Blair Cottrell Blasphemy Appeal Trial Set to Commence

Australia’s best-known patriot activist Blair Cottrell appeal trial against his 2017 blasphemy conviction under Victoria’s Racial and Religious Tolerance Act will commence on Monday November 11th at the County Court of Victoria.

Blasphemy Charge and Trial

Cottrell, along with fellow patriot activists and former United Patriots Front colleagues Neil Erikson and Christopher Shortis, was found guilty of “intent to incite ridicule or contempt of Muslims” under the state’s Racial and Religious Tolerance Act in a trial at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court in September 2017.

The charges against the trio, or Bendigo Three as they came to be known, related to a mock beheading stunt they performed outside Bendigo’s Council building during the United Patriots Front’s activism against the construction of a mosque in the regional Victorian city in 2015.

The mock beheading was published on Facebook and was designed to demonstrate the potential dangers of further allowing the Islamisation of Australia and its regional cities. The mosque only broke ground in Bendigo in July this year, its construction having received a $400,000 grant of Victorian taxpayer funds from Premier Daniel Andrews.

Appeal Process

Cottrell decided to appeal his conviction and $2,000 fine and engaged the services of patriot lawyer John Bolton. The appeal process has taken many twists and turns over the past year. Cottrell is challenging his conviction on the grounds that Victoria’s Racial and Religious Tolerance Act is constitutionally invalid under Australians’ implied right to freedom of political communication.

Originally given it was a matter of constitutional law, they were directed to lodge an appeal directly with the High Court of Australia. In December 2018, the High Court directed Bolton and Cottrell to the County Court of Victoria to lodge their appeal, as the High Court would not hear the case until all other appeal avenues had been exhausted by either side.

County Court of Victoria Appeal

Proceedings began with a mention held in the County Court in February of this year. The presiding judge at the time, Lisa Hannan – after initially expressing unease about hearing a constitutional matter – set the appeal for trial in August.

Blair Cottrell after February County Court mention

A further development occurred in June when the Victorian Government, through Attorney-General Jill Hennessy, joined the Director of Public Prosecutions in the appeal proceedings. This was due to its belief that defending the validity of the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act was necessary to protect all laws against hate speech and to safeguard community cohesion.

Blair Cottrell and John Bolton after June court mention

But then in July, the Victorian Government admitted that Cottrell’s conviction under the Racial Religious Tolerance Act could conflict with its own Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities – specifically the human right to freedom of expression under section 33 of the charter and the freedom of political discourse under section 18.

Another mention was held on this development where John Bolton argued this question of state law should be held in Victoria’s highest court, the Supreme Court. The DPP and State Government disagreed and argued that the trial should take place in the County Court in August, as scheduled, in the interest of expediency.

Blair Cottrell and John Bolton after July court mention

Judge Lisa Hannan, one week later, ruled that both the state and constitutional matters of law could be decided by the County Court at the trial beginning on August 12th.

Financial Deplatforming

Since deciding to launch his appeal, Blair Cottrell had been crowdfunding donations to cover his legal expenses using PayPal. His PayPal account was shut down in December 2018 as part of a purge by the platform of “extreme far-right” figures.

Blair Cottrell then used his personal Westpac bank account to solicit donations for his appeal. That account was shut down in June for “commercial reason”. Since then, other Australian patriots have had their personal bank accounts closed for unspecified reasons.

Trial Rescheduling

The trial did not take place as scheduled on August 12th. Bolton and Cottrell were informed that Judge Hannan could no longer hear the case. It was revealed in September that this was due to Lisa Hannan accepting a new appointment as Chief Magistrate of the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria.

A rescheduled trial date has now been confirmed to begin on Monday, November 11th. It will be heard by the Chief Judge of the County Court of Victoria, Peter Kidd. Kidd’s most recent high-profile case was presiding over Cardinal George Pell’s two jury trials in 2018 on child sexual abuse charges.

Judge Kidd, after the jury at the Pell retrial reached a unanimous guilty verdict and after another trial on a separate child sexual abuse incident was dropped, sentenced Pell to six years in prison.

Peter Kidd has been Chief Judge of the County Court of Victoria since his appointment in September 2015. He was appointed concurrently as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria in May 2016. He has previously been an international war crimes prosecutor and a Victorian Crown Prosecutor.

Blair Cottrell’s Take

Blair Cottrell, since being charged under Victoria’s Racial and Religious Tolerance Act in early 2017, has been banned by Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. He can still communicate with his followers on free-speech social media, his Gab account having accumulated over 3,000 followers since March this year.

Blair shared his own analysis and expectations on the upcoming rescheduled trial on his Gab account. He has also been reposting his Gabs on his new Telegram channel on the encrypted messaging app.

Blair Cottrell’s take on Gab

He also gave an overview of this legal saga to date, from the charge, to the conviction and now the appeals process.

The mainstream media, despite pressure from left-wing activists on Twitter, have still reported on Blair Cottrell’s appeal, but usually refer to him as a white supremacist neo-Nazi. News Corp’s news.com.au has consistently used a photo-shopped image of Blair in front of a Nazi flag in its news reports about either him or Australian nationalism.

Blair shared his pre-trial thoughts and expectations on a Gab post.

The mainstream media will be at the trial on November 11th, but so will The Unshackled and other Australian alt-media to provide truly independent coverage.

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