NSWCCL: Charges dropped against Deanna Violet Coco

Today in Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court activist, Violet Coco successfully appealed the unfair and harsh 15 month custodial sentence she received last December. Judge Mark Williams SC withdrew all but two of Ms Coco’s convictions and sentenced her to a 12-month conditional release order.

Long-time volunteer firefighter, Alan Glover, also appealed and won against his 18-month community corrections order and $3,000 fine for participating in the same climate protest last April. Mr Glover, who has been a firefighter for several decades was at risk of being terminated due to his conviction, was placed on a 12-month conditional release order and his conviction was set aside.

It was revealed in court last Tuesday during the sentencing hearing for Alan Glover and Karen Fitzgibbon, NSW Police had tendered false allegations that the protest last year had “prevented an ambulance responding to an emergency under lights and sirens as it was unable to navigate through the increased heavy traffic”. These false allegations had strongly influenced the court’s decision last year to impose harsh bail conditions and severe custodial sentences for non-violent, peaceful protesters during the sentencing of Ms Coco and co-accused Jay Larbalestier.

Josh Pallas, President, NSW Council for Civil Liberties said “Violet was jailed after she briefly blocked one lane of traffic on the Harbour Bridge during a direct-action climate protest last April. A custodial sentence was neither proportionate nor fair, indeed the cost to tax-payer and waste of court time is outrageous. Justice has been done today, but at too great a cost.”

Credit: Bianca De Marchi

“It has subsequently been revealed that Violet and Jay were sentenced on the basis of a false assertion. This is an shocking case of the police misstating the facts which were consequential in the sentences of both Violet and Jay. The police have offered no justification for this misstatement of facts. They must be held accountable and at the very least, explain how they got this so wrong.”

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has advocated for the rights of protesters since 1963 and today we are living in some of the darkest times our members have seen for protestors. Peaceful protest is something that everyone is entitled to participate in.

“Activism changes history and the right to stand together and peacefully protest must be protected and defended for every citizen not pared back. The current anti-protest laws fly in the face of what civil society, trade unions and religious groups all fight for. We must protect the right to freedom of speech and to peacefully assembly across NSW.”

“Climate protesters are being increasingly and disproportionately subjected to punitive legal action by Australian authorities and this has taken that legal action to a new extreme.”

“In the lead up to the election on 25 March, pressure is building on Premier Dominic Perrottet as the reality of how bad it is for protestors in NSW today sinks in. The right to protest and public assembly is an essential democratic right. Stifling protest stifles freedom of expression. Enough is enough, the government and the police must respect the right to protest and be accountable for their actions.”