A MELBOURNE man has been convicted and fined $1000 after he was caught in possession of a flare during an anti-mosque protest in Bendigo last year.
But Phillip Galea, 31, claimed the charge was part of a police plan to criminalise the patriot movement by portraying them as dangerous.
Galea was sentenced in the Bendigo Magistrates Court on Friday to possessing a distress signal without reasonable excuse. He had intended to fight the charge, but his key witness failed to appear in court because he was hungover, Galea said.
Galea was caught in possession of the flare on High Street in Bendigo during an anti-mosque protest on October 10.
Police communications had given officers a description of Galea, believing he was in possession of a knife. A search uncovered a flare in his pocket.
Galea told police he was carrying the flare in case he got jumped, before saying he was only carrying it for a mate who owns a boat.
He had appeared in court in Bendigo three times to fight the charge before he was eventually sentenced, deciding to accept the $1000 fine offered to him earlier this year.
Magistrate Peter Mithen said it was dangerous to bring the flare to the protest.
The court has heard that a flare burns at 1600 degrees Celsius. If that gets in the wrong hands at something like a public rally, all sorts of issues can occur, he said.
Be mindful of that in the future.
Galea is also appealing a $5000 fine for possessing mercury and breaching bail, after his Braybrook residence was raided on November 19. He had been sentenced to one month in jail for possessing tasers, but was released after two weeks.
Speaking outside court on Friday, Galea said he would continue to support patriot causes.
Theyre just trying to portray the image of the movement, that were just a group of criminals, that were dangerous to be around, when the opposite is true in most cases, he said.
I wasnt too happy about it, because I was in the process of negotiating to get (the flare) back for my mates boat, and all of a sudden, when I get raided, they get the summons and all that to back up the other charges.
Galea said he would continue to attend protest rallies, including in Bendigo, and was now a member of the True Blue Crew.