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Non Violent Direct Action - Legal Precedent
Native Forest Action Media Release - Tuesday 21 March 2000
HELICOPTER LOGGING PROTESTORS: 'LEGALLY GUILTY BUT MORALLY CORRECT'
Peter Williams QC represented two Native Forest Action activists Bridget Gibb and Steve Abel in the Auckland District Court today. The pair were arrested in February 1999 after being removed for locking themselves to a log-lifting helicopter on the South Island's West Coast to prevent Timberlands West Coast Ltd lifting ancient rimu logs out of native forests.
The pair pleaded guilty for their separate charges of 'unlawful interference with a helicopter' (Ms Gibb) and 'illegally getting upon an aircraft' (Mr Abel). They described their actions as being legally guilty but morally correct.
Judge Kerr felt obliged to convict each activist because the line of the law had been crossed. At the same time he stated, "You can wear your conviction like a badge of courage," as he dismissed the $6,000 reparations sought by Heliharvest.
Lawyer Peter Williams QC defended the pair by pointing out that the present Government policy is an endorsement of their actions. He said that there was no moral turpitude in their action - that it was an action in the interests of the greater good.
"This judgement sets a great precedent for future actions where concerned members of the public feel the only way to defend our environment is to take such severe action," said Bridget Gibb.
"Our use of non-violent direct action has been vindicated," pointed out Steve Abel.
The pair, with no previous convictions, faced a maximum sentence of two years in jail and various reparation charges claimed by the Government logging company.
This follows two other protest trials against Timberlands' protesters last year where Native Forest Action activists were discharged without conviction, with Judge Ryan speaking of a 'noble tradition of protest in NZ'.
For more information contact: Steve Abel in Auckland on 09-846-7077 or 025-425-051. or Dean Baigent-Mercer on 04-383-5168.
NB. A digital image of the original action (Steve Abel locked to the helicopter rotor) is available on the Native Forest Action website - http://www.nfa.org.nz/#Court