Farm­hand guilty of two-year mass bird poi­son­ing

Central and North Rural Weekly - - BULL RIDING - Alexan­dra Laskie The Weekly Times news@ru­ral­

FARM worker Mur­ray James Sil­vester has es­caped a hefty fine de­spite be­ing found guilty of the poi­son­ing of 420 wedge-tailed ea­gles over two years across three prop­er­ties in East Gipp­s­land.

Sil­vester pleaded guilty to killing the pro­tected species in the Sale Mag­is­trates’ Court.

He was jailed for 14 days and fined $2500, well shy of the penalty at­tached to the de­lib­er­ate killing of the birds un­der the Wildlife Act 1975, which car­ries a max­i­mum penalty of $7928.50, up to six months im­pris­on­ment, plus an ad­di­tional penalty of $792.85 for each bird de­stroyed.

The max­i­mum penalty for killing so many ea­gles is more than $320,000.

“But for the plea of guilty, the sen­tence I would oth­er­wise im­pose is three months,” Mag­is­trate Rod­ney Higgins said in his sen­tenc­ing notes.

The con­victed 59-year-old is the first to re­ceive a cus­to­dial sen­tence for the crime, set­ting a prece­dent for the de­struc­tion of pro­tected wildlife in Vic­to­ria.

The mass poi­son­ings oc­curred at three prop­er­ties span­ning 2000ha in Tub­but be­tween Oc­to­ber 2016 and Fe­bru­ary this year.

A De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­ment, Land, Wa­ter and Plan­ning spokes­woman said the birds were killed us­ing bait im­preg­nated with poi­son.

In late June, po­lice helped lead the raids on four prop­er­ties in Tub­but and Or­bost as part of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, seiz­ing am­mu­ni­tion, an­i­mal traps, chem­i­cals and bird re­mains.

In June The Ru­ral Weekly’s sis­ter pa­per, The Weekly Times, re­vealed about 100 wedge-tailed ea­gles had been poi­soned, with many more ex­pected to be found dead in East Gipp­s­land.

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