News National Former live sheep export boss escapes jail term

Former live sheep export boss escapes jail term

The harsh reality of a live exporter
Australian sheep on their long, one-way journey to slaughter in the Middle East. Photo: Icanimal
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A former live export industry boss who falsified documents for a shipment of 22,000 Australian sheep that ended with many of the animals being brutally slaughtered in Pakistan will not spend time behind bars, a Perth judge has ruled.

The 2012 shipment on the Ocean Drover had twice been rejected by Bahrain due to disease concerns but Garry Robinson’s falsified paperwork prompted authorities to allow the animals to disembark in Pakistan.

The District Court of Western Australia heard Robinson, 46, was at the time a manager for Wellard Rural Exports, and instructed an employee to digitally change two documents to wrongly state the sheep had been vaccinated.

Defence counsel Sam Vandongen said his client was under enormous pressure to offload the sheep and his only options were to bring them back to Australia or cull them at sea, which would have been a horrendous task for the crew.

Mr Vandongen said the father-of-two should have tried to negotiate with government officials but was highly stressed by the prospect of further delays and the effect that would have on the ship-bound sheep.

Mr Vandongen also said Robinson had shown symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder – although he had not been diagnosed as suffering the condition – after he was the export manager for the disastrous 2003 Cormo Express shipment.

That saw tens of thousands of Australian sheep that had been rejected from Saudi Arabia stranded at sea for four months before they were allowed to disembark in Eritrea.

“There was a real emergency. A solution had to be found,” the lawyer said. “He worked around the clock, without sleep … to find a solution.

“He believes he was put in a position where he was stuck between a rock and a hard place. He made the wrong decision.”

The court heard the sheep were killed because they were wrongly deemed to have been infected with a disease, and Mr Vandongen argued that had nothing to do with his client’s actions.

But Judge Michael Gething said they were “critical in the course of the chain”.

“Take out Mr Robinson’s actions and we don’t even get there … they wouldn’t have been there in the first place,” Judge Gething said.

Robinson, who remains in the livestock industry, was sentenced on Tuesday in the District Court of WA to a term of imprisonment of 18 months but was immediately released on a $20,000 recognisance on the condition he is of good behaviour for the same period of time.

According to Animals Australia, the sheep were clubbed and had their throats cut, and many of the injured and dying animals were buried alive.

The organisation’s legal counsel Shatha Hamade said the average Australian would not feel like justice had been served.

“This was one of the most appalling episodes in the history of Australia’s live export trade and it was brought about by the dishonest actions of one of its most senior officials,” she said.