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Abalone poacher vows decades of plunder are over (Australia)


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Posted by on August 01, 2005 at 19:13:05:

Australia's worst abalone pirate yesterday lowered his flag to a Melbourne judge, promising he had changed his plundering ways.

David Campbell Strachan's barrister told the County Court that after more than 30 years of poaching: "The pirate has really hung up the flag."

Phil Dunn, QC, said Strachan, 53, had poached abalone all his life in southern Australian waters, and had been jailed, heavily fined and banned from the coast.

He owes about $600,000 in unpaid fines in Tasmania, which, if converted to a prison term, represents more than 19 years' jail.

In court yesterday fighting to overturn on appeal a maximum 18-month jail sentence from last year, Mr Dunn said Strachan was prepared to accept a life ban from Victorian waters for anything to do with abalone.

Strachan, of Brighton, was ordered in December to serve a minimum 10-month term and pay $27,000 in costs and a $44,000 fine after admitting eight abalone-related charges. From April to May 2003 he sold 620 kilograms of abalone to an undercover policeman for $44,966. At the time he had a suspended jail sentence for similar offences. Prosecutor Robert Johnston said Strachan had shown a gross disregard for the law and was "probably the worst poacher alive in the state of Victoria".

Mr Dunn tendered a psychiatric report saying that when Strachan faced problems in the past he acted irrationally and "returned to do what he does best" poaching.

Now on medication for a recently diagnosed bipolar disorder, Strachan called character witnesses to attest to his skill as a boat builder and his changed ways. They included a civil engineer who has invested in Strachan's boat designs and a marine dealer who has Swiss bankers interested in the boats.

Judge Margaret Rizkalla will rule on Monday.



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