Axe attack on PM's office 'symbolic gesture', court told

The man involved in an axe attack on the Prime Minister's electoral office told a jury today the act symbolised the Government's broken promises on the foreshore and seabed legislation.

Timothy Selwyn, 31, has admitted to conspiring to commit wilful damage when an axe was planted in the window of Helen Clark's office in Mt Albert, Auckland, on November 18, 2004.

Selwyn denied two other charges of being party to a seditious conspiracy and publishing statements with seditious intent.

Selwyn, a freelance writer from Grey Lynn, Auckland, took the stand in his own defence today in the Auckland District Court.

He said he was frustrated with the Government's lack of public consultation and its haste to pass the foreshore and seabed bill into law on November 16, 2004.

"The [axe] act symbolised a steadfast determination, and the glass shattered on the ground was broken justice," Selwyn said.

Selwyn admitted to having "a hand" in the creation of two pamphlets distributed the morning of the axe attack.

The first statement was left outside Helen Clark's office for the public to read, Selwyn said.

He said the statement on the pamphlet was to "help explain [to the public] why the act was symbolic", and secondly to "suggest an act of civil disobedience might be an appropriate response to the entire issue".

He said it was up to the individual to take a stand against the Government's proposal to steal the foreshore and seabed from Maori.

"And that stand might be civil disobedience, it's sort of vague, but expresses an acceptable way in which people can protest," Selwyn said, referring to the statement in front of him.

A second, more detailed, version of the pamphlet was found on a powerbox in Ponsonby road.

Selwyn said it was intended to be a press release for the media.

"It was designed to add something to their potential news reports about the event... more adjectives and flavour."

Selwyn's lawyer, Mark Edgar, asked if Selwyn believed his message could have incited a violent reaction from the public.

He said the statements explained the symbolism of the axe attack, and just called on like-minded New Zealanders to take similar action.

"It isn't intended to incite any reaction that wouldn't be in good faith."

Mr Edgar, in his opening submission to the jury, said Selwyn had followed legitimate processes to protest the foreshore and seabed bill.

He said Selwyn wrote submissions during a ministerial inquiry in late 2003, wrote a letter to the Governor General and participated in petitions.

He then turned up at a public meeting to speak against the bill for five minutes, but he said the forum was cancelled before he could speak.

"The time was running out of the hour glass to stop the bill going into law," Mr Edgar said.

"The axe was symbolic gesture... one to get public attention."

Counsel are expected to close their cases today, and Judge Josephine Bouchier said she would sum up the case for the jury tomorrow morning.

- NZPA

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