Environment department forced to return files to Linc

FURTHER tension between the Department of Environment and Linc Energy is revealed in court documents showing the department was forced to return back-up tapes it seized during a raid of the company's offices.

The environment department has accused Linc Energy of allowing gas to leak uncontrollably from its Chinchilla coal gasification plant.

Linc Energy has been charged with wilfully and unlawfully causing serious environmental harm between 2007 and 2013 but the company will refute the claims when the matter goes to court later this year.

Court documents show the environment department raided the company's Brisbane and Chinchilla offices in October 2013.

But Brisbane Supreme Court Judge Philip McMurdo ordered the department to return back-up tapes and servers after finding they were seized illegally.

Documents show environment department officers were given permission to raid the Brisbane and Chinchilla offices on October 17, 2013.

But while searching the properties, the supreme court ordered the raid to stop after finding the offence descriptions in the warrants were too broad.

A warrant then was issued the following day allowing officers to seize documents that related to Linc Energy's operations, testing results and human resource records at Chinchilla.

Court documents from August last year show officers seized copies of back-up tapes and information from the company's servers at its Brisbane office.

In his judgment, Justice McMurdo said the search warrant yielded a vast amount of material that was outside the scope of the warrant.

"Clearly enough it was not limited to the Chinchilla facility let alone to potential evidence about the suggested offences," he said.

Justice McMurdo also said the officers knew only some of the electronic material in seized back-up tapes, and a storage device, contained relevant information.

He said taking material could sometimes be justified if the file had evidentiary value, but that was not what the officers had in mind.

"Rather, the item was taken so that the potentially relevant material within it could be later studied and assessed for its value or otherwise. This was not a legitimate exercise of the power of seizure."

Justice McMurdo declared some items were not lawfully seized and ordered the department return back-up tapes and a storage device to Linc Energy.


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