A Bendigo-based industrial recycling company and its directors have again avoided conviction for breaches of the Environment Protection Act, with their lawyer arguing they would not have faced a greater penalty had the matter been dealt with at the same time as earlier offences.
Hopley Recycling, Kenneth Hopley, Justin Hopley and Blair Hopley pleaded guilty in the Bendigo Magistrates' Court on Monday to depositing construction and demolition waste at an unlicensed site.
The court heard the City of Greater Bendigo reported Hopley Recycling had dumped waste at a council landfill site in White Hills, next to the Hopley site.
In mid-April 2017, Environment Protection Authority officers found various materials at the landfill site, such as metal, plastic, plasterboard, broken bricks and asphalt.
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The company admitted to running out of space on its own site and storing the materials on the landfill site, intending to remove them once it had space.
The EPA issued a clean-up notice later that month and on May 18, 2017, was informed Hopley Recycling elected to have the matter heard in court.
The agency revoked the clean-up notice on June 9, 2017, after the waste was removed.
Hopley Recycling, Kenneth Hopley and Justin Hopley pleaded guilty in late August 2017 to numerous charges for breaches committed from 2013 to 2015, including depositing waste at an unauthorised site, failing to comply with a clean-up notice and failing to comply with the direction of an officer.
These related to the same White Hills site.
On that occasion, the two men were placed on 12-month adjourned undertakings without conviction, and the company was fined $7500.
Read more: Hopley avoids conviction on EPA charges
On Monday, EPA prosecutor Stephanie Rennie submitted convictions were warranted in this matter with the exception of Blair Hopley, because of his lack of prior matters.
She also sought an order requiring the company to publish certain details of the matter, and costs.
Ms Rennie said the deliberate nature of the offending, that it was repeat offending, and that storing such materials where they should not be put competitors at a disadvantage, were all aggravating factors.
But she said there were mitigating factors in that the company made admissions, the site was cleaned, and the material was not toxic.
Defence counsel Jim Rutherford argued the prosecution was "fundamentally unfair".
Mr Rutherford said the EPA knew in May 2017 the company wanted to take the matter to court and ought to have consolidated it with the matters that were finalised in August 2017.
"This in my submission seems like a second bite of the cherry, and for that reason is fundamentally unfair," he said.
Mr Rutherford submitted the previous magistrate would not have imposed a significantly different penalty had he also heard this matter.
He told the court Hopley Recycling, which recycled construction and demolition materials, provided an "incredibly good community service" by keeping these out of landfill, and employed 25 to 30 people.
Magistrate Sarah Leighfield agreed it was probable the company and its directors would not have faced conviction had this matter been heard in August 2017, but said the fine would have been larger.
Kenneth and Justin Hopley were each placed on nine-month adjourned undertakings of good behaviour, while Blair Hopley (who was no longer a director) was put on a six-month adjourned undertaking.
The company was fined $1000 and ordered to pay more than $2300 in costs.
It must also publish an advertisement with details of the matter.
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