The three protesters that blocked the Wilpinjong mine entrance were listed for hearing in February, as they wait to see the outcome of a High Court challenge to similar laws.
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Bev Smiles, Bruce Hughes and Stephanie Luke face charges under laws introduced by the NSW Government in October 2016 specifically cracking down on interference with “mining and other businesses or undertakings".
Which include a maximum penalty of seven years in jail for anyone convicted of "intentionally or recklessly interfering with a mine".
The hearing has been set down for February 8-9, 2018.
Although police dropped the charges against him he took the case to the High Court on the grounds it breaches the constitution's implied right to freedom of political communication.
The local group’s solicitor, Sue Higginson of the Environmental Defenders Office NSW, said outside court “the outcome of the case is likely to have a strong bearing on the way we proceed in these matters before Mudgee”.
“It’s a complicated matter, we’re looking at testing the constitutional validity of the NSW protester laws, so really what we were hoping for today was to set a hearing at a date in the future that gives us time to work out the course of these proceedings,” she said.
“Particularly waiting for the outcome of the current High Court challenge of the Tasmanian protester laws brought by Bob Brown.
“That case was heard early May and we’re waiting for an outcome [which] will have a bearing on the future course of these proceedings in the Mudgee Local Court.
“The outcome of the High Court proceedings is really going to explore what it in fact means to have laws that interfere with the constitutional freedom of political communication.
“We know that the NSW Government passed these laws, that my clients have been charged with, on the basis of tightening down on protesters in NSW.
“And the freedom to politically communicate your views – whether that be for a social, environmental or other just purpose.”
Bev Smiles said, “it’s good to know the possibility of us challenging these charges under the constitution, we are ordinary people who were protesting about Government decisions that have destroyed our local community”.
“And we felt that was the last option we had to raise the issues of what was happening to our lives.
“To be charged under the new laws with the possibility of a seven year jail sentence was a total shock to us and our friends and our family.
“So we are looking forward to being able to defend ourselves against those charges and the possibility of questioning the actual law that we’ve been charged under.”
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