Date of text
Type of court
National - higher court
Court name
Court of Appeal
Reference number
Criminal Appeal No. 9 of 2017
Criminal, Inspections
Blanchard JA
Handley JA
Hansen JA

The Appellant, Choe Sokjin, the master of FV Teraaka, a fishing vessel, arrived in Kiribati with 48 bags of compost soil fertilizer without declaring the information to Biosecurity officers. The Appellant was charged with 5 counts under the Biosecurity Act, namely; (i) removing soil without the direction of biosecurity officers; (ii) failure to declare a regulated article; (iii) landing a cargo without obtaining biosecurity landing clearance; (iv) failing to make soil available for inspection at the port of entry;  and (v) importing a restricted import.

The High Court Judge imposed fines on each count amounting to $US 22,000 instead of Australian dollars.  The Appellant appealed his sentence to the Court of Appeal on the basis that it was manifestly excessive and that the High Court had failed to take into account the totality of the offending.


The Court of Appeal held:

(i) The aggregate fines of $22,000 were vastly in excess of the maximum fine for the most serious offence;

(ii) That although infractions of biosecurity laws are rightly regarded as serious and particularly in a maritime nation a deterrent sentence is called for, the sentence must remain with the bounds set by legislation and reflect any aggravating or mitigating factors; 

(iii) That a fundamental principle of sentencing is that the sentence imposed must reflect the totality of the offending.


The Court quashed the fines imposed by the High Court and fined the Appellant a total of $7,500 in Australian dollars. In addition, the balance to be paid out after payment of the fine and that the bags of fertilizer soil are to be forfeited to the government of Kiribati.