Protester Coaldrake loses challenge against charge

The case against a high-profile climate change protester will continue after the charge against her was deemed good in law.

Retired anaesthetist Lee Ann Coaldrake was among 14 Extinction Rebellion members charged with disturbing the legislature over a Question Time protest at Parliament House on 30 November 2022.

Dr Coaldrake had pleaded not guilty to the charge laid under s 56(1)(a) of the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld), which carries a maximum penalty of three years’ imprisonment.

The matter was due to be heard on 23 October last year, but conflicting provisions in the Code in relation to the offence led to a joint request by the parties for a court determination.

In his Brisbane Magistrates Court decision published yesterday, Magistrate Pinder outlined the history of the legislation.

He explained that the Criminal Code Amendment Act 2006 (Qld) inserted s 717 – which repealed ss 56, 57 and 58 – and that s 717(1) stated “a person cannot be charged with, prosecuted for or further prosecuted for, or convicted of, an offence against section 56, 57 or 58 or punished for doing or omitting to do an act that constituted that offence”.


The defence argued that on its face, s 717 of the Code prevented the prosecution or conviction of Dr Coaldrake, and that the charge should be dismissed.

The prosecution asserted s 56 had been re-inserted in to the Code by the Criminal Law (False evidence before Parliament) Amendment Act 2012 (Qld), and as a consequence, there had been an implicit repeal of s 171 of the Code.

Magistrate Pinder said the Criminal Law (False evidence before Parliament) Amendment Act 2012 (Qld) did not expressly repeal s 717, which continued to exist and operate as part of the Code.

“Somewhat surprisingly the parties have approached the issue of statutory interpretation of the two provisions from markedly different positions,” he said.

“The prosecution, as noted, have adopted a complicated approach to the interpretation of s 717, contending that it is necessary to consider extrinsic material to correctly interrupt the statutory provision.

“The defence outline accepts that the law in relation to statutory interpretation in Queensland does provide for implied repeal of statutory provisions.


“The defence outline correctly identifies the law in relation to implied repeal, resulting from a combination of a number of authorities of the High Court of Australia.”

Magistrate Pinder referred to several authorities, including Halsbury’s laws of Australia, which he said made it clear that for a subsequent provision to implicitly repeal an earlier provision, “the actual contrariety must be clearly apparent and the later of the two provisions being not capable of sensible operation if the earlier provision still stands”.

“It is accepted that the threshold in relation to determining that there has been implicit repeal is a high one, including: repeal of provision is only to be implied whether there are strong grounds; where such implication is necessary; (and) that implied repeal should not lightly be concluded,” he said.

He said it “was necessary upon the true construction of each provision to conclude that they are ‘so in inconsistent or repugnant that they cannot stand together’.”

“On any plain reading of the two provisions as they currently stand, s 717 is clearly so inconsistent and repugnant with the operation of s 56 that they cannot stand together,” he said.

“The parliament could not have intended to insert s 56 and create the offence of Disturbing the Legislature and at the same time maintain within the Code a provision which precluded a person being prosecuted for that very offence.


“The proper construction of both provisions leads to the inevitable conclusion that by the reintroduction of an offence creating the offence of disturbing the legislature, there is such inconsistency that the two provisions cannot stand or live together.”

Magistrate Pinder said the effect of the introduction by the Criminal Law (False evidence before Parliament) Amendment Act 2012 (Qld) of s 56 therefore, implicitly repealed s 717 of the Criminal Code.

“The resulting conclusion is that s 56 does create an offence good in law in Queensland as and from the day of assent of the Criminal Law (False evidence before Parliament) Amendment Act 2012 (Qld), and the charge before the court can proceed.”

The case against Dr Coaldrake, who is represented by the Environmental Defenders Office, will now go to trial.

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