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Extinction Rebellion fined as court rejects climate defence

THREE protesters who were charged after blocking city traffic have failed to prove their "extraordinary emergency" defence.

Extinction Rebellion protesters Emma Jade Dorge, Clancy Jade Maher and Holly Joanne Porter were charged with unreasonably obstructing drivers.

The three women in their 20s were part of a sit-down protest that blocked the intersection of Elizabeth and George Sts in Brisbane on August 6 last year.

Dorge, an unemployed midwife, also was charged with obstructing a police officer during the protest, which caused gridlock in the city.

Emma Dorge out side of Brisbane Magistrates court with friends. Friday June 26, 2020. (Picture, John Gass)
Emma Dorge out side of Brisbane Magistrates court with friends. Friday June 26, 2020. (Picture, John Gass)

The trio defended the charges in a Brisbane Magistrates Court trial, with four police officers, including two inspectors, giving prosecution evidence.

Dorge claimed police used an unlawful level of force when she was pulled off the street, where she had locked arms with another protester.

She said an inspector knelt on her neck, causing her pain.

Police body camera footage showed her calling "Get off my neck" and she appeared to be struggling to breathe, the magistrate said.

At one stage she said she was pinned to the ground with a large officer lying on top of her.

Magistrate Anthony Gett found the force used on Dorge by two inspectors trying to arrest her was "forcible and vigorous".

But he said despite her pain, it was reasonable and not manifestly excessive, given her struggles.

One of the inspector's technique of kneeling on a struggling Dorge's neck for 15 seconds was "questionable", Magistrate Gett said.

But he also concluded it was not excessive or unreasonable, given the circumstances.

Mr Gett also found Dorge intentionally struggled with police, trying to break an officer's grip by twice dropping her weight to the ground during the arrest.

The magistrate considered the trio's defence that they were not criminally responsible for an act done in circumstances of sudden or extraordinary emergency.

Extinction Rebellion protesters are seen blocking the corner of Margaret and William Streets in Brisbane, Tuesday, August 6, 2019. Climate change protesters are planning to shut down Brisbane’s CBD. (AAP Image/Darren England). NO ARCHIVING
Extinction Rebellion protesters are seen blocking the corner of Margaret and William Streets in Brisbane, Tuesday, August 6, 2019. Climate change protesters are planning to shut down Brisbane’s CBD. (AAP Image/Darren England). NO ARCHIVING

The women said they each held an honest and reasonable belief that the climate emergency was extreme and they had no alternative but to enact change through the protest.

Mr Gett said their evidence was less than compelling and he found the extraordinary emergency defence was not legally available.

He found the three women guilty of the offences.

Solicitor Justin Sibley said Dorge, 24, was slightly built and the circumstances of the forcible arrest would have been quite traumatic for her.

Mr Gett accepted it would have been a sobering experience, but he said much of what occurred was because of her resistance.

Dorge, who had previous convictions for obstructing a railway and assaulting or obstructing police during a coal mining protest, was fined $1400, with no conviction recorded.

Maher also pleaded guilty to obstructing the path of drivers and contravening a police direction to move during another city protest in October last year.

Maher, who had two previous convictions for protest-related offences, also pleaded guilty to breaching a bail condition that she was not to enter the city.

Maher, who had locked onto a catamaran on a trailer, with a " sleeping dragon" device, during an unauthorised protest, was fined $2800, with a conviction recorded.

Porter, who had no previous convictions, was fined $800, with the conviction not recorded.

Originally published as Extinction Rebellion fines as court rejects climate defence


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