Devan Morris Tisdale locked himself to the rail track at Abbot Point in November last year. Photo: Frontline Action on Coal
Devan Morris Tisdale locked himself to the rail track at Abbot Point in November last year. Photo: Frontline Action on Coal

First protester charged with lock-on laws sentenced in Bowen

THE first protester charged under Queensland's lock-on device laws got a hard life lesson when he was told "nobody gives a damn" if people chain themselves to railways.

Magistrate James Morton told Devan Morris Tisdale, from Victoria, to worry about what happens in his own community during proceedings at Bowen Magistrates Court last week.

"Stay in your own community and worry about the local people chopping down the tree or putting a path in," Mr Morton said.

"This place is built on workers, you're unemployed and living off the government."

Tisdale pleaded guilty to four charges, including using a dangerous attachment device to interfere with transport infrastructure and trespass on a railway.

 

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Police prosecutor Sergeant Jay Merchant told the court police found Tisdale lying down, secured to the railway at Abbot Point on November 8 last year.

The court heard the section of railway Tisdale was attached to couldn't be accessed without trespassing.

Sgt Merchant said Tisdale removed ballasts from under the rail and then put his arms inside the attachment device, securing himself with wire nooses so he couldn't be removed safely.

All trains and operations were stopped until he could be removed from the device with a cutting tool, Sgt Merchant said.

The prosecutor said Tisdale's action prevented five police officers from doing their regular duties and had an "extraordinary" impact on the company because of the flow-on effect of delaying transport and ships.

Devan Morris Tisdale locked on to the railway at Abbot Point.
Devan Morris Tisdale locked on to the railway at Abbot Point.

Sgt Merchant argued a message needed to be sent to Tisdale and the wider community.

"To alert the community that if you're going to engage in this behaviour don't bother doing it in this jurisdiction," he said.

Tisdale was the first person to be charged with Queensland's lock-on device laws established in October last year.

He had previously pleaded not guilty to two of his charges.

Lawyer Daniel Bakewell represented Tisdale, who appeared by phone as he was unable to enter Queensland because of coronavirus restrictions.

Mr Bakewell said the 54-year-old "avid environmentalist" had decided to commit a "conscientious act of civil disobedience" when visiting Frontline Action on Coal last year.

"Your honour will be aware in the community of the dialogue about climate change and the use of fossil fuels," Mr Bakewell said.

"These forms of protest can raise awareness and draw attention to those issues and assist to create dialogue in the community."

A lock-on device used by Devan Morris Tisdale when he attached himself to a railway at Abbot Point.
A lock-on device used by Devan Morris Tisdale when he attached himself to a railway at Abbot Point.

Mr Bakewell said the Victorian man was of previous good character and was unemployed "but not unoccupied" as he was engaged with his community and helped his parents with their rural property.

The court heard Tisdale had a son in Sweden and a recorded conviction may impact his ability to visit him.

Mr Morton grilled Mr Bakewell on how a person chaining themselves to a railway helped raise awareness.

"People around here, they're workers," Mr Morton said.

"Nobody gives a damn about these people chaining themselves to the railway.

"People say, 'Look at this idiot, another fool from down south. They're not locals, they come up here, they try to disrupt progress'.

"They make the boats line up out there at the Abbot Point for a bit longer and what it does, it makes the coal more needed overseas."

Part of a lock-on device used by Devan Morris Tisdale when he attached himself to a railway at Abbot Point.
Part of a lock-on device used by Devan Morris Tisdale when he attached himself to a railway at Abbot Point.

Tisdale was fined $1000 with no convictions recorded.

"Next time you're worried about the environment, sir, do something lawful," Mr Morton told Tisdale.


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