Protest charges should be dropped: lawyer

·2-min read

Victoria Police is persisting with charges against Black Lives Matter protest organisers only to defend their reputation in the media, a lawyer has claimed.

Crystal McKinnon and Meriki Onus are accused of breaching the Chief Health Officer's COVID-19 directions by organising a Black Lives Matter protest in June 2020.

Their lawyer Lucien Richter says an acting sergeant told his law firm on June 29 this year that the charges would be dropped because they were "fatally flawed".

But when the withdrawal gained media attention on July 6, Mr Richter said the police backflipped on the proposal.

He said they claimed there was a miscommunication and the acting sergeant was not authorised to withdraw the charges.

Marc Fisken told Melbourne Magistrates Court on Friday police would instead be seeking to amend the charges.

But Mr Richter challenged the application as an "abuse of power" with a goal of defending Victoria Police's reputation in the media rather than to vindicate any legal right.

He asked Mr Fisken to provide evidence of similar charges being dropped.

Mr Fisken resisted the call and argued it was never the acting sergeant's right to withdraw the charges because he was not part of the prosecuting team.

Mr Richter maintains the charges against McKinnon and Onus are "trivial" and that they took steps to minimise COVID-19 risks.

More than 10,000 people attended the protest, but they were told to gather in groups of 19 people or fewer, Mr Richter said.

Organisers also ensured 50,000 masks and hand sanitiser bottles were provided to the crowd, he said.

"It was not a petulant protest. It was a legitimate expression on a longstanding and simmering issue in Australia about black deaths in custody" Mr Richter said.

"These are good people who took every possible step to limit the harm."

The case before magistrate Tara Hartnett is continuing.

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