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Anzac Day protesters lose High Court appeal

Tuesday 3 Jun 2008 8:20 a.m.

A couple of anti-war protesters have lost a High Court appeal against convictions for offensive behaviour at an Anzac ceremony in Wellington.

The protesters, Valerie Morse and Mark Daniel Rawnsley, were arrested after disrupting last year's Anzac Day dawn service - Morse by burning a New Zealand flag and Rawnsley by blowing a horn during a speech.

In a reserved decision, Justice Forrie Miller upheld punishments handed down in Wellington District Court, The Dominion Post reported today.

They included a fine of $500 for offensive behaviour for Morse and a conviction and discharge for Rawnsley for resisting and obstructing police.

Both appealed the decisions and tried to get their convictions quashed.

Their lawyer Mark Lillico argued the district court judge who handed down the sentences had not applied the right balance between the right to protest and the right to be protected from offence.

Mr Lillico said freedom of expression on political views had to have higher protection, despite the likelihood it would cause offence.

He said the pair had been specifically protesting about New Zealand's military deployment in Afghanistan and had every right to do so.

A crown representative said the burning of a flag was particularly offensive to those who had gathered to commemorate the dead and the veterans and under the circumstances the protest went too far.

Several witnesses at the initial hearing said they had been highly offended by the burning of the flag and the disruption of the service.

NZPA

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