February 23-Day Seven in Court:
The court case against fifteen peace activists arrested protesting the Weapons Conference finished today with the last activist with a trespass charge being found not guilty. Over the course of seven days in court fifteen charges of obstruction, trespass and disorderly behaviour were dismissed or found not guilty due to lack of evidence.
This has been fifteen months of stress, both emotional and financial having these charges hanging over us. Many of the people arrested at the protest were not able to fight the charges because of study, work, travel and other commitments and were forced to take diversion or plead guilty. Those of us who could, choose to fight these charges because we believed we were within or legal rights to protest and were arrested at random to shut down the protest.
At this point we are relieved that no one has been found guilty and the court has vindicated our freedom to protest but it also feels like we have already been punished by the police, who have used these arrests, charges and lengthy court case to deter people from protesting.
Throughout this court case they have accused us of being a violent mob and of assaulting people without any evidence or charges relating to these claims. If anything the police were the violent mob at the protest and have left many people traumatised by their aggressive arrests of peaceful protestors.
The police sought a pre-emptive trespass order days before the protest began which was found to be without legal merit on the first day of the trial because the protest took place on public land. Their priority from the start was not to uphold public order but instead assist business people who profit from war rather than respect peoples right to protest. The real criminals were the companies inside the building busy making deals in weapons.
Recently released figures by The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) show that the global arms trade is at it’s highest volume since the Cold War so challenging the arms trade is as important now more than ever, this court case though taxing will not deter us from continuing to take a stand against the arms trade here in Aotearoa.
Thanks to everyone who has supported us during the arrests and court process. Whether it was a message of support, your presence at court, food or financial help every bit of support we have received has helped us fight these charges and win! Thank you!
February 20-Day Six in Court:
Two more charges dropped! Only one to go!
Starting again at 10am the judge considered the last remaining charge of obstruction and found the activist not guilty by lack of evidence. Then he dismissed the charge of disorderly behaviour due to the lack of intent and video evidence bringing police accounts into question. Submissions for the last remaining charge of trespass were accepted by the judge who will deliberate on these and give his judgement on Thursday morning. Fingers crossed for the last one!
February 17-Day Five in Court:
Another charge was dismissed on the fifth day of court. Not enough evidence could be provided for the charge of trespass and so it was dismissed from the court. This now leaves only three charges remaining, one of obstruction, one of trespass and one of disorderly behavior.
Court will continue on Monday at 10am for the remaining cases. Submissions are to be made on the trespass case, the obstruction to be decided and the disorderly behavior to be considered for a section 147 dismissal of charge. We are so ready for this to be over!
11 down 3 to go!
February 16-Day Four in Court:
The charges are dropping quicker than we can do dive bombs at lunch break from court!
Another charge was dismissed on the fourth day of the Crown’s case against 15 peace activists who protested the 2015 Weapons Expo. Selina Van Doorn’s charge was dismissed after the Judge was shown video evidence which clearly showed that police had violently arrested her for no reason. The Crown have now completed their witnesses and lawyers for the remaining represented defendants have applied for their cases to be dismissed due to lack of evidence.
Van Doorn had been charged with obstructing police but the video demonstrated her asking police officers why another protester had been arrested and then moving away when requested. She was then grabbed by two police officers, pushed to the ground and arrested. Van Doorn today said “This whole process has really made me lose trust in the police. They tried to paint us as a violent mob but we were there protesting for peace and the only ones being violent at the protest were the cops.”
Four defendants now remain. The lawyers for the remaining three represented defendants are confident that the Crown has not presented sufficient evidence to prove any of the charges and at the end of proceedings today filed applications for the charges to be dismissed. One defendant is still representing himself and may present further evidence.
12 down 4 to go!
February 15-Day Three in Court:
Another charge dropped!
The judge has dismissed yet another charge in the case against peace activists arrested protesting the Weapons Expo in 2015. After reviewing the evidence provided by the Crown Prosecution and hearing from a police witness the judge found there was no case to answer. This follows the dropping of charges against 9 people yesterday after evidence revealed the protest was on public land and arrests for trespass were unlawful.
With 10 out of the 16 charges dismissed after three days of evidence the Crown’s case is falling apart. “After fifteen months, thousands of dollars and a week in court I don’t think the cops ever intended to find us guilty. In fact they were using this court case as the punishment,” stated Jerome O’Connor, whose charge of obstruction was dropped today.
The Crown will be continuing it’s case tomorrow with more police witnesses to be called to the stand. Another 10am start in Court room 9, Level 4 of the Wellington District Court.
11 down 5 to go!
February 14-Day Two in Court:
Nine charges dropped in farcical case against peace activists: case continues!
Here is the press release we put out today:
Nine peace activists are this morning walking free from Wellington District Court after the Crown Prosecution were forced to drop their charges. Lawyers for the activists ripped apart the testimony of the first witness during cross examination before lunch on Monday February 13, shaking the foundation of the Crown’s case. The trial will continue for the remaining six defendants who stood up against the Wellington Weapons Expo in 2015. The campaign against the arms trade will continue with a public petition hand in today at 6pm to Parliament with 4,000 signatures against the Weapons Expo.
The first day of the predicted week long trial saw the stand taken by Brian McGuinness, property owner at the TSB Arena where the Weapons Expo was held in 2015. McGuinness eventually admitted that there was a public easement around the TSB Arena after initially claiming that the area on which the protest was held was private. McGuinness also admitted that the police may not have been properly granted the authority to trespass protesters, shattering the Prosecution’s case against most of those charged with trespass.
Two other peaceful protesters who had been charged with obstruction have also had their charges dropped. “This really shows that the police interfered with our right to freedom of speech in November 2015. We were arrested on public land while exercising our lawful right to protest. I’m glad to have been let off these charges today, but I’m going to keep coming to court to support everyone else who stood up against the arms trade. We all know who the real criminals are – it’s not the peace activists, it’s the arms dealers profiting from death and destruction” said Emma Cullen who had her trespass charge dropped today.
Laura Drew, whose charges still stand, is confident; “I’m proud to have stood up against people directly profiting from war. We were standing in solidarity with refugees and people in war-torn areas around the world whose lives are directly effected by the dirty deals made at the Weapons Expo.”
Drew continues, “Thousand of people of across Aotearoa signed a petition opposing the Weapons Expo which we’re going to hand in to Parliament tomorrow, demanding that the government stop supporting weapons dealers. A strong stand for peace means actively opposing war.”
After the charges were dropped court continued with the next prosecution’s witness on the stand. This was the manager of Wilson’s car park underneath the TSB Arena, he was then followed by a manager of Positively Wellington Venues who manager the TSB arena. Both were grilled by the defense around the chain of authority and conditions of entry. The final witness on the stand for the day was a police constable in charge of arrests. His cross examination was interrupted by technical difficulties with the video feed and will continue tomorrow. 10 down 6 to go!
February 13- Day One in Court:
We started the day with a small protest in front of the court to bring attention to who the real criminals are -Arms Dealers!
The 16 activists attending court are facing charges of obstruction and trespass from the 2015 Weapons Conference protest. The court began with administrative court procedures and one activist who had not completed diversion was again offered diversion and accepted. 1 down 15 to go!
Then the prosecution began its case by calling its first witnesses. Three statements from police photographers were read out. Then the first witness on the stand, a property owner on the waterfront around the TSB arena was thoroughly picked apart by the defence lawyers. Questions of chain of authority for trespass and whether the land the protest was on was public easement were raised.
This left massive questions around the legality of the prosecutions case and thus after lunch the prosecution asked the judge for an adjournment to review their case against the protestors which was now seeming very shaky. This was granted by the judge so we all got out of court early on day one!
This page is for daily court updates for the Weapons Conference 2015 court case starting on February 13.
If you would like more background on the case, you can find that here https://peaceactionwellington.wordpress.com/not-guilty-case-background/
If you would like to offer your support, there are many things you can do listed on this page https://peaceactionwellington.wordpress.com/how-you-can-help/