No gaol for Peace Pilgrims: sentence


p2499r Pine Gap Pilgrims sentence 400UPDATED, 4 December 2017, 1.55PM.
UPDATED, 5 December 2017, 10.41 am, with links to all our reports from the trials (see below).
Justice John Reeves has rejected the Crown’s call for custodial sentences for the six Pine Gap Peace Pilgrims, sentencing them in the Federal Court in Brisbane today.

Right: Pilgrims Andy Paine, Tim Webb, Jim and Franz Dowling with supporters before sentencing, outside court in Brisbane.  Source: Close Pine Gap campaign. 

Instead, for their acts of non-violent civil disobedience, the Pilgrims have been fined between $1250 and $5000, with convictions recorded.
They had each been found guilty of entering the Pine Gap prohibited area, five of them on 29 September 2016, one on 3 October 2016. One, Andy Paine, was also found guilty of having a photographic apparatus in the prohibited area.
A gaol sentence might have made a martyr of veteran Catholic Worker activist Jim Dowling; Justice Reeves preferred to impose the heftiest fine upon him, of $5000. Mr Dowling could yet do time, however, as he told Alice Springs News Online that he would not pay.
p2499r Pine Gap Margie & Paulie 400Margaret Pestorious was fined $3500; Mr Paine, $2500; Paul Christie, $2000; and Franz Dowling and Tim Webb, $1250 each.
Left: Relieved, Paul Christie and Margaret Pestorious outside court in Cairns after sentencing. Source: Close Pine Gap campaign. 
The six Pilgrims were prosecuted under the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952, used only once previously, against the Pine Gap Four, who eventually had their convictions overturned on appeal.
All six are Queenslanders and returned there after the verdicts. Justice Reeves himself is a judge with the Federal Court in Brisbane, though from time to time he serves as an Additional Judge in the Northern Territory Supreme Court, as he did for the trials of the Pilgrims.
Four of the Pilgrims, Mr Paine, the two Dowlings, and Mr Webb appeared in person in Brisbane. Ms Pestorius and Mr Christie appeared by video link from Cairns. The sentencing was also relayed by video link to the Supreme Court in Alice Springs.
KIERAN FINNANE’S reports from the trials in reverse chronological order:
Five Peace Pilgrims guilty on all counts
Even if ‘unfair, unreasonable or too harsh’, it is still the law
No extraordinary emergency at Pine Gap: judge rules
Did Peace Pilgrims answer an extraordinary emergency?
Pine Gap’s role in drone warfare: former Senator, former PM
Strange encounters: the Peace Pilgrim and the Police Sergeant
Peace Pilgrims: evidence on why, not if they were at Pine Gap
Peace Pilgrims fight Pine Gap charges: their actions intended to defend themselves and others from imminent disaster
Guilty: unanimous jury verdict for Peace Pilgrim
Peace Pilgrim says he had permission to be on Pine Gap
Trial of Peace Pilgrim begins
Pine Gap’s nuclear role and the alternative by RICHARD TANTER
Pine Gap and the Nobel prize the Oz government ignores by RUSSELL GOLDFLAM
Breaking the violence silence: at home, around the world by Chris Hawke and Joy Taylor


  1. How much has this court case cost us? What a joke it should have never gone to court. These people were innocent to begin with.
    They were just bringing attention to everyone of what America has been doing wrongly around the world.
    Not satisfied, now the Americans want to stir up Africa.

  2. @ Horton: Agreed. A good and sensible outcome. From the outset, the right to public protest by the Peace Pilgrims has never been questioned. The real issue here is the concept of civil disobedience and its reasonable limits in a society that is ruled by a stable democratic government under the rule of law.
    Justice Reeves got it right. The Pilgrims challenged the limits and received much public praise on their journey. Acquittal would have implied that civil disobedience has no limits, no matter what the cause and where and when the civil disobedience occurs. The sentences did not bring down the hammer of a jail term, but emphasised that the Pilgrims had exceeded the limit.
    @ Fred the Phillistine: Your emphasis on the cost to the public purse is interesting. You say that the Pilgrims should have been allowed to do their thing, presumably whenever they feel like returning.
    Down here in Mexico, the CBD at Flinders and Swanston has been seriously disrupted in peak hour every Friday arvo during the month of November by the Manus Island protest marchers. Ongoing and escalating loss of income, serious stress and inconvenience is being caused to countless city workers.
    With increasing numbers of civil disobedience protest marches in this critical part of the CBD almost weekly for every cause under the sun, we are looking at untold loss of income for ordinary punters and their families going about their lawful daily business affairs.
    My question to you is – where would you draw the line and set the limit, on the causes that justify civil disobedience and the number of times protesters of any given cause should be able to cause social disruption and financial damage?
    [ED – It was up to the jury, as always in a jury trial, not the judge to find the defendants guilty or not guilty.]

  3. Phil, They did indeed suffer consequence, as the article above and the series of reports from the trials make clear. For victimless acts of civil disobedience they were tried under harsh Cold War era legislation, facing maximum penalties of seven years imprisonment. This hung over them for a year.
    They were found guilty and were sentenced, proportionately to the nature of the offence and their circumstances. Fines ranged between $5000 and $1250. Considerable penalties for people who live their lives in voluntary simplicity, without substantial income, and in service of those in need.

  4. @ Kieran Finnane. Cold War circumstances change with the times.
    Once it was Russia. Now it is North Korea backed by China.
    What’s the difference between a KGB-ruled Soviet Union and a despotic ally of the soulless atheistic materialistic Tiananmen China superpower that has vowed to take control of the Western democratic world by whatever means possible?
    Australia is a bunny blinded by the China spotlight. Anti-American protestors a la the Peace Pilgrims are yesterday’s men (and women), way behind the times in their inability to see today’s reality.

  5. @ John Bell: We in Alice Springs have disruptive circumstances everyday to with Indigenous children at night throwing stones at cars, injuring people and the police have their hands tied as they are all under age.
    Not to mention the adult Indigenous who carry on everyday due to drunkenness, using important services such as police, medical, ambulances etc and also breaking into people’s homes which has made Alice Springs a dangerous place to live.
    In relation to the protests in Melbourne, these are a majority of Middle Eastern descendants. If these people want to cone to our country, they need to come through the correct channels. What are they hiding?


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