Lack of Transparency Dooms Case

A significant environmental protection case has stalled as a result of the prosecution’s summary of facts being deemed as “gobbledygook”, according to a recent Courier Mail article.

District Court Judge, Leanne Clare expressed to a pre-trial hearing that she experienced difficulty comprehending the case brought by the Crown concerning an Australian energy company. They were accused of Environmental Protection Act breaches, concerning alleged pollution caused at an experimental underground gasification plant located on the Western Downs.

District Court Judge, Leanne Clare outlined the importance of clarity in the summary of facts brought forward by the prosecution, saying:

“I had expected that the Crown would distil its case in a way that was comprehensible by a jury. I just can’t leave a case to the jury in terms that you’ve expressed so far. It’s just so broad and so long and I had struggled to understand what is actually being said. I have to go through a process of translation for myself, but it’s just gobbledygook.”

 

The Director of Public Prosecutors has since dropped the charges against the former Linc Energy directors. Crown Prosecutor, Ralph Devin said to the court that “the Crown will not further proceed on the indictment.”

Following the decision, District Court Judge, Leanne Clare put forward a rare request. She asked Crown Prosecutor, Ralph Devin to provide reasoning for discontinuing the court proceedings, saying:

“Given the enormity of the prosecution and the cost and time, and also the impact on so many people, it calls for an explanation on the record.”

To which, Crown Prosecutor, Ralph Devin QC, outlined to the court the prosecution was no longer satisfied it could prove serious environmental harm on individual counts following the rulings concerning evidence in pre-trial hearings.

Following the incident, the Queensland Environment Minister, Meaghan Scanlon confirmed the government would be considering its course of action moving forward, remarking:

“This outcome does not detract from the fact that Linc Energy committed serious environmental harm.”

“[It was] a decision that was upheld by the courts in 2018 with the largest-ever penalty imposed of $4.5 million under Queensland law.”

So the question arises, what are the key takeaways and implications for investigators and prosecutors? As COMtrac’s Founder and CEO, Craig Doran puts it: 

“Significant time, money and resources are often deployed by Government Regulatory Agencies in undertaking investigations.” 

“If the quality, transparency and useability of the resulting brief of evidence is not ‘fit for purpose’ (i.e. to streamline the criminal justice process) then there has been a significant failure in the evidence brief management methodology.”

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