The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment v Norman [2018] NZDC 19100

Published 21 September 2018

Interference with operations of a ship — political protest — interference with operations — discharge without conviction — decision — Crown Minerals Act 1991, s 101B — Greenpeace — Amazon Warrior — Sentencing Act 2002, ss 106 and 107 — Immigration Act 2009. In the ocean off New Zealand's east coast, three people associated with Greenpeace entered the water with the intention of impeding the progress of a nearby ship. The ship was conducting seismic survey operations. As a result of the three people entering the water, the shipped stopped. The defendants, two of the three people that entered the ocean, pleaded guilty to a charge under s 101B(1)(c) of the Crown Minerals Act 1991, that they intentionally engaged in conduct resulting in the interference with operations being carried out by a ship. The third person, was offered, accepted and completed diversion. The two defendants who declined diversion sought a discharge without conviction with counsel characterising the offending as "low level civil disobedience engaged in for the greater good of humanity". The court noted that a discharge without conviction will only be granted after a two-stage inquiry, that the direct and indirect consequences of a conviction would, for them personally, be out of all proportion to the gravity of the offence. The court found that the gravity of the offending was in the low to moderate range, taking into account that no violence or force was used, that no property was physically interfered with, that appropriate safety procedures were used, and that throughout the incident the vessels involved remained physically separated. Coupled with the initial offer of diversion, the gravity of the offending was low. As to consequences of a conviction,in examining future employment risk the court noted both defendants' current chosen career paths of advocating in relation to a variety of environmental causes, and that any future potential employer similar to Greenpeace is likely to be sympathetic to their past conduct as being for the greater good. Unavoidably, however, a conviction may hinder, to an unknown degree, future employment. The court also took into consideration the real and appreciable risk that a conviction would have on future travel; and the parity considerations due to the third person having recieved a lesser sentence. The following additional factors were also taken into account: both defendants pleaded guilty so as to not unnecessarily use Court resources; diversion was declined not because the defendants did not accept liability but because their personal views put them in the position of being unable to accept; the defendants had engaged in discussions in good faith; and neither defendant had any previous convictions. The court took the view that the consequences, when viewed cumulatively, of the entry of a conviction for both defendants would be out of all proportion to their low level offending. The court granted each defendant a discharge without conviction under s 106. Judgment Date: 21 September 2018