“Did anyone get that on camera?”

Protesting is a serious and professional business these days.

Karl du Fresne wonders why they escape the court room?

I can’t help wondering whether the wrong person was on trial in the Whanganui District Court last week.

The name on the charge sheet was that of Kerry James “Chester” Borrows, who was tried on a charge of careless driving causing injury. But it seems to me there were other charges that could equally have been brought as a result of an incident that occurred during an anti-TPP protest in March last year – only not against Borrows.

For example, there’s a charge of disorderly behaviour and another of obstructing a public way.

I’m not a lawyer, but it’s surely not too much of a stretch to argue that a person deliberately stopping someone else going about their lawful business is acting contrary to public order, which is how my dictionary defines disorderly behaviour

A police witness estimated the car’s speed as 1kmh – far slower than walking speed. Borrows testified that he feathered his brakes, as he was trained to do in similar situations during his 24 years as a police officer.

In any event, the protesters had ample time to get out of the way. They chose not to.

Let me repeat: they chose not to. They seemed to think their opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership gave them the moral right to prevent two elected public officials going about their lawful business.

Predictably enough, the vehicle nosed into them. One of the women rather theatrically testified that she thought: “Oh my god, you’re going under, girl.” At this point the police on the scene were roused from their torpor and belatedly moved the women out of the way

It looked to me as if the protesters were playing a game of chicken. Even if they weren’t exactly willing the car to hit them, they seemed to be at least daring it to happen.

That impression was reinforced when one of them, having been pulled clear, shrieked in the direction of the TV crew: “Did anyone get that on camera?”

And yet Burrows was on trial.

And why did the police take no action against the protesters, whose injuries (they were both treated for soft tissue damage) were the direct result of their own provocative and arguably unlawful behaviour? If a case could be made against Borrows for careless driving, they should surely have also been charged for their own contributory role.

Come to that, why did the officers on the scene not step in earlier to prevent the pantomime? Have they been disciplined or reprimanded?

In the end, the outcome was the right one. But it should never have come to that point, and Borrows can hardly be blamed for sounding bitter about his former colleagues in uniform.

It really doesn’t provide law-abiding people with a feeling of confidence that, once faced with total basket cases, it won’t be they that will be charged.

 

Karl du Fresne

 


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