We're delighted to learn that the Crown is going to sue the Waihopai Three - the Herald reports:
The Crown has filed court papers seeking damages from three men acquitted over damage they caused to equipment at the Waihopai spy base near Blenheim in 2008.
Teacher Adrian Leason, Dominican friar Peter Murnane, and farmer Sam Land were found not guilty in April on charges of burglary and wilful damage of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) base.
They had cut through alarmed electric fences without setting off any audible alarms or getting electrocuted before reaching one of two inflatable domes covering satellite dishes and slashing and deflating it.
The trio used the "claim of right" defence and said they were saving lives in Iraq by disrupting satellite transmissions and were acting for the greater good.
A jury in Wellington District Court found them not guilty.
A spokesman from Attorney-General Chris Finlayson's office said today court papers had been filed in the name of the Attorney-General for the GCSB to recover damages caused by the men's actions. No further comment would be made as the case was before the courts.
After the court case Solicitor-General David Collins ruled out appealing, but said the Crown may consider suing over the damage, estimated to be $1.1 million.
This is welcome news. Leason, Murnane and Land used a little-known loophole in the law to escape criminal responsibility for their vandalism at Waihopai. That does not however absolve them from being held responsible in the civil courts.
The damage that the Waihopai Three caused was significant; in excess of $1 million. The taxpayer of New Zealand should not have to bear the cost of their damage, which they admitted causing during their trial earlier in the year.
The chances of the full sum being recovered from Leason, Murnane and Land if judgment is entered against them are not high. But if nothing else, the action by the Attorney-General should send a message to the activist community that there are two consequences of illegal protest activity; criminal prosecution, and a civil claim for any damages caused.
Leason, Murnane and Land may have walked free from the criminal prosecution with not guilty verdicts. In our always-humble opinion they are still liable for the consequences of their actions in the civil jurisdiction, and we feel that it is an important, if somewhat symbolic step that Christopher Finlayson's office has taken in filing suit.
Not guilty does not mean the same as not responsible or accountable.