it could undertake demolition and asbestos removal works on the island and that it was licensed to do so.
The defendant subsequently carried out the demolition of numerous structures within a resort complex. These structures comprised a rotunda, amenities block, café, bar, reception building, laundry, 14 guest bungalows and a staff accommodation building.
In sentencing, Magistrate Courtney had regard to the sentencing considerations set out in section 9(1) of the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 and regarded that a just punishment and general deterrence were relevant sentencing factors.
His Honour noted that criminality arose from the defendant’s failure to enquire whether the principal contractor had obtained the appropriate licencing combined with the defendant’s failure to obtain the relevant licence itself. His Honour was satisfied that while it is incumbent upon businesses to ensure they are appropriately licensed, this was not a matter involving an intentional circumvention of Queensland’s licencing requirements. His Honour therefore took the view that the defendant’s level of criminality was low and specific deterrence to be of minimal relevance in sentencing.
Magistrate Courtney took into account the antecedents of the defendant, being a good corporate citizen with no prior convictions under work health and safety legislation. His Honour acknowledged that the work had been carried out safely, no loss or damage had occurred as a result of the offending, and that the defendant was qualified to carry out such work, albeit in Victoria.
His Honour remarked that whilst the defendant’s plea of guilty was not entered early in the proceedings, the defendant was still entitled to some leniency for a guilty plea, and that it demonstrated remorse.
His Honour fined the defendant $5,000 with no conviction recorded.
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Section 43(1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011