$1m civil action in spy base case – that’s the way to uphold law and order

Watching the Waihopai Three struggling to find $1 million should make the smile disappear.

Greenie griper Keith Locke is off beam with many things. But he is further off beam than usual when he grumps that any damages suit taken by the Government Communications Security Bureau against the Waihopai Three protesters “will be a waste of taxpayer money”.

Nah.

It won’t be a waste if the court finds against teacher Adrian Leason, Dominican friar Peter Murnane, and farmer Sam Land and orders them to cough up to pay for the damage they did to public property at Waihopai.

Sure, the buggers probably can’t afford to cough up. And they may never cough up.

But a blow will have been struck for law and order and if they finish up bankrupt as a consequence – so be it.

These were the fellows who were being celebrated by lefties when a jury found them not guilty of charges of burglary and wilful damage relating to an attack on the Waihopai spybase.

The Crown did not appeal the verdict.

But it has now filed papers in the High Court at Wellington – hurrah – seeking to recover $1 million in damages.

Locke, of course, thinks they should be left alone.

“The GCSB should respect the jury’s decision which found the Waihopai Three not guilty,” said Mr Locke.

Respect?

But the verdict was a travesty.

Prosecutors had accused the three men of cutting their way through fences into the base, then using sickles to slash a plastic cover protecting a receiver dish.

The facts were not disputed. The buggers not only admitted doing what they did – they took pride in their felony.

As Alf recorded at the time:

Three peace protesters have been found not guilty of an attack on a top-secret South Island spy base, despite freely admitting causing damage put at $1 million.

Otaki schoolteacher Adrian Leason, Auckland Catholic priest Peter Murnane and Hokianga farmer Sam Land were cleared by a Wellington District Court jury yesterday evening of burglary and wilful damage.

The charges stemmed from the April 2008 raid on the Government Communications Security Bureau facility at Waihopai, near Blenheim.

The jury took only two hours to reach its verdict after an eight-day trial.

While the men admitted the attack, they said their actions were driven by a belief that the dish, for receiving and sending satellite communications, caused human suffering.

As their lawyer explained at the time, “that belief doesn’t have to be correct.”

This highlights the absurdity of what happened.

A civil action looks likely to achieve what the jury trial failed to do, which is to bring the base wreckers to book.

Locke makes much of the politics:

“In the original trial the GCSB didn’t even put up witnesses to challenge the political arguments the defendants used to justify their actions.

“Now the GCSB is going to waste New Zealand taxpayer money pursuing the Waihopai Three.”

“The GCSB case would be handicapped by its reluctance to tell a court anything about Waihopai. It wishes to hide the fact that Waihopai is essentially a foreign intelligence base on New Zealand soil, whose main purpose is to provide intelligence for the United States Government.

“Rather than continue to harass the three peace activists, the GCSB should explain to New Zealanders what is really going on at Waihopai.”

But Alf is delighted to hear that a defence lawyer says civil action against the threesome has a better chance of succeeding than a criminal case that failed.

Law Society criminal law sub committee convenor Jonathan Krebs says the test in a civil court is lower than that required in a criminal one.

Given that the trio did not dispute causing the damage, Mr Krebs says it’s difficult to see what hurdles the Crown will have to overcome to prove its case.

Alf is putting his money on the Law Society bloke being right on this one.

Come to think of it, he would put his money on anybody who is on the other side of an argument from Keith Locke.

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