But on July 12, Byron local court magistrate Karen Stafford found that Ms Hunt had made every effort to comply with the restrictions, electing to throw out the fine and record no conviction.
A $5,000 fine imposed on well-known musician, Lisa Hunt, because people decided to dance at one of her Byron Bay concerts, has been overturned in court.
Ms Hunt copped the fine back in January when around 40 members of a 320-strong crowd had a boogie at Red Devils Park during one of her Summerstage events, in breach of COVID rules.
‘It’s such a weight off my shoulders,’ Ms Hunt told The Echo while enjoying a celebratory ale at the Rails hotel after the decision.
‘This has just been hanging over my head for a couple of months now.
‘The whole thing weighed so heavy – it made me leave Byron Bay.’
The fine was imposed on Ms Hunt by licencing police from the Tweed Local Area Command even though she had hired two police officers to work at the event under the NSW Police Force’s ‘user pays’ system.
The police-for-hire were part of an eight-member security team which Ms Hunt had paid for in a bid to ensure the crowd adhered to COVID regulations.
Yet despite the presence of their own colleagues at the entire event, police still found that Ms Hunt alone was responsible for the small group of people dancing and elected to impose the $5,000 fine.
It was part of what Ms Hunt describes as ‘malicious persecution’ by the licencing officers involved.
This includes an apparent attempt to shut the concert series down before a single note was played by recommending that Byron Council and the NSW Office of Liquor Gaming and Racing (OLGR) impose a series of draconian licensing restrictions on the event.
These restrictions were then duly implemented by the Council and the OLGR without question.
The budget for the event blew out massively as a result of the restrictions, leaving Ms Hunt significantly out of pocket and having to contribute thousands from the mortgage of her Byron Bay home to pay everyone involved.
‘I still to this day can’t figure out what was eating the licensing police,’ Ms Hunt says.
‘It was a total troll”.
‘All I was trying to do was to put on a few outdoor concerts for the community and to support the local music industry.’
Magistrate Stafford also acknowledged that on the following day and at subsequent versions of the concert series there was no breach of the law or fine imposed.
In the end no conviction was ordered and the fine was overturned; a good behaviour bond was ordered for two years.
Ms Hunt’s lawyer, Mark Swivel of Barefoot Law, said the decision was ‘a good example of the law being applied appropriately so that the overall public interest is balanced against the rights of the individual and company being fined…’.
Ms Hunt said the decision opened up the possibility that she might put Summerstage on again.
“There is a 3 year DA and I can at least think about it, before today I couldnt.” she said.
‘All of the equipment and gear we bought is still in storage at the park.’
‘We’ll see… At the moment I’m just glad the case is over.’