It’s hard to fathom but once again we have not one but three grieving families looking down the barrel of many, many more months of legal delays until this matter is finalised. The frightening aspect in all of this is the uncertainties of where it will all end up.

As much as we can make out (and that’s never easy for laymen participating in a lawman’s world) the result of today’s decision is not all bad but it certainly was not good either.

QUIN INVESTMENTS and NIKOLAI KUZUB appealed their guilty convictions but that aspect of the appeal was unsuccessful for both. This is obviously the good news.

Their appeal against the ’cause’ of the explosion – that being that friction and a subsequent heating issue within the poorly maintained and worn ‘ribbon blender’ actually caused the explosion – has been rejected by the Full Court Judges. So the crux of that is that they agree with QUIN and KUZUB, that this concept of causation was not proven beyond reasonable doubt meaning that this overrules the decision of Magistrate Ardlie who believed the evidence did support that theory ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.

Where it all ends up from here is anyone’s guess.

What appears to be a matter for concern now is that as a result of this appeal decision and Full Court ruling, the penalties imposed on both defendants are entitled to be reduced. The argument being that the sentencing Magistrate would have calculated (for want of a better word) a portion of the fine from his finding that causation was proven. Thus that portion of the fine would need to be removed.

The question is, who would then hear this case – the Full Court or Magistrate Ardlie? If I understand it, these defendants have a choice on that. Given what we heard today, their preference was certainly not to go back to the sentencing magistrate….but I don’t know whether they’re all that chuffed with going before the Full Court either. It does seem clear that they don’t have the option of choosing another single magistrate.

You know the issue I can see is that the fine of $95,000, while right up there, is not really that much higher than we’ve seen in other matters of serious negligence. There’s about $20,000 or so variation. This is of course still under the old fine regime where the maximum of $100,000 for a first offence was applicable. Mind you, I can’t help but wonder where all the room to move lies. We are talking about a Major Hazard facility here with seriously deficient safety protocols and maintenance programs. Further to that, the consequence of those deficiencies ultimately resulted in multiple deaths.

Of course there is always the chance that the Crown may seek leave to appeal to a higher court and if that happens, and the Crown is successful, then the penalties would remain.

And…no matter which way you cut and dice it, the families – who have no power to control the course – are going to be the ones doing it toughest in the end. L

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Welcome , today is Friday, June 22, 2018