THREE of the five people charged with various offences, including taking and possessing protected wildlife at Turtons Creek in June last year, have now faced court.
Last month, 24 year old Narre Warren carpenter Jamie Cox received a $2000 fine, with conviction, in the Korumburra Magistrates’ Court for his part in the incident.
However, while Cox was facing six charges brought against him by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), including failing to clear a campfire of flammable material, two of his co-accused, Jamie Mason 22 of Welshpool and Anthony Turner 21 of Foster, received lesser penalties, without conviction, in the same court last week.
Last month, the court heard that Cox and several other males had set up camp at the Turtons Creek camping ground on Friday night June 23 with the intention of riding trail bikes in the area over the weekend.
After riding on Saturday, some members of the group started drinking at around 5pm but when the grog ran out at 10.30pm, several of them decided to drive into Foster to get extra supplies.
Cox was a passenger in the car, and Jamie Mason, who had not been drinking the court was told last Thursday, drove the car.
Last month the court heard that they drove over three wombats on the way into town but didn’t stop to check on the welfare of the protected animals as they were in a hurry to get to the bottle shop.
Finding the bottle shop closed, they returned the way they had come and, allegedly in an effort to clear the road of a traffic hazard, loaded the three wombats and two others into their car and took them back to the campsite.
Last month, Magistrate Simon Garnett queried why they would take the wombats to the campsite, suggesting it was “smart alec” behavior.
But the lawyer for Cox said the men had simply wanted to dispose of the dead animals in the bush.
However, it was here that other visitors to the camping ground found the dead animals a week later and reported the matter to police. DELWP issued a media release with photos seeking public assistance in identifying those involved.
In handing down a penalty to Cox, in the Korumburra Court on Thursday, June 6, 2018, Magistrate Garnett acknowledged he had no priors and had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity but on a plea for “general and specific deterrence” from DELWP prosecutor Grant Allan, Mr Garnett took the view that it was “disgraceful behaviour” and levied a fine of $2000 with conviction.
“I can’t except the explanation given. More likely you thought it was a joke to take the wombats back to the campsite. It needs a penalty that will deter you and others from behaviour like this.”
Mr Garnett said it was well known in the country that if you had the misfortune to hit an animal on the road, all efforts should be taken to tend to the injured animal, clear it off the road if it was dead and to check the pouch for young before alerting DELWP or a wildlife rescue organisation.
Last week, Magistrate Anne Collins handed down a lesser penalty to Mason and Turner for their lesser role, saying she would consider them for a diversion program if they each made a $500 contribution to Wildlife Victoria within three months.
Mason’s lawyer, while admitting his client’s actions were “misguided” successfully argued that a conviction for such an offence would affect his work prospects as a commercial scuba diver.
While the other co-offenders were facing wildlife, littering, damage and campfire charges, the two locals had only been charged with taking and possessing protected wildlife.
Mason, said his lawyer, had left the campsite 20 minutes after returning from Foster.