Matthew Backhouse

Matthew Backhouse is a NZME. News Service journalist based in Auckland.

Lucy Lawless gets fined for protest

Actor Lucy Lawless says her sentence for boarding a drilling ship while protesting against Shell's oil exploration plans is "a total victory".

Lawless and seven other Greenpeace activists were sentenced today (Thur) to community work and ordered to pay reparation after earlier pleading guilty to being unlawfully on a ship.

The group were arrested last February after they boarded the Noble Discoverer at the Port of Taranaki and spent 77 hours up a 58-metre tower in protest against Shell's oil exploration operation in the Arctic.

In New Plymouth District Court this morning, Judge Allan Roberts sentenced each of the activists to 120 hours of community work and ordered them to each pay $651.44 in reparation to the port.

But the protesters avoided paying more than $600,000 in reparation to Shell Todd Oil, the joint venture between Shell and Todd Energy which contracted the ship.

The reparation to Shell Todd Oil had been sought by police but was dismissed by Judge Roberts.

The group's lawyer, Ron Mansfield, said the claim for reparation had been "excessive and unjustified".

Speaking after the sentencing, Lawless told APNZ she accepted the judge's decision.

"We feel it's a total victory that the reparations to Shell got basically booted out in court, because they were ludicrous from the start."

Asked where she would do her community service, Lawless joked: "In a public toilet near you."

Lawless said she already did a lot of community work with schools and Starship Hospital.

"So I don't mind making myself available to the community, I do it all the time."

Lawless said the publicity surrounding the protest had raised awareness of Shell's environmental track record and its plans to drill in the Arctic.

Greenpeace climate campaigner Simon Boxer, who was in court to support the activists, said the sentences were stiff.

"But they know what they were doing was right, and they know what matters the most was that they brought a spotlight onto the Arctic drilling plans of Shell.

"As we've seen over this last year, those plans are in disarray at the moment because of that spotlight that started in New Zealand, so they feel it was their duty to act."

In a statement, Shell Todd Oil Services general manager Rob Jager said the company had always supported police's response to the incident.

"That extended to supporting the police's case for reparation. Our primary concern during the occupation in February last year was the safety of all concerned - the same value that continues to be at the heart of our business today along with operating in an environmentally sound manner."

He said Shell Todd Oil recognised the right of individuals to express their points of view and protest in a manner that did not place the safety of people or property at risk.

"We continue to extend our offer of an open conversation where there is a real desire to find solutions."

The activists were initially charged with entering an enclosed area at the Port of Taranaki without authority and with intent to commit a crime.

Those sentenced today were Lawless, Jan Raoni Hammer, Mike Ross Buchanan, Shayne Panayiotis Comino, Vivienne Rachel Hadlow, Shai Sebastian Naides, Zach Steven Penman and Ilai Amir.

- APNZ

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