Environment Law in the Northern Territory

Penalties

Overview

In the Northern Territory, criminal offences relating to the environment are punishable by penalty fines, or for serious offences, by imprisonment. Penalty fines are the most common form of punishment for criminal offences.

The Act or Regulation that sets out the criminal offence will also set out the penalty for the offence. Some Acts will set out the maximum penalty. For example, the Heritage Act 2011 sets the maximum penalty for causing damage to a heritage place as:

  • 400 penalty units or imprisonment for 2 years.

Other Acts will express the penalty for the offence by reference to a level of environmental harm. For example, under the Mining Management Act, the penalty for causing serious environmental harm is expressed as:

  • an environmental offence level 1.

Where an Act states that an offence is an environmental offence, the penalty for the level of environmental offence is set by the Environmental Offences and Penalties Act. Environmental offences are expressed in one of four levels. The levels relate to the penalties set out under the Environmental Offences and Penalties Act.

Depending on the offence and the Act, some penalty fines can be issued by an authorised officer issuing an infringement notice.[i]

Other penalty fines will be ordered by a court if a person is prosecuted and convicted of having committed an offence.

What are penalty units?

Penalty fines are often set out by reference to a number of “penalty units”. A penalty unit is an amount that can be converted to dollars as a penalty fine.

To work out the value of a penalty unit in dollars, multiply the number of penalty units for the offence by the current value for one penalty unit.[ii]

The value of penalty units changes each year and is reported in the Penalty Unit Regulations. From 1 July 2014 the value of one penalty unit is $149.[iii]

Penalties for environmental offences

Level 1 environmental offences are the most serious. Level 4 environmental offences are the least serious. The penalties for level 1 offences are the most serious and the penalties decrease for level 2, 3 and 4 offences. In all cases, there are different penalties for individuals and for corporate bodies.

Penalty for environmental offence level 1

An individual who is found guilty of an offence designated an environmental offence level 1 is punishable by a penalty of:

(a) not less than 385 penalty units and not more than 3,850 penalty units; or

(b) imprisonment for not more than 5 years.

A body corporate that is found guilty of an offence designated an environmental offence level 1 is punishable by a penalty of not less than 1,924 penalty units and not more than 19,240 penalty units.

Penalty for environmental offence level 2

An individual who is found guilty of an offence designated an environmental offence level 2 is punishable by a penalty of not less than 154 penalty units and not more than 1,540 penalty units.

A body corporate that is found guilty of an offence designated an environmental offence level 2 is punishable by a penalty of not less than 770 penalty units and not more than 7,700 penalty units.

Penalty for environmental offence level 3

An individual who is found guilty of an offence designated an environmental offence level 3 is punishable by a penalty of not less than 77 penalty units and not more than 770 penalty units.

A body corporate that is found guilty of an offence designated an environmental offence level 3 is punishable by a penalty of not less than 385 penalty units and not more than 3,850 penalty units.

Penalty for environmental offence level 4

An individual who is found guilty of an offence designated an environmental offence level 4 is punishable by a penalty of not more than 77 penalty units.

A body corporate that is found guilty of an offence designated an environmental offence level 4 is punishable by a penalty of not more than 385 penalty units.

[i]Regulation 2(1) of the Waste Management and Pollution Control (Administration) Regulations.

[ii] See Penalty Units Act for the formula.

[iii] See regulation 2 of the Penalty Units Regulations.