The Queensland Government’s attempts to use official means – including intimidation, assault and arrest – to deny Jennifer and Jordan Nash their right to peaceful protest and free speech should trouble us all, says David Donovan.
Jennifer Nash, the mother of school bullying victim Jordan Nash, took a case against the Education Department to the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Tribunal, where instead of receiving assistance and justice, she found judicial abuse, humiliation, alleged corruption and ultimately a $28,000 court order against her son.
The first part of this story was told a week or so ago in ‘Jordan and Jennifer Nash against the Queensland Government (Part One)’.
Here is an excerpt from Part One:
“It is impossible to judge the strict legal merit of Jordan Nash’s case for discrimination, although it is abundantly clear he received outrageous abuse and bullying while under the care of the State Government. Also beyond doubt is that Jennifer Nash and her son were poorly treated by the Queensland justice system, which seemed more interested in enforcing arcane legal procedure than trying to find justice for a young boy who had been horribly ill-treated and an ill-resourced mother desperately trying to provide a satisfactory education for her son. Why was Jennifer Nash not provided with proper legal counsel? Why was she confronted with up to five Government lawyers as she attempted to represent her son alone as a layman? In short, the maladministration of justice by the Queensland authorities in this case was nothing short of grotesque.
“It is obvious that the Queensland Education system, and various other bodies, were more concerned with achieving their own outcomes and/or limiting any legal or financial liability they may possibly have incurred, rather than achieving a good outcome for a disadvantaged little boy with special needs. Jordan did not slip between the cracks – his mother fought for his rights with every fibre of her being – Jordan was quite deliberately brushed aside by the authorities.
“Shamefully, Jordan has not received a formal education since leaving school in grade 7, which would on the face of it appear to be a quite fundamental breach of his human rights. The stress pursuant to pursuing this action has been detrimental to Jennifer’s mental and physical health, she says, but that is nothing compared to the effect it has had on Jordan, who now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
Jennifer and Jordan Nash against the Queensland Government (part 2)
After the $28,000 cost order was awarded against Jordan Nash in 2007, his mother Jennifer continued for a time to fight for justice in the courts, even though the odds seemed stacked against them.
“After [Robert] Wensley [QC] awarded costs against us I appealed to the Supreme Court, where Ann Lyons reinstated the costs order. Those tapes and transcripts were also edited and I was not heard. I appealed that decision to the full bench of the Supreme Court, but did not appear in person.”
“I was by then just too terrified of these evil judges and their abusive and inhumane behaviour towards Jordan and me. I began to feel physically ill every time I was back in those awful medieval courts without trial by jury as stipulated in the Australian Constitution and without any media attention.”
“They immediately dismissed my case…and I did not return to court after that.”
Jennifer Nash began a different approach.
She started a petition, which was eventually tabled by Independent MP Dorothy Pratt (not Jennifer’s local member) on 29 June 2010.
Jennifer and her supporters wrote to a wide range of officials, including federal, state and local government politicians, the Queensland Governor, the Governor General, the Queen and even a US senator — the now late Ted Kennedy, who replied and offered the assistance of the US embassy (note image below).
Jennifer Nash complained to the Parliamentary Criminal Misconduct Commission, which she said “swept her complaint under the carpet”.
She attended community cabinet meetings involving the then prime minister Kevin Rudd in June 2009 and addressed Queensland Attorney General Cameron Dick at a community forum held by radio station 4BC in March last year.
The John Mickel electorate office protest — stopped, gagged and fined
In April 2010, Jennifer Nash began a protest outside the electorate office of their local state MP, John Mickel, the parliamentary speaker who recently announced that he will be retiring at the next state election. This protest continued from 7 April until 17 November 2010. Their protest signs read “Bullied schoolboy wants independent investigation on court corruption”, “John Mickel does not represent the people” and “John Mickel concealing corruption” [see image below].
After ignoring Jennifer Nash on the first day of her protest, on the second John Mickel came out onto the front lawn to ask her what she wanted — despite the fact Jennifer Nash had been writing and telephoning his office about the issue for several years. After hearing her complaint, he said he would write to the Attorney General as well as the Crime and Misconduct Commission and would make sure she received action.
Jennifer Nash said that was not her desired course but, since it was better than nothing, did lead her to temporarily stop her electoral office protest for a couple of weeks.
Jennifer Nash recalls the encounter:
“I told him, I want you to table my documented and corroborated judicial abuse and judicial corruption allegations in parliament.
“He claimed he could not do that because he was the speaker, but he would write to Attorney General Cameron Dick and CMC Chairman Martin Moynihan QC (a retired Brisbane Supreme Court judge) for me instead and send me copies of these letters.
“He said that I would get action, because he was writing to the CMC and the AG.
“After that, I stopped protesting for about two weeks, but when nothing happened I resumed protesting Monday to Friday. I telephoned his office and told him I had not received any copies and was told these things take time. As of today, I have never received a letter of acknowledgement from John Mickel. I also never received any letter from the AG or CMC confirming Mickel had written to them.”
After receiving no notification or response for two weeks, the pair resumed their protest outside Mickel’s office. The local Jimboomba Times newspaper interviewed Jennifer and Jordan, along with John Mickel. In the article, Mickel is reported to have said that he had offered to table a petition for the Nash’s in parliament and that he had done “everything I possibly can”. It seems the offer from John Mickel was to table a petition on school bullying — something the Nash’s had never asked for.
As their protest stretched from weeks to months, Jordan and his mother suffered increased harassment and abuse by passers-by and local workers, including actual physical violence. Finally, on 17 November 2010, Logan City Council worker Kenneth Steven came onto the grassy verge where they had their placards hammered into the ground to aggressively attempt to confiscate them. The Council took some of the Nash’s protest signs, later telling them to print T-shirts instead of using placards. The brief tussle for the signs would later come back to haunt both Jordan and Jennifer.
“They did not want us to protest with placards any longer, they wanted us to get t-shirts printed up instead,” said Jennifer Nash.
“Council later sent me a letter offering to sell us back our very own property at $44 per confiscated sign. They also sent me a $1,000 fine for protesting, which they called ‘conducting business on the public space’ outside John Mickel’s electorate office, even though we were just demonstrating and not collecting any money.
“They tried to pursue me through SPER [State Penalties Enforcement Registry] for the $1,000, but when I elected to have the matter dealt with in the Magistrates Court, they wrote to tell me they had withdrawn the fine.”
Queensland Parliament House protest: assaulted and arrested
Having had their right to peaceful protest to their local member removed and having seen all their other efforts ignored or swept aside by the relevant authorities, on 25 November, 2010, Jennifer and Jordan Nash took their protest to the Queensland parliament.
As it happened, Jennifer Nash had attempted this course of action once before, narrowly escaping arrest. On 23 April 2009, she had waited patiently in the viewing gallery for Premier Anna Bligh to finish a speech before standing and briefly addressing the parliament. She was quickly manhandled from the building by an armed Police officer.
On the 25 November 2010, Jennifer Nash tried again to get some action. This was the way the Courier Mail later reported the incident:
Woman throws paper missile at MP, dragged screaming from parliament
A WOMAN was ejected from State Parliament and could be charged after she threw a piece of paper from the public gallery this morning.
The woman interrupted the Premier during ministerial statements, yelling that she had been removed from her protest outside Ms Bligh’s office.
It was unclear what she had been protesting about but she said her son was a victim.
She said she had been protesting for several weeks. It is understood the woman has been protesting at Speaker John Mickel’s electorate office.
She dropped a piece of paper from the gallery onto MP Christine Smith before she was removed by security but her screams could be heard through doors for several minutes.
The security intelligence agents removed Jennifer and she was arrested. The screams reported by the newspaper, however, were because she could see and hear her 20 year-old son Jordan, who had not been actively involved in the protest, screaming and being harshly manhandled up against a wall by a bevy of security personnel, before being brutally handcuffed behind his back by Anna Bligh’s personal bodyguard, Daniel Hietbrink.
Jordan Nash recalls:
“We went to parliament because we had no other choice in being heard. Mum had already tried it once and got assaulted. The guards were no better with me.
“‘Get up! Put your hands behind your back.’
“‘Take your jumper off!’
“And Bam! I’m shoved into a wall by Adam Hankinson and other SIB bodyguards. Not sure whether or not I had my hand bent at that point but I do remember being swallowed into a sea of evil and these huge metallic cuffs chafe my wrists. It really hurt! Hietbrink even tells me to relax as he bends my hand harder like no tomorrow.
“I’ll never forget that moment when I cried out to [Anna Bligh’s bodyguard] Daniel Hietbrink that he was using excessive force only to be told by him “that’s not force, this is force.” You could see me on the outside camera rubbing my sore wrist.
“There was no need to handcuff and lock me up like a dog. I did everything I was told. And I had done absolutely nothing wrong.”
Jordan and Jennifer Nash were both charged, at least initially, with failing to comply with the directions of the speaker.
Community forums: intimidation and arrest on trumped up charges
The next time the pair attempted to bring attention to their allegations of corruption was on 2 December 2010 at Clontarf, just north of Brisbane, where Prime Minister Julia Gillard was holding a local forum. As soon as they arrived, taking no chances, SIB agents immediately sat down beside them. And when Jennifer got her chance to address the prime minister, the PM seemed uninterested.
Jordan Nash recalls:
“In December we went to Clontarf to meet Julia Gillard at a Community Cabinet forum. SIB guards sat down next to me and warned us to not cause any trouble.
“When we finally got the chance to speak about the corruption we went through, Gillard simply told us: ‘I think we get the flavour.’”
Jennifer Nash recalls that the prime minister also said she would look into the incident, however her office never responded to any phone calls or correspondence.
On February 27 this year, Jennifer Nash addressed Anna Bligh at a community forum on the Gold Coast. Six days later, on March 5, she was arrested by Senior Constable Stephen John Williams from Browns Plains Police Station, locked in a holding cell for 1 and ½ hours and charged with the common assault of Logan City Council Worker Kenneth Steven, based – strangely – on the placard confiscation incident outside John Mickel’s electorate office the previous November. After being released from the holding cell police took her to Logan Central Police station, where the mother was photographed, videotaped, fingerprinted and DNA typed. This charge was later to be scornfully dismissed by the Magistrate as being vexatious and “against the public interest” (more on that below).
Eight days after Jennifer was arrested, on 13 March 2011, before entering a community forum at Toowoomba High School held by Anna Bligh, Jordan was again arrested, this time apparently for “serious assault” which he had allegedly perpetrated on police officers during the parliamentary demonstration of November 25, 2010. It should be noted that Jordan had already been charged over this incident, yet somehow the authorities saw fit to charge him again, even though the video footage shows Jordan neither resisted arrest in any way nor were any of the security officers injured — though Jordan was left with bad bruising from his treatment at their hands.
Jordan Nash explains the circumstances:
“…I’m painfully handcuffed, separated from my mother and abducted by SIB Detective Jason Allard and Detective Adam Hankinson in front of all these protesters at Toowoomba State High school. They denied me access to see her at the Toowoomba watch house and locked me up for over 4 hours!”
Queensland police state denying the right to peaceful protest
Peaceful civil protest is regarded as being a fundamental human right. So is freedom of speech. Whatever you may think about the merits of Jennifer and Jordan Nash’s initial actions against the Queensland Government in the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal, or the validity of their claims of corruption arising from those actions, what is absolutely certain is that they have a right to protest and have their say about these matters. That’s part and parcel of living in a democracy. At the same time, no matter how politically embarrassing or inconvenient it might be, the authorities have no right whatsoever to belittle, intimidate, confiscate, assault, detain or arrest people for speaking up and making peaceful protests.
Yet this is precisely what Queensland authorities have done — and they have done it in a systematic and provocative way, deliberately and heavy-handedly trying to bully Jennifer and Jordan Nash into stopping their protest using official powers and means.
Support for this view comes from Magistrate Trevor Morgan, who on 20 June 2011 absolutely dismissed all the charges against Jennifer Nash relating to the so-called “assault” on Logan City Council worker Kenneth Steven from November 17.
Trevor Morgan was unequivocal in his verdict:
“It seems to me that in the circumstances that this is the most minor or inconsequential of assaults and there has been no mention of any assault by Mr Steven.
“It is one would think one of the most minor assaults that one might have come across.
“There seems to have been absolutely no public benefit in pressing this charge and given that the result has been a large waste of time and indeed has probably proved counter-productive because in the circumstances of Ms Nash staging a protest for reasons that I don’t know and don’t want to entertain here that one way of winding her up and making her more outraged against a perceived injustice would be to charge her with such a trivial assault and to persist with it to this stage.
“Not only does it seem to me to have been a waste of time, but largely counter-productive because if I was Ms Nash I would be quite resentful that this was being pursued against me. If I was Ms Nash I would probably quite resent being charged with what seems to me to be a constructive assault.
“That in the circumstances given that she was carrying out a public protest, public interest would suggest that public protest is a good thing, not a bad thing and as long as it is conducted legally and reasonably responsibly that it’s good for the community.
“So it seems to me that this is a case that really cries out for Section 19 and should be absolutely discharged. For the reasons that I have placed on the public record, you are absolutely discharged.”
The stupidity of the Queensland Government is borne out by the simple fact that Jennifer and Jordan Nash’s accusations of corruption are strongly reinforced by the deliberate and aggressive way the authorities have attempted to quash, quieten and cowe them into submission. That, in itself, appears to make a prima facie case of corruption that should be cause for an official invesigation. In any case, the attempts to shut them up do not seem to be working — maybe now is the time for the authorities to try a different, more conciliatory, approach.
Queensland is not meant to be a police state. How can it be that a child who left school because he was being bullied and discriminated against has become an enemy of the state and fined, handcuffed, arrested and locked up on numerous occasions simply for trying to draw attention to what he and his mother perceive to be a grievous injustice. Something is clearly very wrong here. Now is the time for the Queensland Government to stop ignoring or arresting Jordan and Jennifer Nash and to start attempting to conciliate and deal with their complaint — and they have a fair complaint against Queensland Education, given Jordan Nash has had no formal education since Year 7. The ridiculous scenes we have witnessed of a bureaucracy attempting to silence a mother and her 20 year-old son for pleading their case in public should fill us all with outright contempt.
It should also fill us with some foreboding and dread—because while today it is Jennifer and Jordan Nash that are being oppressed and suppressed, tomorrow it may be any one of us.