Australia: Anti-abortion campaigner John Preston fined over Tasmanian protest

by Edith Bevin
Tue 26 Jul 2016, 11:14pm

A pro-life campaigner has been fined $3,000 in the first conviction under the state's new reproductive health laws, which stop protests outside abortion clinics.

Queensland man John Graham Preston and Geeveston couple Raymond and Penny Stallard were charged after a protest outside a Hobart clinic in April 2015.

Preston was also charged over a protest in September 2014.

The three argued the laws stifled religious freedom and political expression, and said they were unconstitutional.

Prosecutors dropped similar charges against Preston in 2014, saying they did not believe they had a case under the Act.

But Hobart Magistrate Catherine Rheinberger found the case against the three had been proved.

She took into account the Stallards' previous clean record, recording no conviction provided they be of good behaviour for 12 months.

Preston, who has been convicted on multiple occasions for similar protests interstate, was fined $3,000.

It is the first conviction under the state's reproductive health laws, enacted in 2013, which make protesting within 150 metres of the entrance of a clinic illegal.

Outside court Preston said he would appeal.

He also said he would continue to protest but would not be holding them outside clinics in Tasmania "until this matter is resolved".

The lawyer for the protesters was also unsuccessful in a bid to have the state pay costs.

He had argued it was an important test case of the constitutional validity of the laws.

Magistrate Rheinberger disagreed, saying it did not meet criteria set out under the Costs in Criminal Cases Act.

"Unusual doesn't equate to special circumstances," she said.

Source: ABC News, Australia