Nimbin peace activist Graeme Dunstan has this morning been found guilty of wilful damage to Commonwealth property following a trial at Rockhampton.
But Mr Dunstan, who faced potential imprisonment for up to 10 years on the charge, will walk free from the court today.
Justice Samios told the court he was ‘not inclined to impose a custodial sentence’, giving Mr Dunstan a $2,000 two-year good-behavior bond, and adding that he was ‘grateful for Mr Dunstan’s conduct before the court’.
The verdict follows a dramatic turn in the case that almost saw the trial aborted, after the jury told the judge yesterday it was unable to reach a unanimous verdict, with two of the jurors unable to find Mr Dunstan guilty.
Justice Samios then gave Mr Dunstan’s ‘Mackenzie friend’ (a legal term for a non legal representative), Sean O’Reilly, and the prosecutor a series of four questions from the jury that they wanted clarification on.
When the court reconvened this morning the jury pronounced Mr Dunstan guilty.
Justice Samios said that matter had been ‘decided according to the evidence’.
Dunstan, 71, one of the founders of the Nimbin Aquarius Festival, is charged with wilful damage of Commonwealth property, namely an Australian Army ‘Tiger’ armed reconnaissance helicopter, which was disabled by a blow from a garden mattock during the 2011 Talisman Saber military exercises.
Mr Dunstan admitted driving fellow activist, the late Bryan Law, to the airport and helping him gain access to the airfield, but pleaded not guilty, by virtue of the so-called ‘Ploughshares’ defence, which claims military weapons or technologies should be converted for peaceful civilian applications.
Mr Dunstan earlier told Echonetdaily he was happy about the prospect of facing a second trial if the first one failed to reach a verdict as ‘it puts the war mongers on trial yet again. This is what it’s all about.’