New Zealand Police v Hanafin [2020] NZDC 23606

Published 09 July 2021

Judge-alone trial — trespass — climate protest — oil-drilling vessel — environmental civil disobedience — freedom of expression — Sentencing Act 2002. Four defendants appeared on charges of trespass. They had boarded and occupied a ship that was in port en route to conduct oil-drilling work. The defendants had occupied the ship to protest the fossil fuel industry's contributions to climate change. The Court accepted that the defendants' motivations were genuine, and that they had the right to freedom of expression. However the defendants' actions had infringed on the rights of others. A better course of action would have been to seek a law change to stop the trade in fossil fuels. Although the offending had lasted for some 10 hours and caused financial loss to the complainant, the Court found that it was not of the most serious of its kind. The defendants had pleaded guilty, had genuine belief in the rightness of their actions, and were of otherwise good character. The Court ordered that the defendants be convicted and discharged. The Court also ordered the forfeiture of steel tubes used in the offending but declined to order forfeiture of the first defendant's climbing equipment as it was an essential tool of trade and his source of income. Judgment Date: 13 November 2020.