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Harsher penalty call

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February 15, 2018

Prosecutors want a harsher penalty handed to a Shepparton pear-packing company after a young Irish backpacker’s scalp and ear were torn off by a conveyor belt.

Kalafatis Packing pleaded guilty to failing to provide a safe system of work and was fined $50000 without conviction last month in Shepparton Magistrates’ Court.

But the sentence was ‘‘manifestly inadequate’’, according to Acting Director of Public Prosecutions Gavin Silbert QC, who lodged an appeal yesterday.

The young woman, Annie Dunne, was scrubbing the underside of a conveyer belt on November 7, 2015, when her hair became tangled in a rotating drive shaft, a court had previously been told.

Her scalp was then torn from her head and one of her ears was ripped off.

The woman was hired by a company that specialised in providing backpacker labour to the fruit industry.

During a hearing last month, Magistrate Stella Stuthridge, along with the company’s managing director Jimmy Kalafatis, his defence team, WorkSafe employees and prosecution visited the place of the incident to see what changes had been made since.

Mr Kalafatis said the company had invested more than $200000 in infrastructure since the incident, including a yellow fencing barrier that covered the conveyor belt in question.

Ms Stuthridge fined the company $50000 and $22000 for the cost of the Workcover investigation.

‘‘The company and his family have taken this so seriously that they’ve raised the factory to a standard above the industry standard,’’ she said.

‘‘The changes were expensive ... they responded in an exemplary manner ... they pleaded guilty.’’

— with AAP

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