A bad message has been sent to impoverished protesters by giving up on the Waihopai wallies

Chris Finlayson seemed to be on top of things, last time Alf was chatting with him.

But obviously he was well and truly off his oats, or had a serious rush of blood to the head, or something.

And next thing we know, the Crown had dropped its civil lawsuit against the three wallies who caused more than $1 million in damage to a spy base in Marlborough.

Reports here and here tell us what has happened and give us some background.

In 2008, Dominican friar Peter Murnane, farmer Samuel Land and teacher Adrian Leason entered Waihopai and punctured an inflatable dome covering a large satellite dish.

Describing themselves as peace protesters rather than vandals, they claimed they believed the base was being used to further the Iraq war and/or the War on Terror, as if that was some sort of outrage.

The jury bought it and they were acquitted of criminal charges in 2010. But the Crown then filed a lawsuit for damages against them and the court found them liable for $1.2 million in damages.

In October last year the trio had their appeal against it dismissed.

Great. Next thing to do should have been to chase them for every cent of it and bankrupt the buggers if need be…

But the Government this week announced it was no longer suing the men for the money.

Radio NZ reported:

On Wednesday, Attorney-General Chris Finlayson said the Crown stopped pursuing the court action as there was little chance that any money would be recovered.

“The Crown, as a matter of principle, took proceedings against these fellows and the principle was established in the Court of Appeal – that was on issues of liability with issues of quantum being reserved for a later date.

“On the face of it, it would seem a pretty hopeless exercise to pursue people who haven’t got a few farthings to rub together through to bankruptcy.”

It’s a measure of the folly of this decision that the Green Party has welcomed it.

Stuff reports:

Security and intelligence spokesperson Steffan Browning said it was “vindictive” for the Government to seek the money in the first place.

“From the beginning, the Government should have respected the jury’s decision that found the Waihopai Three not guilty and chosen not to pursue the activists for damages,” he said.

“This whole process has been a waste of taxpayers’ money.

“These activists were campaigning to close down Waihopai, a foreign spy base on New Zealand soil, as an attempt to advance the cause of peace and to draw attention to the spying activity of the GCSB.”

And in the Radio NZ account, Leason also said he was happy the Crown had dropped the case, but he is not ruling out further action against the base.

“I’m really delighted. I’m absolutely thrilled to see Christopher Finlayson taking some sound advice from his staff, and we’re pleased to accept an end to these proceedings.”

A bad precedent has been set. Impoverished vandals will be destroying property up and down the country, confident they will get off scot-free – so long as they can persuade the jury that they genuinely thought they were striking a blow for the public good.

Mrs Grumble this afternoon is typing a note to the PM on Alf’s behalf.

It suggests it’s time for an Attorney-General with bigger balls and suggests (ahem) a worthy and willing candidate for the job.

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