Man fights $3m court case
A man who could face fines of more than $3 million for allegedly storing 42 vehicles on his Woorree property without permission will fight the charges.
Ryan William Drage, 35, was due to be sentenced in Geraldton Magistrate’s Court on Monday on charges of contravening the provisions of a planning scheme and failing to comply with a direction within the time specified.
Mr Drage, appearing in court for the first time in relation to the matter, said he wanted to plead not guilty.
Magistrate Donna Webb told Mr Drage she had convicted him in his absence on September 3 after he failed to appear in court for the third time.
But Mr Drage denied he had received any notice of his previous two court dates, adding he was late for the first appearance and missed the hearing.
He also argued he had an arrangement with the City of Greater Geraldton whereby he was allowed to keep the vehicles on his property.
The court was told the City disputed that claim and maintained Mr Drage had been ordered to remove the vehicles.
Ms Webb said she had little choice but to remove the conviction and adjourned the case to November 22.
But she warned Mr Drage she would again convict him in his absence if he failed to appear and advised him to hire a lawyer.
During the September 3 hearing, the court was told that in 2016, the City wrote to Mr Drage to inform him a fence built on his Woorree property exceeded the City’s 1.2m height limit.
The City alleged that during a subsequent inspection, 42 unregistered vehicles were found to be stored on the property.
Mr Drage allegedly told the City he was repairing the vehicles as a hobby. Although the fence had since been altered to the correct height, the vehicles had not been removed, the court heard.
The court was told Mr Drage could be fined up to $20,000 a day since the prosecution began — a figure that amounted to more than $3 million.
Ms Webb said the fines could bankrupt Mr Drage and she needed him in court to determine the penalty.