Wollar Three decision in June

STANDING FIRM: Bev Smiles, Bruce Hughes, Stephanie Luke, and their supporters outside Mudgee Local Court on Friday, prior to their hearing on anti-protest laws.
STANDING FIRM: Bev Smiles, Bruce Hughes, Stephanie Luke, and their supporters outside Mudgee Local Court on Friday, prior to their hearing on anti-protest laws.

The trio charged with protesting at the Wilpinjong coal mine, will learn their fate on June 5 after judgement was held over after going to hearing at Mudgee Local Court on Friday.

Bev Smiles, Bruce Hughes and Stephanie Luke had previously entered pleas of ‘not guilty’ to the charges; Destroy/damage equipment/road etc belonging to etc mine; Pedestrian obstruct driver’s/other pedestrian’s path; Hinder working of mining equipment. 

The defence – through Phillip Boulten SC – argued that “these offences are not proven on the evidence” and the phrasing of the laws – which only came into affect less than six months prior to the incident – were “vague”.

And questioned if the road “belonged” to the mine, as well as the “hindering” and “damage” implied by the wording.

Prosecutor, Senior Sergeant Mark Watson, countered that association with mining activity fulfilled the “belonging to” criteria, and that the hindering and damage related to the mine stopping production. And said that while “there’s always been a right to protest...you can’t stop people going about their lawful business”.

The case was adjourned in September to await the outcome of a High Court challenge to similar laws in Tasmania, brought by former Greens leader Bob Brown. Which was subsequently successful.

However, Craig Lenehan representing the NSW Attorney General, said that those laws – which were found to be unconstitutional – differed from those of this state, in that they were more pointed at protesters and that their definition of a “business premise” was too wide. He also said that the trio were already engaging in “conduct which is unlawful”.

In his rebuttal, Mr Boulton said he took issue with the suggestion that “any form of illegality” takes away the right to express political views and that “protests often spill onto roads”. Also the laws as they stand imply “some sort of direct force or act” upon equipment and that the decision to stop production came from mine management.