Wednesday 27 February 2008

Gap in law for Bryan

L-R Bryan Law, Russell Goldflam, Adele Goldie, Ron Merkel QC, Jim Dowling, and Donna Mulhearn.

"What an adventure. It’s good to be back," said Cairns activist, and former Mayoral candidate, Bryan Law, after returning to Cairns.

Law, along with three others, known as the 'Pine Gap 4', were acquitted of charges under the Special Defence Undertakings Act 1952.

In December 2005, Bryan Law, along with Adele Goldie, Jim Dowling and Donna Mulhearn breached a perimeter fence to conduct a citizen's inspection of the US spy base, Pine Gap.

It was a unanimous decision by the full bench of the Northern Territory Court of Criminal Appeal. Three judges agreed with the defendants' submission that there was a miscarriage of justice at last year's trial. This was due to the fact that they were not able to bring evidence before the jury about the function of Pine Gap.

There were also other grounds to the appeal of a more technical nature. It is expected that the judges will publish detailed reasons for their decision shortly. The prosecution immediately sought a re-trial, which was quickly rebutted.

"What would be achieved for these individuals or the community if there is a re-trial?" asked Justice Riley. Therefore the judges unanimously ruled there would be no re-trial.

The four had already served prison time was also a contributing factor in the decision.

"This is a 'David vs Goliath' outcome and is a result of the excellent work of our legal team: Ron Merkel QC, Rowena Orr and Russell Goldflam," said Bryan Law. "Their commitment, persistence and brilliance were amazing. They should be heartily congratulated."

The result now raises significant questions for the Government about the use of the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952. It was the first, and likely last time it will be used in this context. The outcome a slap in the face for prosecutors who seek to enact draconian legislation to respond to pacifists partaking in non-violent civil disobedience.

This will affect all defence areas in Australia that also fall under this act. It sets a precedent for future acts of civil disobedience carried out on all defense areas.

At dawn on December 9, 2005 the ‘citizen’s inspection’ caused Pine Gap to shut down for five hours. Six hundred employees were denied access into the base and the employee’s cars queued up for several kilometres.

Two members of Christians Against ALL Terrorism, Jim Dowling from Daybora and Adele Goldie from Brisbane, entered the Pine Gap military base undetected and photographed themselves before being arrested. Two other members of the group Donna Mulhearn from Sydney and Bryan Law of Cairns, went undetected for another hour before being arrested.

They were fined a total of $3,000. The Director of Public Prosecutions office will now decide whether to pursue a retrial.

Outside the Darwin court, Bryan Law said some of the protesters planned another 'inspection' at Pine Gap on Anzac Day. "We are going to walk across the desert, into the Pine Gap base and challenge the government's right to maintain a terror base in our country."
"Pine Gap is not a base for the defense of Australia, Pine Gap is an instrument of international aggression."

"It’s almost enough to restore my faith in the criminal justice system," Bryan Law told CairnsBlog.

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