human rights news & views

Australian pacifists suffer ‘miscarriage of justice’

Australia has had a change of government since Donna Mulhearn (39), Jim Dowling (52), Bryan Law (52) and Adele Goldie (31) were convicted under the never-before used 1952 Defence (Special Undertaking) Act for breaking into the US military facility on Australian soil called Pine Gap in December 2005.  And it would appear the courts have had a change of heart.

Calling themselves ‘Christians Against All Terrorism’ the four anti-war protesters (pictured entering court in 2007) faced up to seven years’ gaol for their ‘citizens’ inspection’ of the top-secret spy base.  Pine Gap is said to identify bombing targets for the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan.

A Supreme Court judge at a pre-trial hearing in 2006 ruled that it was sufficient for the Australian government to say the base is necessary for the defence of Australia without having to prove it.  The defendants were subsequently denied the opportunity to present crucial evidence in their defence.

(Recall the words of George Orwell in his dystopian novel 1984: "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.")

In June 2007, they were found guilty and fined.

Dissatisfied with the ‘leniency’ of the sentence, the prosecution appealed.  The defendants also appealed, and this week the Northern Territory Court of Criminal Appeal in Darwin, rather than increase their sentence, decided that their original trial was a ‘miscarriage of justice,’ and quashed their convictions.

The prosecution sought a re-trial but was immediately rebuffed.  The unanimous decision of the full bench will be published in coming weeks.

Outside court, Bryan Law insisted: "Pine Gap is not a base for the defence of Australia, Pine Gap is an instrument of international aggression."  

Donna Mulhearn (second from left) witnessed the ‘Shock and Awe’ invasion of Iraq from the ground in her role as a ‘human shield’.

The vindicated foursome paid tribute to their legal team, Russell Goldflam, Rowena Orr and Ron Merkel, QC.  They also acknowledged the other two members of the ‘Pine Gap 6’ (who did not enter the base), Jessica Morrison and Sean O’Reilly.

Minor convictions of trespass and property damage relating to their use of bolt cutters on a security fence remain extant.  The four have this month served short prison terms in lieu of their fines.

Mr Law has indicated that another ‘inspection’ of Pine Gap will be conducted on ANZAC Day (24 April), Australia’s annual commemoration of its veterans and war dead.


  1. 2 April 2013 | 9:09 pm

    RightsBase notes with sadness the passing of courageous Queenslander Bryan Law (1954-2012). A devout Catholic, he was a man of peace and integrity. His final illness did not stop him disarming a military helicopter in Rockhampton in 2011. He was awaiting trial for this audacious Plougshares action at the time of his death. At his initial mention he told the court:

    “I’m glad I did it, your Honour. I’m glad that, for however brief a moment, that infernal helicopter death machine couldn’t fly, couldn’t be used as a weapon.”

    We pay tribute to his life and witness, and extend our condolences to Bryan’s wife and son.

Leave a reply

Subscribe to website updates by email