WIT-BOOOKA: A District Court judge has upheld the right to protest, but not the right to threaten and assault.
WIT-BOOOKA: A District Court judge has upheld the right to protest, but not the right to threaten and assault. John Weekes

COUNCIL MELEE: Protest or crime? What the judge said

THE Gympie Regional council fracas case was about alleged crimes and was not about the right to protest, Gympie District Court judge Bernard Porter ruled in his sentencing comments on Thursday.

"Protest is lawful,” the judge said.

"Everyone has a right to express their view on any subject in a public forum, as long as the law is obeyed.

"This case is not about protest or the right to do so.

"It's about the unlawful turn that this particular protest took, a turn which included assaults on people who were bystanders.

"Gary Tomlinson, from the moment he climbed over the council reception desk, behaved in an aggressive and intimidating manner.”

Although the events were at the lower end of what could be involved in such charges, it was important to remember that Gary Tomlinson's actions had been intimidating and accompanied by threats, despite the low level of actual force involved, the judge said.

"The conduct disregarded the fear and anxiety of the people with whom Gary Tomlinson had no quarrel.”

Judge Porter said that although Gary and Mervyn Tomlinson may have been agitated after what had occurred, this was no excuse for assaulting the police officer who had begun to arrest them.

Police had a difficult job requiring quick decisions in high-pressure situations and people were obliged to accept those decisions and argue later.

But he said despite Gary Tomlinson's threatening demeanour, despite the blow from Mr Curran and the subsequent struggle, "Mr Gary Tomlinson never threw a punch or struck anyone.”

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