In the Brisbane District Court on 25 January 2024, Paul Lawrence Coplick was convicted of unlawfully carrying out building work, fined $15,000 and ordered to pay compensation of $3,350 to a home owner.
Unlawfully carrying out building work is an offence under the Queensland Building and Construction Commission Act (QBCC Act) and attracts an escalating series of penalties for each offence.
For a third or subsequent offence, an offender is required to be prosecuted upon indictment before the District Court, as they are alleged to have committed a crime.
The QBCC had previously issued a Public Warning about Mr Coplick in January 2021 following allegations of unlawful conduct, including taking excessive deposits for building work.
Mr Coplick was previously convicted of unlawfully carrying out building work in January 2021 and February 2021, in the Brisbane and Ipswich Magistrates Courts.
In the most recent case, Mr Coplick pleaded guilty before his Honour Judge Rafter SC for unlawfully carrying out building work in relation to a property at Greenslopes, Brisbane.
He was warned by his Honour that if compensation was not paid by 24 July 2024, Mr Coplick would need to show cause why a 3-month prison term should not be enforced.
QBCC Commissioner, Anissa Levy, says this prosecution highlights the legal protection provided to Queensland home owners by the QBCC and should provide a deterrent to other unlicensed individuals.
“If you are not licensed to perform building work and you repeatedly perform work unlawfully, you face the prospect of prosecution and possible imprisonment.” Ms Levy says.
The QBCC strongly encourages consumers to always use the free licence check on the QBCC website to confirm that the person they are dealing with is appropriately licensed.
The QBCC website also offers a free “Find a Local Contractor” search, to help consumers find licensed, qualified, local tradespeople.
The QBCC disqualified Mr Coplick from holding a contractor’s licence from 13 February 2018 to 13 February 2021 because he had accumulated 30 demerit points in a 3-year period.
On 2 September 2020, Mr Coplick provided a quote to a home owner for concreting work to an amount of $8,350.00, with $3,350.00 to be paid as a deposit.
The same day, the home owner transferred the deposit of $3,350.00 to Mr Coplick.
However, Mr Coplick did not conduct any work and did not return the deposit.
The home owner subsequently lodged a complaint with the QBCC, leading to Mr Coplick’s conviction on 25 January 2024.
The case against Mr Coplick relates to section 42(1) of the QBCC Act:
42 Unlawful carrying out of building work
(1) Unless exempt under schedule 1A, a person must not carry out, or undertake to carry out, building work unless the person holds a contractor’s licence of the appropriate class under this Act.
(a) for a first offence—250 penalty units; or
(b) for a second offence—300 penalty units; or
(c) for a third or later offence, or if the building work carried out is tier 1 defective work—350 penalty units or 1 year’s imprisonment.
(2) An individual who contravenes subsection (1) and is liable to a maximum penalty of 350 penalty units or 1 year’s imprisonment, commits a crime.
Generally, (however not always) a first offence may be dealt with by way of a penalty infringement notice, the second offence may be dealt with before the Magistrates Court and a third or later offence, upon indictment before the District Court.