Environmental crusader sets toilets on fire
ARMED with super glue and fuel, self-proclaimed environmentalist Dale Page was a man on a mission when he torched portable toilets and glued machinery locks at construction sites.
His vandalism caused damage worth at least $234,000.
The dozen target sites included Brookwater and Bellbird Park housing development, Ipswich District Court heard.
Crown prosecutor Evan O'Hanlon-Rose said 25 different companies and Ipswich City Council were impacted by Page's criminal activities.
Dale James Page, 44, from Bellbird Park, pleaded guilty to more than 30 offences with 12 charges of committing arson; 15 charges of wilful damage; two counts of endangering property by fire; three counts of stealing; entering premises with intent; and possession of tainted property - police bush cameras.
The offences occurred between October 2012 and January 31, 2014 - with a break of many months in 2013 after Page was brutally bashed by an unknown assailant near the site of a fire.
Mr O'Hanlon-Rose said one deliberately lit fire in Columbia Ave at Bellbird Park on October 14, 2012, destroyed an excavator - with an insurance claim of $181,248.70 paid out to the owner. Pipes valued at $4500 were also destroyed.
In December 2013 at Ridegwood Drive in Brookwater, more than 200 boundary pegs were removed by Page at a Springfield Land Corporation site. It had to be resurveyed at a cost of $1790.
His offences involved ripping out hydraulic hoses from two excavators at Brentwood estate in September 2012, pouring super glue into padlocks at work sites and into vandal covers on machinery, putting araldite into the ignition and door locks of a compactor, pouring araldite into the ignition of a dozer at a Brookwater site.
In September 2013, a Cat615 Scraper sustained $7653 damage when super glue was poured into locks and the ignition.
Page stole three cameras police hid in Bellbird Park bushland to try and film the arsonist and gluer.
Mr O'Hanlon-Rose said Page was eventually detected and tracked down by the dog squad hiding in bushland on January 31, 2014. A Polair helicopter was also used.
Page told police officers he was a conservationist, and "a protester of construction and development occurring there", and frequently went to construction and development sites to watch the activities there. He denied any involvement in property damage.
After a conversation with a cellmate in the police watch house, who encouraged him to take part in a police interview but to minimise his involvement, Page made admissions the next day.
Mr O'Hanlon-Rose said Page's ongoing offending "was fuelled by his opposition to development".
The Crown sought a jail term of three to five years.
Judge Dennis Lynch QC took into account the financial losses in work times and that wages were still paid.
He inquired about the injuries suffered by Page when assaulted.
"No one was ever charged," Mr O'Hanlon -Rose said.
"It clearly seems it was related to his conduct of damaging equipment," Judge Lynch said.
"It certainly seems related. He was near one of the sites when found injured. It was quite a severe beating," Mr O'Hanlon-Rose said.
"There is no dispute he was seriously injured. The medical report is that he has not go any brain injury.
"After recovering from his severe beating he went on to continue his offending"
Judge Lynch said Page's offending was quite bizarre given he had been a good citizen until this.
Defence barrister Stephen Kissick said Page was being treated by a psychologist, had been on bail since June 2014 and had not reoffended in any way.
He'd been subject to a night curfew and reporting to police for many years.
"It certainly was a vigilante beating. He suffered significantly some years after," Mr Kissick said.
"Quite serious punishment to him."
He sought a suspended jail sentence.
Judge Lynch said Page has a mild intellectual impairment, and the delay in the case was because it was first before the mental health court for consideration.
He said the delay was also of some significance in sentence in that it showed Page had not engaged in any further criminal conduct.
Page was sentenced to three years jail - suspended after he serve 132 days.
Because he'd already served that time Page was free to leave, with the remainder of the sentence to hang over him.
Read more stories from Ross Irby.