Find out what to do if you are prosecuted by a local council or government authority
Did you know that, if you cut down a tree without approval, build your house in a way that does not comply with the development consent or fail to comply with a Council order, you could be prosecuted for a criminal offence?
These are just a few examples of the many reasons why prosecution proceedings are regularly commenced against individuals and corporations in the Land and Environment Court.
What a lot of people don’t realise is that, if you are found guilty, as well as paying a substantial fine (these can be tens of thousands of dollars even for less serious offences), you will have a criminal conviction recorded against you. Serious offences also carry terms of imprisonment and fines that run into millions of dollars, along with restitution costs for environmental offences.
So, if you’re ever involved in a Class 5 criminal proceedings case, we recommend that you contact us as a priority, so that you can obtain expert legal advice and representation as early as possible in the process.
For more information, read on and find out about what you can expect when dealing with Class 5 criminal proceedings in the Land and Environment Court.
What is a Class 5 Case?
Class 5 matters in the Land and Environment Court are criminal proceedings. They normally involve prosecution by government authorities related to environmental and planning laws.
Some examples of the types of matters covered by a Class 5 case include:
- Pollution offences
- Developments without legal consent
- Environmental planning breaches
- Illegally clearing native vegetation
- Cutting down a tree without approval
How does the legal process of a Class 5 criminal proceedings case begin?
A Class 5 prosecution is commenced by the filing of a summons with someone named as a defendant. As well as setting out details of the offence, the summons will contain information about the court venue, time, and date that the matter is listed before the court. In addition, there will be a formal Order that requires the defendant to appear before the court. There will also be affidavits which set out the evidence against the defendant. These are all formal court documents which must be served on the defendant.
What does a Class 5 criminal hearing involve?
It is crucial that a defendant has carefully considered their options and obtained good quality legal advice before appearing in court.
To prepare for the first court appearance, the defendant must consider which plea they will enter in their matter. In other words, whether they will plead guilty or not guilty. This is a decision that can have serious implications for a defendant and should not be made without first obtaining legal advice.
Even if a guilty plea is entered, there is still a lot of work to be done to prepare the submissions for the guilty plea, including explaining the circumstances of the offence, addressing matters in mitigation and providing character references.
Hones Lawyers can advise and assist you with deciding your best course of action while guiding you throughout the case.
What happens at the hearing?
If a plea of not guilty is entered, then the matter will go to trial.
At the trial hearing, the case will be concluded with the defendant being found guilty or not guilty. If a not guilty verdict is reached, the defendant will be excused with no orders or further proceedings necessary. If a guilty verdict is reached, another sentencing hearing will be held to decide the sentence and penalty, which can involve paying fines, prison, community service orders, compensation, and orders for restoration.
Due to these being criminal proceedings, a Class 5 matter cannot be resolved via alternate methods to litigation such as mediation.
If you have been named as a defendant in Class 5 proceedings, then the consequences that you face can be extremely serious.
For that reason, it is important that you seek legal advice as soon as possible.
Should you ever find yourself in this situation, you can feel confident that Hones Lawyers have the necessary experience to assist, advice and represent you so that the best outcome is achieved.