The judgment considered the issue of what would be an appropriate sentence to be imposed on Walker for clearing 23 hectares of native vegetation.
The maximum penalty for an offence by a corporation in breach of the relevant native vegetation clearing provision is a fine of $1,100,000 (10,000 penalty units). The Court noted that the maximum penalty should be used given in the worst possible case.
In reaching a decision, the Court was required to determine the objective gravity or seriousness of the offence. To do so, the Court considered a variety of factors including the nature of the offence, the maximum penalty for the offence, the harmfulness of Walker’s actions, Walker’s state of mind when committing the offence, Walker’s reasons for committing the offence and the foreseeability of the risk of harm to the environment.
The Court noted that “a fundamental consideration of relevance to environmental offences is the degree to which, having regard to the maximum penalties provided by the statute in question, the offender's conduct would offend against the legislative objectives expressed in the statutory offence”.
Having regard to the objective circumstances of the commission of the offence and the subjective circumstances of Walker, the Court imposed a fine of $200,000.
(Contribution: Case provided by Charley Xu from the Queensland University of Technology)