HARSHER PENALTIES FOR CRIMINAL TRESPASS
There is no doubt there is an extraordinarily strong need to increase penalties for criminal trespass. It is not only a breach of the law in the case of farming enterprises, it is a breach of biosecurity as well.
Under Queensland’s Biosecurity Act 2014, all within the state of Queensland have a ‘general biosecurity obligation’ (GBO). The implications for this are that everyone has a responsibility to manage any risks under their control and limit the ramifications if an event arises. This is something that landowners must do to uphold their compliance with legislation but also to maintain both healthy stock and a healthy environment. These invasions take away any chance that the targeted individual has to stop any event before there are negative consequences.
We often see stories of stolen so-called ‘rescued’ animals being transported in conditions that are not only unfit for livestock haulage but are more often than not, non-complying with National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) regulations, Property identification codes (PIC) or requirements for being a registerable biosecurity entity. These measures are in place for the protection of the livestock industry against disease and weed outbreaks and biosecurity risks through traceability of origin. We now however have the situation where people who have a blatant disregard for any laws governing them, can through cross contamination bring with them diseases such as Bovine Johnes Disease, declared weeds, or introduce ticks to a tick free area. All have severe implications to the industry. These are just examples of inadvertent risk but given the increase in occurrences and severity of these farm invasions, legislation and penalties must cater for risks that the industry is exposed to as a result of a direct attack with malicious intent.
The invaders place themselves in situations that are inherently dangerous to themselves, and in some cases, livestock. It also places great risk to the owners/proprietors as they may be placed in dangerous situations while trying to mitigate damage and unrest caused by these invaders. The emotional stress placed upon owners cannot be discounted as we saw during the mass invasions of a few weeks ago on the anniversary of the “Dominion” film release.
Another issue that is little recognised is that many farms are also homes, and many farm children are often working by themselves in performing farm duties. A large amorphous mob of invaders of indeterminate propriety turning up unannounced could lead to these children being place in close proximity to someone with a dubious past. The responses of carers/parents in a situation like this may be unfortunate but entirely understandable. Thus, it is best for all if there are strong deterrents to this activity.
While we commend the increase in penalties for criminal trespass, we have a number of concerns.
Deterrent – We have seen how fines are verging on laughable in deterring such activity. Many times, we have seen posted on both social and conventional media, the recipients of these fines doing just that – laughing. They are often repeat offenders. Fines are either crowd funded or suchlike or simply ignored…