The defendant advertising company was sentenced on 7 June 2019 after being found guilty of an offence against section 40C of the Electrical Safety Act 2002 (‘the Act’), for failing to comply with its duty under section 30 of the Act to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, that its business or undertaking was conducted in a way that was electrically safe.

On 12 July 2016 a worker employed by the defendant suffered an electric shock while replacing an advertising skin on a billboard owned by the defendant. The task required him to feed a three metre conductive ‘sail track’ vertically onto the side of the billboard, which was in close proximity to powerlines, placing him within the exclusion zone prescribed by the Regulation. The worker sustained serious injury included fractures to his neck, back, pelvis and ribs.

The prosecution case was that the defendant had the capacity to eliminate the electrical risk so far as was reasonably practicable, by one of six alternative means. The means on which the prosecution primarily relied was to arrange for Ergon Energy to move the power lines so as to maintain the relevant exclusion zone for the defendant’s workers.

The defendant entered a plea of not-guilty with the matter proceeding to a summary hearing before Acting Magistrate Muirhead in the Mackay Magistrates Court on 19 and 20 February 2019. His Honour delivered a written judgment on 17 April 2019, finding the defendant guilty.

In sentencing the defendant, His Honour had regard to the seriousness of the offence, the serious injuries suffered by the worker and the need for general and specific deterrence. His Honour observed that the advertising sign in question was only just within the exclusion zone and, post-incident, the defendant contacted Ergon Energy and arranged for the power lines to be raised. Regard was had to the defendant’s lack of previous convictions and cooperation with the investigation, as well as the admissions it made that assisted the conduct of the trial and the assistance it provided to the injured worker post-incident. The defendant was noted to be a small family run business upon which a large fine would impose a heavy burden. The defendant was fined a sum of $250,000 and ordered to pay the complainant’s scale costs and disbursements, along with the filing fee, at a total of $7,475.38.

The defendant appealed against conviction to the District Court on the basis of 21 grounds, including that the Magistrate made a number of findings of fact that were not supported by the evidence, failed to apply the correct standard of proof, and failed to apply criminal negligence principles which were argued to be applicable. The appeal was heard before Judge Dearden in the Brisbane District Court on 26 May 2020, with his Honour’s written judgment being delivered on 27 November 2020. His Honour dismissed the appeal, finding that the appellant had failed to make out any of its 21 grounds of appeal, and ordered that the respondent pay the complainant’s appeal costs of $2,100.

The defendant appealed the decision of his Honour Judge Dearden to the Court of Appeal. The written judgment of the Court was delivered on 5 July 2022. In that judgment his Honour Justice Fraser, with whom Justices Sofronoff and North agreed, rejected each of the grounds of appeal and the application for leave to appeal was refused.

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Court Report

Information, media and telecommunications
Date of offence
Multiple veritable fractures and severe unstable spinal injury
Court of Appeal
Magistrate or judge
President Sofronoff, Justice Fraser, Justice North
Decision date

Sections 40C and 30 of the Electrical Safety Act 2002

Not Guilty
Maximum fine available
$1.5 million
Professional and legal costs
Court costs
In default period
Time to pay
Conviction recorded