Thursday, April 24, 2008

Are the Frisbee4 Ordinary People?

The verdict in the court case for the Samuel Hill 4, basically came down to the question: Are they ORDINARY people?

The sitting magistrate Ms Baldwin quoted Justice Brennan in rejecting a plea of not guilty and finding the 4 did not have ‘lawful excuse’ for being on the Shoalwater Base. [warning loose quoting ahead] Brennan had said“Lofty aspirations should not be confused with rule of law” and “it is essential to separate the functions of court and government”. I think Brennan had been trying to intimate you can't influence public policy through the court system.

The 4 defendants made an excellent case that they were not attempting to 'influence public policy" but to interfere directly in the "social harms created when people are given skills and knowledge and tactics for mid to hight intensity combat" [Simon Reeves]. Mr Simon Moyle said: "Training for war creates more war; training for peace creates peace".

Like the Pine Gap 4 and others before them, the 4 attempted to convince the magistrate that they had a legitimate purpose in being there: to prevent GREATER HARMS.

The magistrate first addressed the defence under 10.3 of the Commonwealth criminal code: the idea that the 4 had an extraordinary emergency that gave them reason to be on the tarmac stopping the training and skilling in combat methods. She did however say in relation to the defence that “in the circumstances [she] would be prepared to find that [the reasons they were there] were extraordinary”.

But she didn’t think that it was ‘reasonable’ that they were there. Perhaps “subjectively”; but according to her “objective” test their actions were not reasonable.. She said she needed and “objective assessment of reasonability." Quoting from Mr Justice Gallop in the case “Mark and Henshaw” she said “the critical issue [is] not the appellants belief or state of mind...[but] will come from an objective assessment ...[which] requires application of community standards ...[as to] whether the conduct is acceptable to the community.”

Earlier she had invoked the “man on the Clapham bus” as the standard of ordinary set by some English judge sometime. [I’ll come back to that]

But now she discussed the “ultimate impact of a breach of law on the community standards”. she implied that such breaches of law went against “community standards”. She pointed out that that the people involved in Talisman Sabre were also entitled to the protection of the law.

Ms Baldwin said “I believe all four defendants believed that what they were doing was reasonable but on an objective test could not be seen to be reasonable.”

She also addressed 10.4 of the criminal code: the idea that Samuel Hill 4 were compelled to intervene in the training and skilling of people in violent methods [war games] in defence of others who would otherwise be subject to great harm. She said that none of the defendants was ultimately able to show imminent peril and therefore she “must determine reasonability in relation to community standards. She again thought that community standards didn’t yet extend to “allowing breach of the law” and this was “not withstanding the method of execution through nonviolence.”

Margaret's Comment

So were they ordinary people? Each of the 4 thought they were pretty ordinary. Simon Reeves claimed to use bikes [he also has a bike he said!] But apparently it is not ordinary in our society to listen to the stories of people around you and then translate that to behaviours that intervene in the unjust acts that you hear about in those narratives.

Personally I thought they were pretty extraordinary not withstanding their use of buses and rather lowly jobs in the outer suburbs of Melbourne.

I thought they were extraordinary because of the way they engaged intellectually with the legal material, the way they showed respect and love in the court room, the way they spoke clearly and brilliantly about why they did what they did. I loved how they summoned Gandhi and King and John Dear and Dorothy Day - yay.

From Simon Moyle’s evocation of the nonviolent Jesus.; Krystal Spencer's bold solidarity with Indigenous Australians and their Country; Sarah’s appeal that they were “everyday Australians armed with another message : ‘Love at All Costs’; Simon Reeves’ argument about concerning the 3 harms of Talisman Sabre and his own compulsion to intervene in those harms on humanity and the Earth each person was particularly lovely there in the court room. Each participant spoke thoughtfully from the heart and with the Spirit of God shining forth.

Blessed Be.

Margaret Pestorius

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