Serial polluter faces jail time

Bill Conway who owns a scrap metal yard has been given a jail term for pollution offences around his yard. File photo / Dean Purcell
Bill Conway who owns a scrap metal yard has been given a jail term for pollution offences around his yard. File photo / Dean Purcell

An Auckland man jailed for serial polluting crimes must turn up at court on Friday to begin his prison sentence after losing an appeal against his conviction and sentence.

William Victor George Conway and his de facto wife Carol Down were found guilty of 20 charges under the Resource Management Act following a trial in 2009 after the couple allowed oil, heavy metals and other poisons to be discharged into the ground at two Otara scrap metal yards, the contaminants leaching into a nearby stream and harbour.

Conway was sentenced to six and a half months in prison but has been on bail during the appeal process.

The five-week trial at Auckland District Court was told Conway and Down ran the Cash for Scrap (CFS) scrap metal operations at 11 and 13 Bairds Rd in Otara in such a way that contaminants - including oil and heavy metals - discharged into the ground and may have entered a nearby stream.

The couple had been required to stop accepting scrap metal at 11 Bairds Rd and also remove metal from the property. By continuing to operate the scrap metal yard they were breaching an Environment Court order.

They later moved operations to Tidal Rd in Mangere out in the open, in breach of another Environment Court order, and also allowed cars to defuel outside Tidal Rd. Cars would be placed on a stand and the fuel tanks would be punctured using a pickaxe. The result was that fuel poured out into a drum underneath and, at times, onto the ground.

A defence lawyer for Conway suggested he was not in charge of the scrap metal operations but Crown witnesses said he was the "front" for the company and "knew on a day-to-day basis what was happening".

Conway appealed against his conviction on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence to support them on the charge of breaching enforcement orders, there was an unfair admission of Conway's previous statement about his role in CFS, there was insufficient proof that contaminants discharged at 11 and 13 Bairds Rd had the potential to degrade the nearby stream and the circumstances in which they were delivered rendered the jury's guilty verdicts unsafe.

He appealed against his sentence on the grounds that it was excessive and that it should be replaced by a sentence of community work.

The Court of Appeal dismissed Conway's appeal against conviction on all grounds. It also dismissed his appeal against sentence, saying he began offending again within about eight months of being released from prison for similar offending.

"Certainly, the sentence of community work contended for ... would be a manifestly inadequate and inappropriate sentencing response."

The court ordered Conway to surrender himself to the Auckland District Court registrar at 10am on Friday to being his sentence.

- APNZ

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