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Charges dismissed after magistrate commends church leaders for 'exemplary character'

Love Makes A Way supporters gathered to pray before the court appearance of seven church leaders.

June 3 2016Six church leaders have had charges dismissed without convictions recorded after facing Frankston Magistrates’ Court on 31 May. Their court appearance related to charges of trespass during a prayerful sit-in on 6 May, 2015 at the office of Greg Hunt MP.

The group had visited Mr Hunt’s office to request that he publicly support an immediate moratorium on the transfer of all asylum seekers to Nauru and Manus Island and the release of all children from immigration detention.

The seventh member of the group, community development worker Simon Reeves, was fined $500 due to having prior charges earned from peaceful actions of a similar nature. He was offered a good behaviour bond in place of the fine but refused it, saying, “I could not give the court an undertaking that I would not breach such a bond while our government's current detention policies are still in place.”

The magistrate commended the group members for their exemplary character and solidarity.

Spokesperson for the group, Uniting Church minister the Revd Cameron McAdam, said, “While there has been a decrease in children in detention since the sit-in, there are still many children suffering on Nauru. We need to close the camps on Nauru and Manus and bring them here.”

After his arrest, community development worker Timothy Johnson said, “I have been very privileged to experience the freedom, opportunity and safety that Australia provides. As such, I feel that I have a responsibility to live in such a way that enriches and betters the lives of the vulnerable, the marginalised and the persecuted.

“I consider it important to hold our nation’s leaders and elected officials to the same standard.”

The prayer-centred sit-in action was one of many in a nationwide movement called Love Makes A Way, during which 174 Christian leaders have been arrested as they sought an end to what they believe are Australia’s inhumane asylum seeker policies.