Mrs Jenny Stokes,  Research Director,  SALT SHAKERS  

Pastor Danny Nalliah & Pastor Daniel ScottCan a person be sent to prison under Victoria’s Racial and Religious Tolerance Act?

No, I hear you say. . .
Those who are brought before the Equal Opportunity Commission and then the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal might be asked to apologise, to say ‘sorry’ or be told not to do the same again.
But prison?

Well – Two people are currently in prison in Victoria for NINE months for not obeying the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal’s ruling on a religious vilification case…
This is technically for ‘contempt of court’ – because they did not OBEY the Tribunal’s ruling….

They also chose not to appear before the Tribunal when the initial case was heard.

VCAT is listed to hear an appeal by the two people on 28 Feb 2008. [More details below under ‘Now to the current case..’]

Pastors Danny Nalliah and Daniel Scot were initially ordered by Judge Michael Higgins to take out advertisements in newspapers acknowledging that the Tribunal had found they had breached the law (in other words that they were ‘guilty’!) and not to say or do the same or similar things ever again…

The two pastors then appealed to the Court of Appeal and the decision was overturned. When it went back to VCAT the two pastors and Catch the Fire Ministries came to a mediated settlement with the Islamic Council of Victoria and the complaint was withdrawn. See mediation statement at http://www.saltshakers.org.au/html/P/265/B/404/.

BUT what if a charge had been laid under Part 4 – ‘Serious Vilification Offences’?  See Act at http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/vic/consol_act/rarta2001265/.

If found guilty, they could have been sent to prison.

What if Danny and Daniel had not appealed to the Court of Appeal? (Or decided they could not afford the cost – over $300,000- appeal cost only)

Let us suppose that the two pastors had refused to take out those advertisements or place the notice on their website…

The Islamic Council could then have taken the case back to VCAT – and claimed the pastors were in ‘contempt of court’ for not obeying the ruling.

THEN the Tribunal could have sent them to prison for ‘contempt of court’ for not obeying the Tribunal.

Now to the current case – Ordo Templi Orientis

Do you remember Dr Reina Michaelson’s case?
The Ordo Templi Orientis took a case of ‘religious vilification’ against her for an article she wrote about ritual abuse where she mentioned the name of their organisation.

Her case was settled after a 5-day Tribunal hearing in December 2006.

The website that posted her article and put her real name on it – was ‘Gaiaguys’, run by Dyson Devine and Vivienne Legg.
[Gaiaguys claim to be a whistle blower site – we do not support all statements made by them. In fact they talked of aliens and UFOs and had anti-Christian comment on parts of their website.]

The OTO also lodged a complaint against Gaiaguys and Devine/Legg.
When the case initially went to VCAT in 2006, Gaiaguys wrote to VCAT asking what jurisdiction or authority VCAT had over a person living in NSW.
VCAT responded that that is something the Tribunal could consider when the case itself was being heard.
The case was listed for hearing on 28 May 2007.
Gaiaguys did not attend the hearing.

The decision was handed down on 27 July 2008.

Deputy President Anne Coghlan found they had breached the RRTA and ordered them to remove the offending material from their website and not make similar statements again.

Decision at http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/vic/VCAT/2007/1484.html.

Gaiaguys did not remove the material

The OTO then went back to the Tribunal, on the basis that the Gaiaguys were ‘in contempt’ of the Tribunal for not removing the material from their website. 
The Tribunal issued a warrant for their arrest on 3rd October and they were brought to Melbourne for a hearing on 27 November 2007.

The OTO media release says that FOUR police were sent from Victoria to NSW to bring them to Victoria!

Question: Who is paying for all this? Answer: You and I!

Devine and Legg were asked if they would remove the material and they declined.
They were ordered to attend VCAT the following day – they did not appear.
The Tribunal Member, Judge Harbison, found them guilty of contempt and ordered them to serve NINE MONTHS in prison (she had the power to sentence them to up to FIVE YEARS!)

She noted they had the ability to ‘purge their contempt’ (apologising or complying with the Tribunal’s ruling.)

Decision at http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/vic/VCAT/2007/2470.html.

During January Dyson Devine and Vivienne Legg were arrested in NSW and brought to Melbourne and put in prison.
They both remain in prison but have both been moved to country medium security prisons.

The hearing next week will determine what happens to them. They could apologise or seek to appeal to the Supreme Court – or stay in prison!

As we said above, we do not support all the statements made by Gaiaguys – or their decision not to attend the Tribunal.

But the question remains – what is the jurisdiction of VCAT?
If it stretches to NSW, does it stretch overseas as well?

AND back to the original question….

Can a person be sent to jail for not complying with the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act?

The answer is YES.

We still believe the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act is unnecessary and divisive and should be repealed.
Robust debate on a wide range of issues is needed now more than ever.


5 Responses to “Off To Jail – Under The Racial And Religious Tolerance Act!”

  1. 1 Dr. Stephen

    Thanks for this one guys. Keep us posted.
    Dr. Stephen

  2. 2 Kay

    Dear Folks,

    I’m just horrified at hearing of this account although I don’t fully understand the first email. All we do know that our Lord was in control of the case for the two Pastors in Melbourne.

    Blessings, Kay

  3. 3 Ian

    Jenny, how can VCAT have jurisdiction in NSW? Surely this is not legal.

    Ian

  4. 4 Ken

    Dear Catch the Fire,

    Amazing – you can put someone in jail for nine months, with no jury, no hearing of pleas, and the judge mightn’t even have jurisdiction!

    You can break into an old lady’s home, rob her and bash her up, and get no jail, but you get nine months for insulting someone. Well, that’s our “justice” system for you.

    Yours in Christ Jesus,

    Ken

  5. 5 Rando

    So what did they actually say to get the punishment?
    Thats what i’d like to know..
    ?

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