Today Bryan, Jim, Adele and Donna were acquitted of their convictions under the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952. February 25, 2008
It was a unanimous decision by the full bench of the Northern Territory Court of Criminal Appeal.
The three judges agreed with our submission that there was a miscarriage of justice at last year's trial because we were not able to bring evidence before the jury about the function of Pine Gap.
There were other grounds to the appeal, of a more technical nature. The judges will publish the detailed reasons for their decision in coming weeks.
The Prosecution quickly sought a re-trial, but was quickly rebutted.
"What would be achieved for these individuals or the community if there is a re-trial?" asked Justice Riley rather sternly.
The judges unanimously ruled there would be no re-trial.
The fact that we had already served prison time was a significant factor in their decision to refuse a re-trial. We are all very glad we did this as now our slate is clean regarding the other charge of 'damage', under the crimes act. So now it's all over!
This 'David vs Goliath' outcome is a result of the excellent work of our legal team: Ron Merkel QC, Rowena Orr and Russell Goldflam. Their commitment, persistance and brilliance was amazing. They should be heartily congratulated. (I hope to have a way for you all to do that soon).
The result now raises significant questions for the Government about the use of the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952. It was the first, and mostly likely last time it will be used in this context.
It is a victory for fairness and common sense, and a slap in the face for Prosecutor's who seek to use draconian legislation to respond to pacifists partaking in non-violent civil disobedience with an extreme witchunt.
Congratulations to our Pine Gap colleagues Jessica Morrison and Sean O'Reilly and thanks to everyone involved in our journey since December 2005.
It's been an amazing experience for all of us!
Rise Up! Put Pine Gap on trial!
cheers from Donna, Jim. Adele, Bryan.
Background on Pine Gap Action:
Message from Jim - Monday, February 25, 2008
Dear friends, Many will know by now that the appeal By Donna and Adele against our convictions for exposing the Pine Gap terror base has been successful. At the same time, an humiliated DPP prosecutor withdrew his appeal to increase our penalties for our other convictions.
In a matter of a few hours, former federal Court Judge Ron Merkle, made the Defence Special Undertakings act virtually unusable for defending Pine Gap's war crimes. On Friday 22 nd February, the full bench of the NT Supreme Court ruled our original trial Judge erred in not allowing us to present evidence that Pine Gap was not "necessary for the defence of Australia" as described in the act. It is unlikely the prosecution will want to take part in such an exercise to convict people like us again. Of course there is always the possibility of parliament changing the DSU act to solve this "problem".
Donna, Adele, Bryan and myself all spent time in Darwin jail for the original fines (Donna 5 days, Adele 6, Bryan10, and myself ,9 ).
The prosecution was not the only one humbled by the appeal process. On the second day, Russell, the lawyer for Adele and Donna pointed out that, while I was still in the dock expecting to do 13 days, I could ask to become part of the appeal and except bail. I didn't have to think too long to decide to swallow any principle, pride, or cynicism I had about the appeal It was obvious that, Donna and Adele (soon to be "we") were going to win. Bryan made the same quick and brilliant decision, and I was released from custody. (Bryan had previously been released that day after doing his full time)
Our victory seems to be one more miraculous outcome in an amazing process of resistance. The struggle will go on. I would like to invite anyone interested to join.
Thanks to all those who have gorgeously supported us over the last 3 years, with prayers, financially, with accommodation, with spreading the word, song and dance, and in many, many other ways. Thanks especially to Ron Merkle and Russell Goldflam. Ron seems like a humble man who generously included us in the list of causes he has supported in his "retirement". Russell, while working for Legal aid went above and beyond the call of duty many times I am sure.
Thanks even more especially to Bryan Donna and Adele, who proved a small group can work through the tensions, dissentions, pretensions, of all we have been through. It has been a great journey.
I will write a more detailed account of our time in Darwin later.
Below is an account form the Sunday Territorian.
Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia
Phoebe Stewart. Feb 2008
FOUR anti-war protesters have been acquitted of national security charges for penetrating the Territory's Pine Gap spy base. And the surprise verdict has raised doubts over whether peaceful invaders of Pine Gap can be charged under current federal laws.
Christians Against All Terrorism members Bryan Law, 52, Donna Mulhearn, 39, Jim Dowling, 52, and Adele Goldie, 31, rejoiced in Darwin after the Court of Criminal Appeal unanimously acquitted the four, who were the first Australians to be charged under the 1952 Defence (Special Undertakings) Act. And the activists vowed to launch another "attack'' at the spy base on Anzac Day.
"It's a vindication of a position we've been taking for 2 years -- Pine Gap is not a base for the defence of Australia,'' Mr Law said on the Supreme Court steps.
"Pine Gap is an instrument of international aggression and the base of the bombing and murder of innocent civilians in Iraq. The Commonwealth Government has been trying ... to punish us to the maximum extent possible for an expression of conscience.''
The four activists were the first civilians to cut the fence and penetrate a technical area of the spy base, taking photos of equipment that were published by the media.
They were convicted and fined $3250 in the Territory Supreme Court in June, with the offences carrying a maximum penalty of seven years' jail.
The Commonwealth DPP this week appealed the "manifestly inadequate'' sentences, and the four activists then cross-appealed to have their convictions quashed.
Yesterday, it took Chief Justice Martin and Justices Trevor Riley and David Angel just minutes to agree that there had been a "miscarriage of justice'', as the four had not been allowed to argue before a jury that Pine Gap was not a "defence facility'' for Australia.
They also disallowed an application by the Commonwealth DPP for a re-trial.
"The defendants were deprived of a possible defence, mainly establishing that the facility was not necessary for defence purposes,'' Chief Justice Brian Martin said yesterday.
Ms Mulhearn said the decision meant that the Federal Government would "have to'' review the "draconian'' Act.
"The Federal Government will have to look at the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act and the implications it has now for any activist who wants to take part in non-violent civil disobedience at Pine Gap,'' she said.
Ms Mulhearn said they were shocked to win the case, and thanked retired Federal Court judge Ron Merkel QC for acting for her and Ms Goldie.
She hoped the decision would give others the "courage'' to "expose'' Pine Gap.
The group, who still carry convictions under the Criminal Code for the break-in, have all served jail terms after failing to pay their fines.
It is not yet known if they will seek compensation for the time served.