Activist Rights

Obstruction

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The police may threaten this charge if they simply want someone out of the way. For the State offence of obstruction, which was originally aimed at traffic obstruction, the police will allege that you were in some way preventing “the free passage of the public” (section 4(e) Summary Offences Act 1966 (Vic)).

For you to be guilty of obstruction, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:

  • you caused an obstruction, either by use of vehicle, goods or your body;
  • the obstruction was deliberate; and
  • it was on a road or footpath that provides access by the general public.

The maximum penalty is a fine of $500, but the usual fine is less than the maximum penalty. However, every case is different and you should seek advice about the likely penalty in your situation. Under the Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic), the court must take your financial circumstances into account when determining how much to fine you.

Commonwealth Law

Commonwealth law has a section more clearly aimed at demonstrations: a person “taking part in an assembly [who] engages in unreasonable obstruction” commits an offence (section 9 Public Order (Protection of Persons and Property) Act 1971 (Cth)). The penalty is a fine of up to $2000.

A defence to this charge would be that the obstruction (if it occurred) was “reasonable”.

Obstruction of Road Works

It is an offence under section 225a of the Transport Act 1983 (Vic) to resist, hinder or obstruct any authorised officer in the execution of his or her duty.

The maximum penalty is $2500 or six months’ jail.

Obstruction of Forest Operations

The most common offence for forest activists to be charged with is hindering or obstructing a lawful forest operation under section 95A of the Conservation, Forests and Lands Act 1987 (Vic).

It is an offence under this Act to hinder or obstruct another person in the “lawful” carrying out of forest operations (e.g. logging, clear-felling, road construction, etc.) or the carrying out of forest operations (section 95A).

What constitutes a “lawful” forestry operation can be the subject of legal argument. The maximum penalty is a fine of $2000.

For more information on possible charges relating to forest protests in Victoria see Environmental action charges section or go to Lawyers for Forests website.