A climate protester who sprayed red paint across a Wellington car dealership, which mainly contained electric and hybrid vehicles, has escaped conviction but will have to make a donation to charity.
Magdalena Vith, 23, pleaded guilty to a single charge of wilful damage in the Wellington District Court on Friday, stemming from the protest at the Gazley Motors dealership on Cambridge Terrace last year.
She is a member of Restore Passenger Rail, a group that staged multiple protests in the capital last year calling for greater action on climate change and public transport.
On September 14, Vith doused the dealership in red paint before glueing herself to the footpath. Police allege another protestor was involved in the protest but he has elected to go to trial.
A spokesman from Restore Passenger Rail said at the time the group’s goal was to “illustrate the choice this election between luxury emissions and a livable future”.
Magdalena Vith, 23, was granted a discharge without conviction after dousing Gazley Motors in paint last year. Photo / NZME
“The obscenely rich are lobbying against us having sustainable transport systems and are turbocharging the climate crisis with more motorways and more luxury emissions,” said spokesman James Cockle.
But a director of the dealership, Oliver Gazley, ridiculed the protest, telling RNZ the majority of the vehicles behind the glass were low or zero-emissions cars.
“Maybe they should inspect some of the vehicles that we have, because the majority of them are hybrid and electric vehicles.”
In court today, the police prosecutor handed Judge Jan Kelly a copy of an invoice for the cost of water blasting the building, suggesting an order of reparations should be made.
Vith’s lawyer Stephen Parry agreed with a modest reparation order, but requested a discharge without conviction claiming the consequences of conviction would outweigh the gravity of the offence. Police did not oppose a discharge.
Judge Kelly then suggested a donation to air ambulance charity LifeFlight could be appropriate alongside reparations.
After discussing with the prosecutor and Parry, Judge Kelly discharged Vith without conviction and ordered her to make a $500 donation to LifeFlight and pay half of the water blasting bill, just under $400, as reparations.
“You are very fortunate to have been granted a discharge,” Judge Kelly told Vith. “The court respects the lawful right to protest but it is a criminal offence to damage property.”
“I have accepted the consequences of a conviction for you is significant. You need to understand you won’t be given that opportunity again.”
Ethan Griffiths covers crime and justice stories nationwide for Open Justice. He joined NZME in 2020, previously working as a regional reporter in Whanganui and South Taranaki.
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