HEAVY FINE: Phillip Hunt and Roger Saunders outside court.
HEAVY FINE: Phillip Hunt and Roger Saunders outside court. Ross Irby

Businessman fined for nets he says weren't his

BUSINESSMAN Phillip Hunt has been fined $2800 for a Queensland Fisheries offence after being found at his Bundaberg home with five commercial fishing nets for which he was not permitted.

He must also pay $1089 costs because a Fisheries legal representative had to fly from Brisbane to Bundaberg.

Hunt was originally charged by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries with five counts of failing to comply with regulated fishing apparatus/or regulated fishing method declaration on May 23, 2016.

However, Hunt who previously said he would plead not guilty to the five offences, then argued before Bundaberg Magistrates Court that four of the nets did not belong to him and been washed into his yard from a neighbour's property during the 2013 floods.

He said they belonged to his mate and former Hinkler Ave neighbour Roger Saunders, who attended court to support him.

The case proceeded weeks later with just one charge and Hunt, 57, pleaded guilty to committing the single offence at Bundaberg North in May 2016.

The offence relates to possession of the nets, not their ownership.

Hunt said he never fished with the nets that were still covered in flood mud when seized.

The court heard that the nets had been returned back to Mr Saunders in an Esky some time ago, and still inside when Hunt said he borrowed the Esky to use just a week before Fisheries inspectors went to his home.

Fisheries sought a fine of at least $3000.

Hunt said although ignorance was not a defence a $3000 fine would hurt him.

He asked: "Does it have to be quite so high?”

The Fisheries legal representative also sought travel costs of $1089 because of having to travel from Brisbane to Bundaberg.

Magistrate Belinda Merrin queried the costs, saying: "It seems someone living in regional Queensland gets a further penalty. It's a consequence for a defendant who does not live in Brisbane.”

Ms Merrin found both Mr Saunders and Hunt had dealings with the nets over some time. She also accepted Hunt intended to use them on his fruit trees but noted he'd left the weights on them.

Hunt was fined $2800, sent to SPER, and ordered to pay $1089 costs.

No conviction was recorded.



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