A woman with a history of flouting fire-safety standards has been fined $65k for running unsafe budget accommodation for backpackers.
A woman with a history of flouting fire-safety standards has been fined $65k for running unsafe budget accommodation for backpackers.

$65k fine for backpacker fire safety breaches

A Lockyer Valley woman with a history of flouting fire-safety standards has been fined $65,000 after she was found guilty of running unsafe budget accommodation for backpackers and itinerant farm workers.

Mayla Patterson, 54, was convicted in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Wednesday of nine charges brought against her by Queensland Fire and Emergency Services relating to two properties at Gatton and Atkinson's Dam.

Magistrate John Smith found Patterson had not adequately displayed fire signs, failed to install emergency lighting and had no fire safety management plan or early warning systems at the properties in May 2018.

 

Mayla Patterson leaves Brisbane Magistrates Court after being fined $65,000 for breaching fire safety standards. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dan Peled
Mayla Patterson leaves Brisbane Magistrates Court after being fined $65,000 for breaching fire safety standards. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dan Peled

The court heard that Patterson had almost 100 prior convictions for similar offending.

In 2017, she was handed a three-month suspended sentence and fined $50,000 after pleading guilty to 40 offences relating to fire safety breaches in seven leased budget accommodation buildings she operated in the Gatton area.

She was also fined $15,000 in 2013 and $10,000 in 2015 for similar offences.

At her sentence on Wednesday, Patterson told the court that since being charged her business had closed, she was struggling to find work and had been unable to repay the fine imposed in 2017.

Barrister Michael Nicholson acting on behalf of QFES said given her history of offending, Magistrate Smith could impose a maximum fine of $95,000.

"It's an aggravating feature that the significant penalties that were imposed have not deterred her," Mr Nicholson said.

"This is the sort of conduct where a penalty must be towards the maximum."

Magistrate Smith said Patterson had shown no constructive signs to stop her offending and had been given "ample warning".

He fined Patterson $65,000 and ordered her to pay $7000 in costs after finding her guilty of two counts of failing to display signs in accommodation units, five counts of failing to maintain prescribed fire safety installations and two counts of failing to prepare a fire safety management plan within one year.

"The court hopes that by the penalty imposed today it will lead you to avoid coming back before the court for any similar offences," Magistrate Smith said.

"It might show persons in the community that the type of conduct that you engaged in will be dealt with severely."

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Acting Superintendent Mark Halverson said outside court that QFES prioritises the safety of vulnerable backpackers.

"Backpackers and transient fruit picking workers' lives were put at risk due to a lack of fire safety measures being in place," he said.

"QFES actively undertakes rigorous inspections of this type of share accommodation to prevent fire disasters and emergencies."

Originally published as $65k fine for backpacker fire safety breaches



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