The Cairns Post

Costs win in union case

- MATTHEW NEWTON

A CONSTRUCTI­ON Forestry Mining and Energy Union official who won an appeal against a conviction for intimidati­ng a government safety inspector on a Cairns worksite has been awarded costs in the matter.

The CFMEU said Roland Cummins, 33, was the first union official to ever be charged with “intimidati­ng” a government safety inspector, and had been cleared of any wrongdoing when he won his appeal in June.

Mr Cummins applied for costs in the wake of his successful appeal, while Work Health and Safety Prosecutor Aaron Guilfoyle contended a costs award “would not be just”.

Mr Cummins was fined $5000 and ordered to pay $7200 in costs in the Cairns Magistrate­s Court on September 3, 2020, for his behaviour at the Cairns Performing Arts Centre constructi­on site on April 4, 2018.

The Work Health and Safety Prosecutor alleged Mr Cummins intimidate­d workplace health and safety inspector Robert Duckworth, by moving closely towards him and screaming words to the effect of “you’re a f***ing dog, Duckworth!”, three times.

In his appeal, Mr Cummins did not deny the “verbal outburst”, but says it was excusable because of the inspector’s conduct immediatel­y before the outburst.

Mr Cummins contended that as he showed an iPad image to the inspector and pointed out deficienci­es in the emergency evacuation plan, the inspector moved his arm and pointed his finger close to the CFMEU logo on Mr Cummins’ shirt and aggressive­ly said: “Is that what the CFMEU teaches you? Unsafe work practices?”

In his successful appeal, Mr Cummins argued he then felt “belittled, embarrasse­d, and intimidate­d and responded as he did”.

In deciding to allow Mr Cummins’ appeal and setting aside the original guilty verdict and conviction, District Court Judge Dean Morzone said the reasons for Magistrate Catherine Benson’s decision were “inadequate to support the verdict”.

“It seems to me that the defects in the evidence about the element of intimidati­on at the original hearing are such that, taken at its highest, a court would have reasonable doubt about intimidati­on to entitle the appellant to an acquittal,” Judge Morzone wrote.

In a decision published in October, Judge Morzone also said that given the circumstan­ces of the case, it would be inequitabl­e for Mr Cummins to bear the financial burden of his successful appeal.

He awarded Mr Cummins $4135.33 in costs.

CFMEU state secretary Michael Ravbar said Workplace Health and Safety Queensland was meant to be an agency “that helps ensure workers go home safely at the end of a shift, not some sort of Monty Python-esque swear jar police”.

“The priority must be delivering justice for the men and women – and their families – injured or killed in workplaces, not clogging the courts with claims about fruity language on a constructi­on site,” he said.

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