Why business was pursued over crime it did not commit
A CHEVALLUM-based family business of non-smokers was pursued for nearly a year over an alleged dropped cigarette butt before a government department decided to drop the case.
The saga cost J and L Transport more than $1900 in legal fees and has left part-owner Jeff Judson wondering what allegations could arise every time one of the firm's vehicles hits the road.
Mr Judson initially had a chuckle when an infringement notice for throwing a lit cigarette from a vehicle arrived in the mail in July last year, an offence which carries and $1178 fine.
"At the time, we thought it was funny because no-one here smokes. We signed a stat' dec' pretty much saying nobody here smokes," he said.
"We thought that would be the end of it and then they sent a letter back saying they were going to pursue the matter."
The notice had been issued after the occupants of a vehicle which was following one of the firm's trucks southbound on the Bruce Highway near Bells Creek at 4.30am on July 13 claimed they had seen a lit cigarette fall from the driver's window.
J and L Transport elected to contest the matter at a court hearing but the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection continued to investigate the matter.
The case was scheduled to be heard in the Caloundra Magistrates Court on July 15 but the Judsons received advice from their solicitor nine days out that the Department would drop the matter if J and L Transport paid its own legal costs.
They elected to accept the offer on legal advice.
Mr Judson said his firm acknowledged its truck was on the road at the time and location of the offence but said there could be other explanations for what the people who made the complaint thought they saw.
The butt could have been dropped by another vehicle or picked up from the road by the off the truck, he said.
"It's concerning because we travel the highway every morning at the same time and pretty much every day, I see someone flick a cigarette butt out the window and I think, 'How much is this going to cost me?'," he said.
Mr Judson found it difficult to believe the Department would pursue it for a year without more concrete evidence than someone's say-so.
"We were contacted a number of times by investigators for the Department and told them a number of times that we were non-smokers.
"If they are going to take these complaints seriously, they need to investigate them properly," he said.
He put the charge down to being in "the wrong place, wrong time."
"I don't hold any malice towards the two people who made the complaint. I doubt they know the trouble they brought," he said.
The Daily has contacted the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection for comment but it had not been able to respond at the time of publication.