Magistrate: Should Anglo get max fine for miner's death?

A MAGISTRATE has questioned why Anglo Coal should not be slapped with the maximum penalty over its part in coal miner Ian Downes's death.

Mr Downes was killed in December 2014 when working on an underground wall in the Grasstree coal mine.

In Brisbane Magistrates Court, Anglo pleaded guilty to failing to provide a safe workplace leading to Mr Downes's death.

Brisbane Magistrates Court on Thursday heard explosion inspectors had not checked the area but allowed Mr Downes and another man to enter.

It is the second time Anglo has pleaded guilty to the offence. Anglo was fined $137,500 in 2016 over the death of Paul McGuire at the same mine just months before Mr Downes's death.

This case is the first time a company has pleaded guilty to a repeat offence under the current laws.

Both prosecutor Elizabeth Wilson and Anglo's barrister Thomas Bradley suggested a $200,000 fine and for a conviction to be recorded against Anglo.

But Magistrate Nerida Wilson asked why Anglo should not face the maximum $550,000 fine.

"I would be interested in your submissions on why a second conviction would not attract the maximum," she said.

"Is there a worse outcome than death?"

The prosecutor said it was more important a conviction be recorded against Anglo. But she said there were no comparable cases so a conviction was ultimately open to the magistrate.

She said the company had to ensure the workplace was safe for workers.

"It was incredibly dark in that part of the mine," she said.

"You can't just leave it to the last line of defence - which is the workers."

The prosecutor said Mr Downes's death had "cast a profound" shadow over his family and friends.

Mr Bradley said although the mine accepted responsibility for its part in Mr Downes's death there were other factors at play.

"The real tragedy of this thing is there had to be a failure on a number of levels for this to happen," he said.

"(Anglo) have had to make our systems more robust to account for the failures of others."

Mr Bradley told the court Anglo had learnt from Mr Downes's death and safety procedures had been improved since.

Magistrate Wilson will hand down her sentence on Friday.


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