Peace activist escapes jail over military helicopter attack
PEACE activist Graeme Dunstan yesterday lost the battle, but not the war.
After a lengthy deliberation a Rockhampton District Court jury found the 71-year-old guilty of damaging a $45 million Tiger armed reconnaissance chopper owned by the Australian Army.
But Dunstan, who represented himself, maintained he had put war on trial.
He said the time it had taken the jury to come to a unanimous verdict showed he had raised awareness of his cause.
Dunstan admitted he drove the late Bryan Law to the Rockhampton Airport, where the chopper was, during Talisman Sabre in 2011. He even bought the bolt cutters to gain access to the airfield.
But it was Law who punctured the helicopter with a garden mattock, causing a 24cm-wide hole.
It cost $162,000 and took about 580 man hours to repair, and the chopper was out of action for four months.
The armed reconnaissance helicopter unit director at the time of the incident, Brett Worsley, yesterday told the court the carbon fibre door could not be replaced and the "skin" had to be cut, with congregate layers built as layers on top of one another.
Judge Nicholas Samios said he understood they were trying to bring peace to the world. But he said he must send a message to the community that Dunstan and Law's actions would not be tolerated.
Judge Samios sentenced Dunstan to two years jail, wholly suspended.
He placed Dunstan on a three-year good behaviour bond with a $2000 reconnaissance.
Dunstan was unrepentant as he and his supporters left the courthouse singing together.
"I'm not going to stop being a peace activist," he said. "I'll just have to be sure not to be arrested."
Dunstan praised the professionalism of Judge Samios and prosecutor Peter Richards and said the suspended sentence was "a gift".
Graeme Dunstan said if his fellow peace activist, the late Bryan Law, who was charged along with him was there yesterday, Law would have said "thanks mate". "I salute him," Dunstan said. "I'm happy to have been his voice in court." Law died in April.