Jail time quashed for Harbour Bridge climate protester
Miklos Bolza |
A 15-month jail sentence handed to a climate protester who blocked a lane on the Sydney Harbour Bridge with a truck has been quashed.
Deanna “Violet” Maree CoCo, 32, was issued with a 12-month conditional release order on Wednesday after District Court Judge Mark Williams heard she had initially been imprisoned on false information from NSW Police.
CoCo and three others drove a Hino truck onto the Harbour Bridge in morning peak traffic on April 13, 2022, as part of an environmental protest against climate inaction for Fireproof Australia.
Climbing onto the roof of the vehicle alongside Alan Russell Glover, the pair lit orange flares and livestreamed the protest.
Two others, Karen Fitzgibbon and Jay Larbalestier, sat on the ground in front of the truck and superglued their hands to the roadway.
Judge Williams heard an appeal by CoCo on Wednesday of the 15-month jail sentence imposed in the Local Court last December.
He noted police had included a “false fact” and a “false assertion” in their case against CoCo that an ambulance with sirens and flashing lights was impeded from crossing the bridge to get to an emergency because of the protest.
Crown prosecutor Isabella Maxwell-Williams unsuccessfully argued CoCo should be jailed because of her lengthy history of illegal protest, including supergluing herself to an intersection in St Kilda as part of the Extinction Australia group.
Judge Williams noted these past matters had been dealt with through fines or bonds without any convictions.
He also said CoCo had shown remorse for her actions and was channelling her diagnosed climate anxiety into productive community work such as volunteering to help flood victims in Lismore.
CoCo cried tears of joy in court, with her supporters cheering outside the Downing Centre.
She told reporters she would pursue compensation against the police after spending 13 days in prison.
“Obviously we need to continue our right to protest. Protest is such an important part of our democracy,” she said.
“I plan to keep continuing to raise the alarm on the climate and ecological emergency to avert billions of deaths.”
CoCo’s lawyer Eddie Lloyd called her client a victim of strict anti-protest laws “rammed through” NSW Parliament.
She criticised police for the ambulance “fact” used in CoCo’s sentencing.
“The NSW police have got a lot of questions they need to answer,” Ms Lloyd said.
CoCo remains convicted of two charges of resisting police and using an unauthorised explosive.
Judge Williams also heard Glover’s appeal of an 18-month community correction order imposed last week.
The judge quashed his convictions and imposed a 12-month conditional release order, hearing that this was Glover’s first criminal offence and the charges had resulted in him being stood down from working as a volunteer firefighter.
The court heard the 61-year-old was a man of “considerable bravery”, having risked his life battling the 2019/2020 Black Summer bushfires.
NSW Greens MP Sue Higginson said the court had righted the state government’s “hysterical response” to the climate protesters through its judgment.
“The courts have done the right thing. Violet, to all of our relief, is now a free woman but nothing can undo the harm and undemocratic steps this state has taken and inflicted on Violet CoCo. Enough is enough,” she said.
NSW Police declined to comment.AAP