Rally protester cops $400 fine
REPCO Rally protester and former Democrats candidate for Richmond Scott Sledge was convicted and fined $400 for graffiti offences in the Byron Bay Local Court on Friday.
The charges relate to 17 anti-rally signs painted on the bitumen over a 30 kilometre stretch of Kyogle Road between Murwillumbah and Nimbin during the event in September 2009.
Police alleged that the acts of vandalism were committed between midnight and 9am on September 3, arresting and charging Mr Sledge and his partner, Daniele Voinot, after their car was seen in the vicinity.
Mr Sledge said he was extremely disappointed with the conviction based on what he described as “very flimsy evidence”.
“While we feel flattered that anyone might think two grandparents could possibly have painted all those slogans, we are not happy (and) we are likely to appeal to a higher court,” he said.
“A Tweed Shire Council truck came to overspray (the graffiti) and 58 man hours were required to cover only 20 per cent of the slogans. By this reckoning two people would need 146 hours to paint the slogans.”
Mr Sledge said DNA swabs and fingerprint tests trying to link the couple to the equipment used, and attempts to match the graffiti to paint in his shed, had all failed.
“We don’t deserve a criminal record – the magistrate said the charges were proved in technical terms despite no hard evidence,” he said.
“The community expects a higher standard of proof. There’s a presumption of innocence and you need more than somebody saying you were opposed to the rally therefore you must have done it."
Mr Sledge said the No Rally Group is committed to opposing car rallies in high value conservation areas using all legal means available.
"We succeeded against the odds in shifting the rally away from here using petitions, public meetings, demonstrations and a sustained letter-writing campaign," he said.
“I don’t condone graffiti but I understand why some residents along the rally routes, who had strong feelings about the way the event was forced on them, used the public roadway as a blackboard to express their disapproval – the NSW government was simply not listening.”
Mr Sledge said police had failed to act on “many reports” of rally drivers and rally supporters flouting the road rules by speeding and overtaking illegally.
“The State Government passed special legislation that abrogated 12 existing laws and included a clause that prohibited judicial review,” he said.
“Yes, there has been a crime committed but it was not committed by us.”