TWO animal activists who led an invasion of a Darling Downs feedlot in March received fines of $1300 and $1000, but escaped jail time following a hearing in the Toowoomba Magistrates Court this morning.
Animal activist Leah Ava Whetton, 29, led more than 100 protesters into the Lemon Tree cattle feedlot and dairy near Millmerran on Queensland’s Darling Downs.
Ms Whetton did not appear in court, but had her case heard ex parte by magistrate Viviana Keegan.
The magistrate explained that being dealt with ex parte, only a fine could be imposed and no conviction could be recorded.
Both Ms Whetton and her co-accused, Jessie Simpson-Ross, 26, pleaded guilty to one count of unlawfully entering farmland on March 23.
“It was part of a protest by vegan activists, however they were clearly trespassing and they knew they were doing so,” the magistrate said during the hearing.
“There are strict biosecurity measures employed by the business. They were told by the manager to leave, and in failing to do so they not only disrupted the business but created a biosecurity risk.”
As the leader of the protest, Ms Whetton was given a $1300 fine and Ms Simpson-Ross a $1000 fine. Both escaped conviction, and received no good behaviour bond or community service.
All the attention, no long-term ramifications
Speaking in response to today’s Toowoomba hearing, the Green Shirts Movement national coordinator, Marty Bella said his organisation was furious that yet again, the legal system had not delivered a fair and just punishment to the vegan extremist farm invaders.
“These militant invaders are turning up and potentially ruining lives with not only biosecurity risks, but the mental trauma and distress they bring to their targets. Yet again, they walk away with only another fine and still no conviction,” Mr Bella said.
“The Green Shirts Movement is concerned that without convictions recorded, these animal extremist invaders could proceed to public service jobs and thus gain access to private and sensitive information about our fishing and farming families.”
Mr Bella said the government must act to ensure the courts do not let these invaders off lightly any more.
“What will stop these people from changing tact and destroying agriculture through leaking sensitive information? These invaders earn crowd sourced funds through their activities, you would be have to be dreaming if you believe a fine is going to stop them. A criminal conviction and jail time is the only answer to repeat offenders,” he said.
“They inevitably want lifelong repercussions for our industries with their actions. It’s time the courts gave them theirs.
“If our state governments across the country do not step up and take action, who will? There is currently a private members bill on the floor of QLD parliament see real punishment for these downright wrong invasions.
“The QLD Agriculture Minister, Mark Furner, has said he strongly opposes these invasions. Well minister, let actions speak louder than words.”
“The Labor party has the chance to prove they are strong on crime, and to support our primary producers at the same time.
“The Greens claim to be pro human rights, so we also expect to see the member for Maiwar supporting the bill without question.
Imagine the uproar if a group of 100 Farmers walked in to these peoples backyards on a Sunday morning and started taking photos of their garden and through their windows then uplifting them on to social media.
Martin Bella is correct. This is a pathetic response to a crime with potentially serious consequences, brought about because of the weak penalties legislated by the Queensland Government. Compounding this is the capacity to be heard ex parte, to avoid a conviction. Clearly the accused are getting legal advice, and it is a safe bet that their fines will be paid for them as well.