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New Zealand

Police v Hanafin

Jurisdiction: District Court of New Zealand

Side A: Police (Government)

Side B: Hanafin (Individual)

Core objectives: Whether protestors who trespassed on an oil platform should be convicted.

Four protesters were charged with trespass for the occupation of an offshore oil platform. The protesters pled guilty prior to hearing. The protesters argued that the action was peaceful, and genuinely motivated by a belief, founded on a basis of scientific consensus, as to the nature and effects of climate change, and therefore necessary to respond to the threat of harm. 

On November 13, 2020, the judge gave the sentencing. The judge accepted that anthropogenic climate change and its effects are undeniable, and that there is a right to freedom of expression. The judge accepted that without activism, change may be too late. However, she said, activism does not necessarily mean civil disobedience, and peaceful civil disobedience cannot be condoned where it infringes the genuine existing rights of another. In this case, there was an obligation not to interfere with a corporation carrying out its rights, where current New Zealand laws permit exploration and extraction of fossil fuels. The protesters should have sought law reform, and to educate the public without breaching the law. Nonetheless, the protesters' genuine belief in the correctness of their course, their early guilty pleas, and their otherwise good character were considered to be personal mitigating features. Aggravating features were the duration of the offending and the financial loss to the complainant. The protesters were convicted and discharged without penalty. The judge ordered forfeiture of the steel tubes used in the action, but not of the climbing equipment belonging to one of the protesters, because it was essential to his only means of income.

from the Grantham Research Institute
from the Grantham Research Institute
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