Bermagui Forest defenders get reduced fines
Four people who were fined for taking part in protest actions against logging of Bermagui Forest last August have succeeded in having their fines reduced in Narooma Local Court.
The four were given on the spot fines of $1,000 each for taking part in a funeral for the forest while logging operations were under way on 8 August last year.
Local residents Suzanne Foulkes, Samantha Davis, Colin Sagar and Harriett Swift were among a group of about 60 who took part in the funeral procession and laid wreaths on the log dump. They were singled out by Forests NSW officers for prosecution.
The court reduced their fines to amounts of $300 and $250 after the magistrate took into account the peaceful and non-violent nature of the protest.
The four also received fines of $100 each for entering a "prohibited zone" for the same incident.
In addition, Ms Davis successfully appealed against a further $1,000 fine for an incident the previous week in which she had entered the forest to take photographs. That fine was also reduced to $250.
Ms Foulkes said that she was convinced that the four had been singled out for special punishment by Forestry officers.
"We were selected from about 60 people, but the prosecutors claimed they did not know any of the others, even though everyone present and their motor vehicles were all photographed by Forestry officers and managers from the Eden chipmill."
"It was a heavy handed way to try to stop us protesting, but it won't work," she said.
Ms Davis said that the logging of the forest had been an immensely sad occasion for the local community.
"It had serious and lasting impacts on the beauty, the amenity and safety of the town as well as destroying important wildlife habitat and causing siltation of waterways."
Mr Sagar told the court that a funeral was an appropriate community response to the logging and an expression of genuine and profound grief at the loss of the forest.
Ms Swift said that the Forestry Regulations are constructed in a way that leaves people no other choice than to opt for an expensive and time consuming court hearing if they believe a fine is unfair.
"Had I been fined for speeding or a parking offence, I could have asked for a review of the penalty without going to the additional cost of taking the matter to court," she said.
"So, while we had our fines reduced, the court added costs of $81 and a "Victims' Compensation Fund" payment of $67 for each offence (totals of $648 for costs and $536 for Victims' Compensation Fund), even though there was no victim."
"Conservationists will not be intimidated by prosecutions of this nature," she said.
19 February 2012