In In the Courts by Clyde Mooney

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The ‘cowboy developers’ that demolished Carlton’s Corkman Irish Pub have faced sentencing for the first of many charges against them, with the Magistrate voicing that he wished he could send them to prison.

Developers Raman Shaqiri and Stefce Kutlesovski used their company 160 Leicester Pty Ltd to knock down the Corkman in 2016, just days after the empty pub was strangely engulfed in fire.

Corkman Irish Pub under demolition. Photo: Lyn George

Victorian authorities quickly reacted to the illegal demolition of the historic pub, and the EPA established that materials in the rubble contained asbestos and ordered the company to properly cover the waste to prevent dust particles dispersing.

WorkSafe Victoria soon followed, charging the proprietors on the following Friday with breaching the Occupational Health and Safety Act by not ensuring the workplace was safe, and failing to identify that there was material containing asbestos at the site prior to demolition.

Around a week after the demolition, investigators found dumped asbestos from the pub at a different site, in Cairnlea, 15 kilometres away, near homes and a childcare centre. A serial number on a brick in the rubble confirmed the materials had come from the Corkman.

The EPA subsequently charged the men and their company with illegally dumping construction and demolition waste including asbestos, and not properly covering and securing the materials.

Investigating the illegal demolition, the Victorian Building Authority and the City of Melbourne each filed charges in Melbourne’s Magistrates’ Court in early 2017. A total of 16 charges were levelled at Kutlesovski and Shaqiri and the company.

Last week the pair faced Magistrate Richard Pithouse at Sunshine Magistrate Court over the EPA breaches.

“You don’t know how close you came to jail,” boded Magistrate Pithouse. “If jail were available, I would impose imprisonment for such a blatant breach.”

Kutlesovski and Shaqiri were each fined $120,000 for failing to secure the original site, and dumping the contaminated waste. The company received a further $300,000 fine.

Noting the community risk the men had created, Pithouse was highly critical of Kutlesovski’s attitude in court. Kutlesovski is fighting further charges and due to face a four-day hearing in January.

“I hope everyone knows your name,” said Pithouse. “You think you’re above the law, but you are not.”

(former) Corkman Irish pub

Image courtesy Victoria State Library