Warning after EPA officer attack convictions

Fines issued for obstruction of waste offence investigations

Warning after EPA officer attack convictions
EPA officers must not be 'prevented from performing their lawful duties'


Two recent cases prosecuted by environmental protection agencies (EPAs) in South Australia and New South Wales highlight the futility of obstructing investigating officers.

In SA, a truck driver was convicted, fined $2,100 and given a four-month suspended sentence for "abusing, hindering and assaulting" EPA officers in Largs Bay.

Gavin Piller pleaded guilty to two counts of hindering EPA officers and two counts of assaulting an EPA officer and was sentenced in the Environment, Resources and Development Court.

The conviction related to an incident in April 2018 when EPA officers were investigating claims of illegal asbestos storage.

The EPA officers were documenting the contents of two skip bins containing wrapped and unwrapped asbestos, when they were abused and attacked.

"To launch a tirade or profanities and then physically attack EPA officers, who were on site to investigate the illegal storage of asbestos, is completely unacceptable," SA EPA chief executive Tony Circelli says.

"As Chief Executive, I am deeply saddened that an EPA officer, lawfully carrying out their duties, was assaulted in this manner.

"The outcome is a strong message to anyone attempting to intimidate or assault EPA officers during the course of their duties."

The driver’s employer, GP and Sons Demolition Pty Ltd, was also convicted on two counts and fined $49,000 for illegally storing asbestos at a site in Wingfield, plus its Largs Bay depot, without a licence.

"This type of illegal activity will not be tolerated – it risks both harm to the environment and the community, and damages confidence for investment and fair play for legitimate waste operators," Circelli says.

How EPAs took offending waste transporters to task last year, here

It comes as a Sydney man was convicted and sentenced last month after being found guilty of wilfully delaying an authorised NSW EPA officer who was investigating possible waste offences at a premises in western Sydney.

He was found guilty of an offence under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act for wilfully delaying an authorised officer in the exercise of his powers, and ordered to pay a $10,000 fine and $25,000 in legal costs.

Blacktown Local Court heard that two EPA officers were attempting to take samples from waste stockpiles within a fenced compound in Shanes Park in October 2018 when the man confronted them, refused to accept their authority to be there and detained them by locking the gate.

ATN understands the offender is a bulk haulage operator in the region.

NSW EPA chief executive officer Tracy Mackey says obstructive behaviour of this kind is not acceptable.

"EPA officers are doing their best to protect the community and the environment and there is no excuse for preventing them from performing their lawful duties," Mackey says.

"The Court’s decision demonstrates that any attempts to prevent EPA officers from undertaking investigations will have serious consequences."


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