A dairy farmer who would not allow WorkSafe​ inspectors on to his farm, instead challenging their authority and making himself scarce, has failed in his latest attempt to overturn his convictions.
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SUPPLIED/RNZ Daniel Sproull took his fight against charges of obstructing WorkSafe officers trying to inspect his farm to the Court of Appeal. (File photo)

The Court of Appeal dismissed Daniel Sproull’s​ appeal in March against two convictions for obstructing WorkSafe inspectors.

He was found guilty of the charges by Judge Jonathan krebs after a judge-alone trial in 2020.

The convictions stem from 2018 and 2019, a time when Sproull ran three farming companies based in Aokautere​, just outside of Palmerston North.

WorkSafe inspectors repeatedly tried to visit Sproull’s farm to do compliance checks, but Sproull spent his time either not accepting their authority to conduct inspections or not being on the property.

A vehicle was also used to block access to a milk shed inspectors wanted to check, while Sproull failed to tell inspectors why he was absent for pre-arranged inspections.

He defended himself at trial, but asked no questions, called and gave no evidence and made no submissions on the law.

The judge described Sproull as “a business operator who was determined to thwart the investigation process” when sentencing him to pay a fine of $2000.

Sproull’s arguments about WorkSafe staff properly identifying themselves were again at the crux of his case in the Court of Appeal.

According to the court’s decision, Sproull said WorkSafe failed to properly disclose relevant documents on that point.

While WorkSafe did not provide that information before Sproull’s trial, it was given leave during the trial to present documents which proved the inspectors had authority to inspect Sproull’s farm.

Sproull argued there was no legal basis for letting that evidence in during the trial, which raised the risk of a miscarriage of justice and wrongful conviction.

WorkSafe argued Sproull had not raised any matter of public importance, so his appeal should be dismissed.

The Court of Appeal agreed with WorkSafe.

Sproull never made any objection during the trial about the way inspectors were delegated authority to inspect his farm.

While he sent a query about it to WorkSafe before the trial, that was not the same as raising it at trial.

But even if he did raise the issue during the trial, the evidence WorkSafe was given leave to present put the issue to bed.

WorkSafe’s error on not giving him that information did not change the factual and legal position of the inspectors’ authority.

The Court of Appeal did note Sproull was self-represented at trial, so he may not have known he had to bring the issue up with the trial judge.

“But such lack of knowledge cannot allow him to avoid the legal consequences of failing to take the appropriate step at trial.”

The signature of the EU–New Zealand Free Trade Agreement by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen today – the last day of the French EU Presidency – is announced as a landmark in the five-year long process of negotiations so far.

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