Charges dropped against protesters
A $200,000 NSW riot police operation to break an anti-CSG protest at Glenugie may not secure any convictions.
More than 20 protesters were arrested when police broke up a protest in The Avenue at Glenugie on January 1 to allow CSG miner Metgasco's trucks access to a test drilling site.
Three of the protesters facing charges of hindering police, obstructing a driver's path and not complying with police directions were acquitted of all charges yesterday in the Grafton Local Court.
Magistrate David Heilpern found Ingo Andreas Bruno Medek, of Blue Knob, not guilty of hindering police and obstructing a driver in a hearing before lunch.
After the break he dismissed charges against Ian Ronald Gaillard of Keerong and Benjamin Zable, of Nimbin, in a few minutes, sparking some celebrations among supporters outside the court house.
Mr Gaillard said the offences he and Mr Zable were charged with occurred when he disobeyed police instruction to give Mr Zable a bottle of water during the protest.
Outside the court yesterday the pair re-enacted their actions for the benefit of about 20 supporters who turned up for the court case.
Defence solicitors Steve Bolt (for Mr Medek) and Philip Wykeham (for Gaillard and Zabel) said the decision could have major ramifications for two test cases in Maclean Local Court on July 9 and 10.
Mr Wykeham said after the magistrate's ruling yesterday, police commanders will have to make a decision to go ahead with the cases, which are to be used as templates for charges against other CSG protesters arrested at Glenugie.
The case started to go against the prosecution during cross examination of the police public order squad member Senior Constable Adam Harkin.
He admitted police did not properly identify themselves or adequately warn Mr Medek when they arrested him during the protest. He also agreed there were no Metgasco trucks in sight when Mr Medek was arrested for obstructing a driver.
The police prosecutor said those admissions did not help his case, but argued it was common sense to remove protesters from the road before trucks arrived.
The magistrate did not agree. He said Parliament had directed police to follow strict procedures when they arrested people.
He found the police had failed to follow the procedures and therefore were not acting in the execution of their duty when they arrested Mr Medek.
Mr Heilpern also said police were not so busy they could not follow correct procedure.
On the charge of obstructing a driver, Mr Heilpern dismissed it because it was a matter of fact there was no driver for Mr Medek to have obstructed.
After the hearing Mr Medek sought out Sen Con Harkin, shook his hand and assured him there were no hard feelings.