The Spirit of Tasmania II docked in Port Melbourne, Melbourne in 2022 (AAP Image/Joel Carrett)
Spirit of Tasmania ferry operator TT-Line and former Australian polo captain Andrew Williams have been fined a combined $90,000 over the deaths of 16 horses.
The polo ponies were discovered dead in their converted refrigeration transport trailer following an overnight Bass Strait crossing from Tasmania to Victoria in January 2018.
TT-Line was found guilty in October of 29 animal welfare law breaches, while Williams pleaded guilty in July to 17 counts of breaching the animal welfare act.
During sentencing in Burnie Magistrates Court on Tuesday, TT-Line was fined $75,000 and Williams $15,000.
Magistrate Leanne Topfer said although there was no intent on the part of TT-Line in relation to the outcome, the company did nothing to check whether the horses were correctly individually stalled.
She said Williams, who has been working with horses for three decades, failed in his duty to the animals.
Ms Topfer opted to record convictions against both parties, despite noting Williams’ remorse and the abuse he’d received on social media following the incident.
She said TT-Line, which is owned by the Tasmanian government, had spent a “significant amount” defending the charges, including one application that was “devoid of merit”.
TT-Line has appealed the guilty ruling in the Supreme Court of Tasmania, while Williams has launched separate legal action against TT-Line in the Supreme Court of Victoria.
Ms Topfer previously ruled the transport unit, which was stationary for 10 hours on a warm evening and carrying 18 horses, was clearly inadequately ventilated.
There were too many horses in the unit and the 16 who died were exposed to the risk of acute heat stress and asphyxiation and suffered respiratory failure, she said.
She said TT-Line failed to inspect the trailer and relied solely on a declaration by Williams, who was the driver, that it complied with regulations.
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