A young climate activist who climbed atop a train in co-ordinated protest action to disrupt Newcastle’s coal industry has been jailed for 12 months.
Eric Serge Herbert, 22, pleaded guilty to obstructing a rail locomotive, attempting to hinder the working of mining equipment and attempting to assist in the obstruction of a rail locomotive.
Newcastle magistrate Janine Lacy on Monday sentenced the Sunshine Coast man to 12 months’ jail, with a non-parole period of six months.
She indicated sentences of five months for the railway offences and six months for the mining hindrance, all committed in the past two weeks.
A community corrections order previously applied to the first offence was also revoked.
Herbert, who filmed himself on a carriage of the stopped coal train, is also facing charges in the ACT.
He set up camp on the lawns of Parliament House in October and told a small crowd to find the courage to protect his generation from “the social collapse caused by climate breakdown”.
“I am happy to receive death because that is what I’m receiving here today,” Herbert said while police carried him from the lawn.
Blockade Australia described the sentence as “’an overreach of power”, quite shocking and unprecedented.
“The magistrate who sentenced him is Mark Latham’s wife … they (magistrates) shouldn’t be so connected with politics,” spokeswoman Rilka Laycock-Walsh said.
The group’s two-week-long action was condemned by NSW Police Minister David Elliott as “nothing short of economic vandalism”.
“Police are taking a zero-tolerance approach to those that want to infiltrate our rail network,” Mr Elliott said.
Two Victorian women involved in the protest were charged with doing an act with intent to kill or injure a person on a railway, carrying a maximum term of 25 years.
Blockade Australia said the “trumped-up” charges were designed to intimidate those engaging in non-violent direct action.
NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Peter McKenna said the maximum penalty was “commensurate with the level of danger and criminality we are now seeing … they’re entering rail corridors with moving trains, not just coal trains”.
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