By Jason Rushton, Life Site News
Reproduced with permission
SYDNEY, Australia. April 28, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A father of seven children will spend 8 months in jail starting Wednesday as a result of his efforts to the defend the unborn.
It is the longest jail-term ever received by an Australian pro-life activist.
Graham Preston, 56, was called by police last week to arrange a time for his arrest. He negotiated to move it back from 8am to 9am this coming Wednesday, May 2, so he would have enough time to get his children to school.
Mr. Preston will serve 232 days in prison - seeing him out just in time for Christmas - for refusing to pay roughly $8000 in fines that have accumulated after ten years of non-violently blocking the entrances of four abortion clinics around Brisbane.
Since beginning non-violent direct action with the group Protect Life almost exactly ten years ago (April 16, 2002), Mr. Preston has endured more than ten months in jail over five separate jail-terms - mostly in Brisbane’s maximum security Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre.
The warrant for Mr. Preston’s arrest came after he received a letter from the Queensland Justice Department telling him he had until April 6 - coincidentally, Good Friday - to pay the fines or else face prison.
Mr. Preston refuses to pay the fines on principle, arguing that trying to save the innocent from harm should not be regarded as criminal behaviour.
A similar letter was sent to Mr. Preston in 2010, although that time it was not followed up.
“Graham is amazingly humble. He doesn’t make a song and dance about his commitment,” said Anne Rampa, a fellow activist and mother of seven, who has herself been arrested more than twenty times over the last twenty years for protesting outside abortion clinics. “One thing he probably didn’t tell you is that he regularly meets with men who he met in jail, offering them hospitality and even legal help if he can.”
Mr. Preston’s wife Liz told LifeSiteNews.com that she was extremely proud of her husband: “I have immense respect for Graham. He is a very courageous person who has my full support in these actions. Facing the prospect of having Graham in jail for eight months is quite daunting - however we have always realised that challenging the abortion culture would be costly and we have tried to not allow the potential cost prevent us from doing what we believe is right.”
Graham’s daughter Frances, 18, said: “I have a lot of respect for my Dad and how he takes his convictions seriously, I hope I can live as consistent a life as his. Of course I will miss him, and I will visit him as often as possible.”
Daughter Suzannah, 8, said “I will miss him every day till he comes home in December, five days before Christmas. I will pray for him every night.”
When Mr. Preston’s fines reached $12,000 in 2004, the Governor of Queensland, Quentin Bryce, remitted half of them. (Fines for failing to follow police orders to move-on were remitted; fines for obstructing police were not. Mr. Preston appealed this decision since both charges were given by different police for the same action. The appeal failed in 2009.)
Normally in Queensland, a citizen receives one day in prison for every AUD $100 of unpaid fines. To deter Mr. Preston from ‘re-offending’, for most of the fines he will receive three days in prison for each hundred dollars.
Two years ago, Mr. Preston wrote on his website: “Going to jail is of course not a desirable thing, either for the person who does so, or for their family who may be very directly negatively affected. Yet our conviction is that this is probably an unavoidable part of seeing the value of all human lives given proper recognition. When anyone pays a very high price for something, it makes everyone ask the question, is it worth it? That is what we want our society to be asking, what are preborn babies worth? We want to say that babies’ lives are worth a person’s, or even many persons’, freedom.”
Warwick Marsh, the National Co-ordinator of the Canberra Declaration, said: “Graham is one of Australia’s great heroes, truly putting the kids of Australia first. He is being unjustly imprisoned for his peaceful protests, while murderers and rapists walk free from our court systems and jails.”
News footage: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9z6BVR90Io
By Teresa Martin, Cherish Life Queensland.
Many of you may know that Graham Preston of Right to Life Australia is currently serving time for not paying accumulated fines imposed on him due to his direct action - see http://protect-life.info/ It seems that Graham is being made an example of and the question has to be asked, would any other person be sent to jail for non-payment of $8000 of fines? Has any other person been so punished in this way for a non-violent action ie non-payment? If not, then why is Graham being punished in this way? Note that we are not endorsing non-payment of fines, nor that anyone should break the law nor disobey a police officer, merely that it seems unfair that he should go to jail when there is over $1million in outstanding fines, some of which would be over the $8000 mark. Whether you agree or disagree with Graham’s actions, we are encouraging you to write respectfully to the Attorney General & Minister for Justice Jarrod Bleijie (pronounced Bley-ee) and pose those questions and make those points. It is important that pro-lifers support each other.Contact details:
Hon Jarrod Bleijie MP
Member for Kawana
Attorney-General and Minister for Justice
Level 18, State Law Building
50 Ann Street
Brisbane QLD 4000
GPO Box 149, Brisbane QLD 4001