On 25 October 2016, Kate Goodchild, Luke Dorsett, Cindy Low & Roozbeh Araghi suffered fatal injuries on Dreamworld’s Thunder River Rapids Ride after the raft they had been travelling in collided with another raft.

Coroner James McDougall undertook a Coronial Inquest (Inquest) which resulted in the Findings of Inquest (Findings) delivered on 24 February 2020.  We discussed these Findings in a podcast which can be accessed here.

The charges

The Coroner found that it was “…reasonably suspected that Ardent Leisure may have committed an offence against workplace law” and he made a referral of Ardent Leisure Limited to the Office of Industrial Relations for further consideration.

Ardent Leisure Limited (Ardent Leisure), Dreamworld’s parent company, was charged with three offences under section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld) (Act), which provides that a person (including a body corporate) commits an offence if it has a health and safety duty, it fails to comply with that duty and in doing so it exposes an individual to a risk of death or serious injury or illness.

Each charge arose from the duty on Ardent Leisure imposed by section 19(2) of the Act which required Ardent Leisure to ensure that members of the public were not put at risk by its business.

The three charges were that Ardent Leisure failed to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable:

  1. the provision and maintenance of safe plant and structures;
  2. the provision and maintenance of safe systems of work; and
  3. the provision of any information, training, instruction or supervision that is necessary to protect all persons from risks to their health and safety.

Ardent Leisure pleaded guilty to the charges at the earliest possible opportunity, acknowledging its failures and apologising for them.

The sentence imposed

The matter was heard in the Magistrates’ Court at Southport on 28 September 2020.  Her Honour Magistrate Pamela Dowse imposed a fine of $3.6 million in total, with convictions recorded, from a potential maximum fine of $4.5 million.

In handing down the decision, Her Honour remarked that “this is a rare case in which a penalty close to the available maximum is appropriate”. In reaching this view, Her Honour:

  • noted the multiple failings of Ardent Leisure over time stating that the “…failures of [Ardent Leisure] were not momentary. Nor were they confined to a discrete safety obligation”;
  • found that “[w]hilst [Ardent Leisure] directed resources towards safety, and implemented some control measures and improvements over time, its efforts were grossly below the standard that was rightly expected of it.  A variety of control measures were available to it, which would have minimised or eliminated the relevant risk”; and
  • found that Ardent Leisure “knew of the particular risk of rafts colliding and overturning and that such an event posed a risk of serious injury or death”.

In deciding not to impose the maximum penalty, Her Honour took into account Ardent Leisure’s early guilty plea, its clear demonstration of remorse and contrition, its unreserved apology and its significant post-incident remediation.

Her Honour noted that following the tragedy, Ardent Leisure undertook a safety and engineering review of all the amusement devices, installed a new leadership team, put into place a safety governance framework, safety management system and document management system amongst other things.

If you would like to discuss a review of safety management system, safety governance framework, including officer due diligence frameworks, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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