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TOUGHER SENTENCES NEEDED TO DETER NEW-AGE ACTIVISTS


Courts need to get tougher on new-age activists such as climate protesters and animal welfare campaigners whose actions go too far and infringe on the public’s freedom of movement and landholders’ private use of land, says legal firm Creevey Russell Lawyers.


Creevey Russell Principal Dan Creevey said while the more disruptive protestors are usually criminally charged with offences such as obstructing police or trespass, this does not appear to have any deterrent on offenders.


“Those charged and fined often declare they are ready to take action again as soon as possible so the punishments being metered out by the courts are having little impact,” Mr Creevey said.


“Everyone has a right to freedom of speech, but these new-age activists seem more than happy to break laws and economically impact thousands of people to get their message across. Perhaps suspended sentences with significant jail time for reoffending and much larger fines would work better to protect the public from these protesters.”


Creevey Russell's Crime and Misconduct division lawyer Craig van der Hoven said there has been a growing push for legislation to be amended to increase penalties for those who trespass onto abattoirs, knackeries or other primary production properties.


“Animal welfare groups have been trespassing onto farms to film the conduct of the landowner and in some cases, damage property and steal livestock,” he said.


“In the United States, the increase in activists obtaining footage has led to the introduction of ‘Ag-Gag’ laws, making it illegal to film and distribute images of a farm facility.


“There is a push for similar legislation to be introduced in Australia where offenders could face jail time and substantial fines.


“While we want to encourage open discussion, and want all sides of the story to be heard, at the end of the day the current tactics of these activists are more likely going to leave them alienated than supported.”

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