The case involving 14 protesters from Queensland who were charged with climate-related offenses has been postponed as doubts are raised about the legitimacy of the charges.
The legitimacy of allegations against 14 activists from Queensland, who could potentially face imprisonment for participating in a climate protest at the state parliament, was brought into question during a court hearing on Monday. The case was then postponed.
The group is being charged for disrupting the legislature during a protest last November. They displayed banners with anti-fossil fuel messages from the public gallery and chanted for approximately three minutes, which has not occurred in over 30 years.
The accusations are covered by section 56 of the criminal code in Queensland, which states that the maximum penalty is three years in prison. However, a court in Brisbane was informed on Monday that a subsequent section of the same act nullifies section 56 as a violation.
According to Section 717 of the criminal code, it is prohibited to charge, prosecute, convict, or punish an individual for disrupting the legislature.
Subscribe to Guardian Australia’s complimentary daily email newsletters for a summary of the latest news, sent to you in the morning and afternoon.
Martin Payne, the police prosecutor, filed a detailed written argument regarding the specific section of Queensland’s laws that were applicable during the parliamentary protest, following changes to the legislation in 2012.
The defense lawyer, Andrew Hoare, stated that there was no confusion regarding the specific section of the law in question. However, he had not yet had the opportunity to present his written submission.
Judge Joseph Pinder granted Hoare a period of five days to complete the task.
In a separate development, Pinder informed both the defense and prosecution that he would not pursue charges against all 14 defendants simultaneously.
The judge noted that there was no request to consolidate all of the charges and criticized both the prosecution and defense for attempting to move forward without one.
Hoare mentioned that there was a request for a combined trial in May, but Pinder stated that there was no documentation of it.
Lee Coaldrake, a former doctor and spouse of the former vice-chancellor of Queensland University of Technology, Peter Coaldrake, was the sole case that Pinder was willing to address. She then entered a plea of not guilty for one count of disrupting the legislative proceedings.
On November 13, the remaining 13 defendants, whose ages range from 24 to 88, were expected to have their cases brought up. All of the defendants had their bail extended.
The morning’s chaos was intensified by the fact that those in the audience, including the 14 defendants, were unable to hear most of the dialogue.
The unclear circumstances led 24-year-old Aisling Geraghty, a woman from Moorooka, to express her disappointment with the outcome.
The individual stated that balancing studying and working has been causing a great deal of stress. They also expressed their added stress and feelings of inequality as they face impending charges. They feel that the court is overlooking the human aspect behind all the legal paperwork.
Tracy Hickey, a production assistant for a school drama, is another protester who stated that the past 11 months have been a challenging time. Like Geraghty, she has no remorse for her actions.
Hickey expressed that while there has been some stress, it pales in comparison to the anxiety she feels for the students she teaches if we do not take action on the climate crisis.
Upon arrival, the group of 14 individuals were met with enthusiastic cheers and chants from a crowd of Extinction Rebellion supporters. Many were waving flags bearing the organization’s name. Among the supporters was well-known activist Violet Coco, who had previously been sentenced to 15 months in prison for obstructing traffic in Sydney last April. However, her sentence was later overturned on appeal.
Coco led cheers and delivered a speech honoring the 14 individuals who were bravely involved.
“Who is truly responsible for these crimes?” she asked, accusing fossil fuel corporations and governments of causing the destruction of our climate.
“I am aware that the individuals appearing in court today are courageous individuals.”