The Victorian state government has stepped up its case against patriot activist Blair Cottrell’s appeal against his conviction for “participating in the making of a video published to Facebook with intent to incite ridicule or contempt of Muslims”.
The video in question is the 2015 mock Islamic beheading he was featured in during the United Patriots Front’s activism against the construction of a mosque in Bendigo.
Cottrell along with fellow patriot activists and video participants Neil Erikson and Christopher Shortis were charged under Victoria’s Racial and Religious Tolerance Act and convicted at a trial at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court in September 2017.
Cottrell is being represented by John Bolton who is known as the patriot lawyer and recently represented Neil Erikson at his recent trial over his clash with the left at the Milo Yiannopoulos speaking even in Melbourne in December 2017.
Cottrell and Bolton are arguing that Victoria’s Racial and Religious Tolerance Act is unconstitutional as it violates Australia’s implied right to political communication.
They were initially directed to lodge their appeal to the High Court of Australia last year, it was sent back to Victoria’s County Court to decide, as the High Court was unwilling to hear such a case until it has been tested in lower courts.
At a previous mention hearing in Feburary Judge Lisa Hannan was uneasy about deciding a constitutional matter. However the matter is set to proceed in the County Court with 10 days set aside for a trial beginning on 12th August which was confirmed at another mention at the County Court yesterday
What was notable about the mention was the presence a representative from the state Attorney-General Jill Hennessy in addition to the legal counsel for the Director of Public Prosecution. An article appeared in the Herald Sun on Saturday which spoke of a dramatic intervention in the case by the state government.
The Herald Sun article stated that the government’s reasons for becoming involved in the appeal was to protect its laws against hate speech which safeguard community cohesion. The first time John Bolton heard about the state government’s new involvement in the case was in that article.
At the hearing the Attorney-General’s representative indicated that they would be presenting explanatory material to justify the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act’s infringement on free speech. This also includes the calling of unnamed expert witnesses.
The Unshackled was the only media present at the mention, despite mainstream media covering Cottrell’s previous mention in February. This could be because media resources were diverted to covering the Cardinal George Pell appeal happening that same day, or the media has collectively decided they should no longer provide a “platform” to an “extremist” in Blair Cottrell.
The Unshackled interviewed Cottrell and Bolton following the mention where they highlighted the importance that this case has for the future of free speech in Australia.
Cottrell also reiterated the efforts that have been made to deplaform him in recent times as he has now been banned from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. He has also had his PayPal account frozen for raising funds for this legal appeal.
The only platform he now has a presence on is free speech social media Gab @RealBlairCottrell. His YouTube account survived the platform’s new “extemists” ban but is not regularly used by Cottrell.
We will keep you updated on any developments in this case and cover the trial when it takes place in August.