Parliament House protesters plead not guilty
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Parliament House protesters plead not guilty

Seven protesters who superglued their hands to a wooden railing in parliament and caused question time to shut down will face trial after pleading not guilty to damaging Commonwealth property.

They each face a maximum of 10 years imprisonment if convicted.

Pro-refugee protesters who super glued themselves to the railing of Parliament in front of the building after appearing in the ACT Magistrates Court on Wednesday morning.

Pro-refugee protesters who super glued themselves to the railing of Parliament in front of the building after appearing in the ACT Magistrates Court on Wednesday morning.Credit:Rohan Thomson

The three men and four women appeared in the ACT Magistrates Court on Wednesday where they were formally charged.

"It's a little bit like graduation day, isn't it," Magistrate Beth Campbell said during a light-hearted moment, as she read out the names of the accused one at a time and they came forward to enter pleas.

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Samantha Hawker, Phillip Evans, Hannah Grant and Chamomilla Hill faced the ACT Magistrates Court on Wednesday over the protest last year.

Samantha Hawker, Phillip Evans, Hannah Grant and Chamomilla Hill faced the ACT Magistrates Court on Wednesday over the protest last year.Credit:Rohan Thomson

It is alleged their superglue protest on November 30 last year damaged a wooden balustrade in the House of Representatives.

Timothy Buchanan, Phillip Evans, Hannah Grant, Samantha Hawker, Chamomilla Hill, Sally Hunter and Jason Ray were committed to stand trial over the damage. The seven were represented by Tim Sharman, of Sharman Robertson Solicitors. The usual committal proceedings were waived with the prosecutor's consent.

It was not yet clear how the group intends to fight the charges. No further details of the alleged offences were aired in court.

All seven are members of a group called the Whistleblowers Activists and Citizens Alliance and the charges arose from a protest against Australia's offshore detention camps for refugees.

Timothy Buchanan has pleaded not guilty to damaging Commonwealth property.

Timothy Buchanan has pleaded not guilty to damaging Commonwealth property.Credit:Rohan Thomson

Outside court on Wednesday after entering their pleas, the seven stood together and told the waiting media they had tried for years to make themselves heard through more conventional means.

"We have written letters and signed petitions, we have attended rallies and speak outs, we have held sit-ins and we have blockaded in attempts to stop deportations to danger," Chamomilla Hill read from a statement on behalf of the group.

Two protesters unfurl a banner on the Parliament House building in December last year.

Two protesters unfurl a banner on the Parliament House building in December last year.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

"We have reached a critical moment in Australia's history, a moment when these methods are no longer enough. We have been unable to reach those in power, our so-called representatives.

"We took direct action inside our Parliament House in an attempt to be heard. We called out to our elected representatives to demand that they end their inhumane policies."

Another protester, Sally Hunter, said they maintained their innocence.

They would continue to protest until the camps are closed, she said.

The group were bailed on their own word to appear in court when required. Their cases are next due in court on July 27.

Also in court on Wednesday were the cases of two other protesters from the same group who abseiled down Parliament House the next day and unfurled a banner that read "close the bloody camps now".

Katherine Woskett and Patrick Kieren Holmes were not in court but solicitor Mr Sharman entered pleas of not guilty to offensive behaviour on their behalf. The charges come under Commonwealth public order laws, and carry a maximum fine of $3600 on conviction.

Their matters were set down for hearing on February 13 next year.

A brief exchange revealed a hint of how the case might be argued. Ms Campbell asked the lawyers whether the issues were factual or "interesting legal ones"; Mr Sharman confirmed it was the latter.

Alexandra Back is a reporter with The Canberra Times

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