Judges slash anti-Adani activists’ fines

 

JUDGES are dramatically reducing the fines of anti-Adani activists by thousands of dollars on appeal, and have ordered police to pay the costs of protesters who pleaded guilty.

North Queensland magistrates have collectively slapped 10 anti-Adani protesters with $82,000 in fines, but on appeal in District Courts, the offenders have had their fines cut to $22,000 - a reduction of $60,000.

Judges - including former civil libertarian Ian Dearden - are setting aside the decisions of regional magistrates, finding the sentences excessive.

The protesters, who locked themselves on to railway lines or broke into Adani's Abbot Point Port coal terminal to stop operations, have in part received much lighter financial punishments on appeal because they are on welfare - although some have hundreds of thousands of dollars in assets. 

Tess Newport
Tess Newport

 

Judge Ian Dearden
Judge Ian Dearden

Federal ministers, industry leaders and mining companies are today calling on the Queensland Government and judiciary to ensure penalties are in step with community expectations.

Bowen Magistrates Court heard that 13 hours of protester disruption at Abbot Point coal terminal in January last year had a "cost impact" over $7 million.

Judge Dearden in September reduced the $10,000 fine levelled against Freya Rowe Nolan, 21, to $1000.

Nolan, from Western Australia, pleaded guilty to trespass on a railway, obstructing a railway and obstructing police in Bowen Magistrates Court in April this year.

The anti-Adani activist, on youth allowance, locked her arms into a steel device and attached it to a railway line in Bowen. Police were called but she refused to move.

They had to buy gloves and saw blades from Bunnings to remove Nolan, who had been attached to the device for three hours.

She was initially ordered by Bowen Magistrates Court to also pay police $1565 in restitution. Nolan said in her notice of appeal: "I am 21 years old and on youth allowance, with no criminal record.

"A fine of $10,000, the biggest in Australia's environmental history, would be a significant financial burden to me, and is not in proportion to the offence I committed."

Juliet Lamont and daughter Luca
Juliet Lamont and daughter Luca

Judge Dearden set aside the restitution order and ordered police pay Nolan $1800 in costs instead - with no conviction recorded.

Judge Dearden is a former president of the Queensland Council for Civil Liberties.

While he was a judge in 2016, he participated in an Environmental Defenders Office event at the Woodford Folk Festival.

When The Courier-Mail asked Queensland Courts if Judge Dearden could give the public confidence that he could hear climate activists' cases without fear or favour, a spokeswoman said: "Queensland judges hear and impartially determine matters based on the evidence presented and not personal opinion."

In another case on January 11 last year, Juliet Lamont, 48, Luca Lamont, 20, Nicholas Avery, 28, Jeffery Cantor, 72, and Tess Newport, 23, unlawfully entered the Abbot Point port facility.

Newport climbed about 50m in a coal-loading trestle and locked on to it.

The other defendants also locked on to the trestle, above moving machinery, forcing terminal staff to shut down operations.

They refused to obey police directions and two protesters had to be cut down from the structure. All were arrested.

Nic Avery locked to the machinery at Adani's Abbot Point coal terminal
Nic Avery locked to the machinery at Adani's Abbot Point coal terminal

A week later, John Ross, 70, Liisa Rusanen, 37, Daniel Skerrett, 30, and Ella Skerrett, 27, mirrored the protesters' action.

Their cases were heard in Bowen Magistrates Court in March last year and all pleaded guilty to charges of trespass, contravening police direction and intentionally or recklessly interfering with a port operation.

They were all fined $8000, and given the majority of the offenders lived interstate, community service was not considered a viable option. No convictions were recorded.

On appeal, Townsville judge Greg Lynham reduced the fines to between $2000 and $3000. Judge Lynham said it was "regrettable" that the Magistrates Court was not told about the defendants' entire financial circumstances.

He said the law mandated that in handing down a fine, the court had to take into account the financial circumstances of the offender and the burden of the financial penalties on the offender.

There is no suggestion the decisions of Judge Dearden and Judge Lynam were not made according to law.

From left, John Ross, Liisa Rusanen, Ella and Daniel Skerrett
From left, John Ross, Liisa Rusanen, Ella and Daniel Skerrett


NICHOLAS AVERY

Income: $1090 per fortnight

Assets: Joint owner of house in Melbourne - estimated value $925,000

Savings: $4708.55

Expenses: $994 per fortnight

Other liabilities: HECS debt of $41,305

Fined: $8000 - reduced to $2500 on appeal

JEFFREY CANTOR

Income: Military pension of $2204.41 per fortnight

Assets: About $28,500

Savings: $1116.25

Expenses: About $3400 per fortnight

Liabilities: Loans/credit card debts - about $23,900

Fined: $8000 - reduced to $3000 on appeal

LUCA LAMONT

Income: $700 per fortnight

Expenses: $600 per fortnight

Savings: None

Fined: $8000 - reduced to $2000 on appeal

JULIET LAMONT

Income: $1071.92 per fortnight

Assets: $4000

Expenses: $1,120 per fortnight

Liabilities: $32,000

Fined: $8000 - reduced to $2000 on appeal

TESS NEWPORT

Income: $452.80 (Newstart allowance)

Savings: $16,060

Expenses: $376 per fortnight

Fined: $8000 - reduced to $2000 on appeal

JOHN ROSS

Income: $692 per fortnight

Assets: $715,500 (including a property values at $600,000)

Expenses: $913 per fortnight

Other liabilities: $1700 (credit union loan)

Fined: $8000 - reduced to $3000 on appeal

LIISA RUSANEN

Income: $1628

Savings: $15,000

Assets: $6842

Expenses: $1800 per fortnight Liabilities

HECS debt: $29,000

Fined: $8000 - reduced to $2000 on appeal

DANIEL SKERRETT

Income: $600 per week

Savings: $3000

Assets: $158,000 (including half share of property)

Expenses: $685 per fortnight

Liabilities: $66,640 (loan)

Fined: $8000 - reduced to $2500 on appeal

ELLA SKERRETT

Income: $700 per fortnight

Savings: $800

Assets: $300 (superannuation)

Expenses: $650 per fortnight

Fined: $8000 - reduced to $2000 on appeal



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