A dairy farmer who would not allow WorkSafe inspectors on to his farm thwarted them despite the fact they were only trying to help, a judge says.
Daniel Sproull was fined $2000 in the Palmerston North District Court on Monday for two charges of obstructing WorkSafe officers.
He was found guilty after a judge-alone trial before Judge Jonathan Krebs in December.
Sproull represented himself at trial but did not ask any questions, give evidence or call evidence in his defence.
He ran three companies – Riverbend Organics, Gorge Fresh Organics and Sproull Farms, all based in Aokautere – at the time of the offending.
WorkSafe inspector Simon Kuiti tried to organise a time for a compliance assessment in November 2018 but Sproull wanted proof Kuiti had authority to do so.
Sproull did not accept a WorkSafe ID card as proof and, after other attempts to visit, was given documents from WorkSafe.
Kuiti organised to visit on May 24, 2019, but Sproull was not there and a vehicle blocked access to a milk shed Kuiti wanted to inspect.
Sproull also failed to make a statement about his absence to WorkSafe officers.
In written submissions, which the judge read on Monday, Sproull said it was low-level offending and he had the right to make WorkSafe prove it had authority to inspect his property.
He also claimed his rights had been breached because WorkSafe disclosed evidence late and he was unable to instruct a lawyer.
The judge agreed the offending was at the lower end of the scale but disagreed with Sproull’s allegation there was a breach of his rights.
He was charged in December 2019 and all evidence was sorted prior to the trial.
“I simply don’t accept Mr Sproull’s claim that he was in any way disadvantaged,” the judge said.
The judge said WorkSafe was going out of its way to help Sproull at the time, doing compliance checks because there had been law changes.
“Part of what was being conducted here was … an education exercise to ensure workplaces were aware of what had changed.”
There was no allegation Sproull was breaching any health and safety laws apart from obstructing the officers, the judge said.
Sproull wanted a lighter penalty as he believed the prosecution against him was a test case but the judge said that was not an excuse.
“This was, quite rightly, a prosecution against a business operator who was determined to thwart the investigation process.”
Sproull must also pay $4395 to cover half of WorkSafe’s costs.