By James Atkinson
A publican has successfully appealed a court ruling which found his company guilty of dumping food waste on a nearby riverbank.
In July 2012, AJS Hotel Management – the operator of Tommy's Tavern in Lismore, New South Wales – was found guilty by Lismore Local Court of dumping the waste on the banks of the Wilson River.
The waste included "organic food material and pieces of steel wool, a plastic spatula, beer bottles, aluminium cans and clam shells".
The court case hinged on evidence by a tavern employee who claimed that on or about July 18, 2011, Lismore City Council had rejected the pub's bin for pickup because it was too heavy.
The employee alleged that as a result, he had been requested by the managing director of AJS Hotel Management, A J Sidgreaves, to "get rid of it down the river".
Sidgreaves, a former police officer, strongly contested this claim. "I am gobsmacked," he told the court last year.
"I have spent the majority of my life enforcing laws… Dumping rubbish 40 metres from where your venue is, is nonsensical. I would never do it. I would never instruct my staff to break the law," he said.
"I really believe that he took it upon his own self to, to do it and when he got caught, felt the pressure and decided to blame somebody… namely me."
Sidgreaves appealed the decision to the Land and Environment Court of New South Wales, arguing that Lismore City Council did not establish beyond a reasonable doubt that he had instructed the employee to dump the waste.
Justice Nicola Pain agreed that while the council had established that the waste dumped on the riverbank was from Tommy's Tavern, it had not proven "direct liability" by Sidgreaves and AJS Hotel Management.
"The point is simply that reasonable doubt remains that Mr Sidgreaves did give the instruction attributed to him by [the employee]," she said