CCL deeply concerned about anti-protest laws, but welcomes aquittal of 'Wollar Three'

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) welcomes the dismissal of anti-protesting law
charges against Bev Smiles, Bruce Hughes and Stephanie Luce in Mudgee Local Court on
June 5.

The trio, known as the “Wollar Three”, attended a protest against the expansion of the
Wilpinjong mine in 2017. They blocked a road, and held up a banner. They faced two charges
under the Inclosed Lands Protection Act 2016, of which they were acquitted. They were also
charged with obstructing pedestrians and drivers. Magistrate David Day found them guilty of
obstructing the road, but did not record any convictions against them.

CCL is pleased to hear that no one was sent to prison for seven years for standing on a road
and holding a sign. CCL warned when these laws passed that they were a heavy-handed
response to peaceful protesting. Though the Wollar Three may be relieved, they have spent
over a year wondering if they were going to be locked up for years for holding a tiny protest.
CCL is concerned about the chilling effect of these sorts of charges. Even an acquittal has
required a substantial investment of time, energy and resources. It is troubling that the NSW
Government should permit laws seemingly designed to deter people from engaging in
peaceful demonstrations.

Protests are the lifeblood of democracies. That protesters could face such serious penalties
for such trivial actions shows the dire state of civil liberties in NSW. The protesters have
been found not guilty, but the laws they were charged breaking with remain a menace. The
Magistrate acquitted the group on relatively minor technicalities, whilst interpreting the
legislation broadly enough that the next group could be convicted for indirectly causing
delays in the working of mine equipment.

CCL states again that these laws are an unacceptable infringement on liberal democracy in
NSW. We urge the state government to abolish these laws.

Stephen Blanks