A Victorian magistrate has lashed out at the leniency of penalties against ‘cowboys’ who remove asbestos illegally, saying courts should have the power to jail those who remove the deadly material on property and construction sites without a proper license.
“It is a joke beyond belief these charges can only be (punishable) by fine,” Geelong Magistrate Paul Coghlan says. “Go back to the minister, go back to the department and raise the issue with them.”
On May 31, Coghlan imposed fines of $13,250 against 30-year-old Joshua Marshall who pleaded guilty to arranging asbestos removal without a license, arranging for a third party, also without a license, to remove about 50 square metres of asbestos at a Great Ocean Road property in Anglesea from November 18 to 22, 2010.
Just two weeks prior to those dates, Coghlan had fined Marshall $35,400 for an earlier offence.
The latest offence breached an 18-month good behaviour bond Marshall had signed following the earlier offence, for which Coghlan attacked Marshall’s behaviour of operating an unlicensed asbestos removal company and exposing his staff, clients and himself to hazardous fibres by not wearing protective clothing or securing the sites.
Marshall is riled by the brazen and repeat nature of the offenses.
“It is a nonsense imposing fines. It’s a joke,” he said. “I think consideration should be given to provisions of terms of imprisonment.”
Coghlan said he himself would have no problem sentencing Marshall to jail given the circumstances.
“He has no regard for others,” he said.
Coghlan expressed scant regard for an argument put forward by Marshall’s lawyer that his client suffered from medical disorders. Coghlan says a 1996 medical report did not, in any way, explain the continued nature of Marshall’s offences.
“I’m sure he’s not so impaired he doesn’t know by now he’s not allowed to do this sort of work without a licence,” Coghlan said to Marshall’s lawyer. “Cowboys such as your client don’t have any regard for others in the community.”