23 Mar 2010

Spy base saboteur defends legal argument used

10:03 am on 23 March 2010

One of the Waihopai spy base saboteurs is defending the legal argument used in the case, despite a suggestion it could be reviewed.

Dominican friar Peter Murnane, teacher Adrian Leason and farmer Sam Land admitted charges of wilful damage and burglary but were acquitted by a jury at the Wellington District Court last week.

Prime Minister John Key says he was surprised by the jury's decision and is not ruling out taking a closer look at the defence, called "claim of right".

The trio argued that their actions were justified by the greater good of saving lives in Iraq.

It is now up to the Solicitor-General to determine whether the Crown will appeal against the verdict.

Father Murnane says he is surprised that Mr Key has even initiated the debate.

"If the public does its homework and the Prime Minister does his homework, he will see that the bases at Waihopai and the system it belongs to promoted the war in Iraq, contributed to it and still does.

"That war was illegal and hence a war crime, a crime against humanity. So he needs to do the hard homework and find that our sincere belief was in fact based on truth."

Father Peter Murnane says he has no fear of an appeal against the verdict.

A law professor at Auckland University, Bill Hodge, does not believe a review is needed.

"I think it's probably a top of the head, knee-jerk type reaction that isn't really necessary, considering that it's a one-off jury decision. It's not precedent, it hasn't changed the statute (and) it hasn't the burden on the prosecution to prove the elements of the crime."

Professor Hodge says jury decisions are part and parcel of the law, whether you agree with them or not.