A magistrate says he would have jailed two Melbourne developers if he had the power to, after they pleaded guilty to dumping asbestos from an illegally demolished historic pub near homes and a childcare centre.
Developers Raman Shaqiri and Stefce Kutlesovski were each fined $120,000 for failing to securely contain asbestos-riddled debris at the site of the demolished Corkman Irish Hotel in inner-city Carlton, and for then dumping it in Cairnlea, in Melbourne’s north-west.
The developers’ company, 160 Leicester Pty Ltd, was fined a further $300,000.
In sentencing, magistrate Richard Pithouse told the Sunshine Magistrates Court the men’s “cavalier disregard for the law” meant they should go to jail, but the legislation did not allow it.
“You don’t know how close you came to jail,” Magistrate Pithouse said.
“If jail were available, I would impose imprisonment for such a blatant breach.”
He said the exposed asbestos in Carlton and Cairnlea put the community at substantial risk.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a shopping bag full or a speck,” he said.
The magistrate also slammed Mr Kutlesovski for his behaviour in the court, telling him: “I wouldn’t be sitting rubbing your chin so smugly as you are today”.
“I hope everyone knows your name,” he continued.
“You think you’re above the law, but you are not.”
The EPA welcomed the fine.
“The directors and the company in this case have shown blatant disregard for the environment, for public health, for community safety,” CEO Cathy Wilkinson said.
“It’s unacceptable [and] EPA Victoria puts on notice illegal dumpers.
“Victorians want polluters, want people who do the wrong thing, held to account.
“We don’t want asbestos uncontrolled in the environment. It needs to be dealt with appropriately.”
She would not say if the men should have been jailed.
Historic pub illegally demolished and never rebuilt
The pub, formerly known as the Carlton Inn Hotel, stood on the corner of Pelham and Leicester streets in Carlton for 159 years, but was demolished in October of 2016.
Three days later the Environmental Protection Authority noted that the debris on site could contain asbestos.
A sample was tested and confirmed the authority’s suspicion.
The developers were ordered to cover the debris, but five days later a pile of rubble was found at Cairnlea, opposite residential homes and only 350 metres from a childcare centre.
A brick in the rubble with a City West Water serial number on it confirmed the materials had come from the site of the Corkman Irish Pub.
The developers also failed to ensure the debris at the Carlton site was adequately covered, with the tarpaulin found to be ripped or unstuck and blowing in the wind on numerous occasions.
The developers had promised to return the pub to its former glory but this did not happen.
Mr Shaqiri and 160 Leicester Pty Ltd pleaded guilty in May to knocking down the Corkman Irish Pub.
Mr Kutlesovski is fighting the charges and will face a four-day hearing in January.