Sabina Dennis, one of 32 people arrested after a 56-day occupation of the Coastal GasLink drill pad near the Morice River, was found not guilty of criminal contempt Wednesday in B.C. Supreme Court in Smithers.
Justice Michael Tammen said he did not view her conduct as an expression of defiance of the court’s authority, found her testimony to be credible, and ruled that there was a missing mental element needed to meet the burden of proof for a guilty conviction.
“Judges are not human lie detectors, nor are we blessed with the ability to divine what is in the heart or the mind of a witness,” said Tammen.
“I do not believe there was anything inherently implausible in her account,” he added. “Nor did I find her to be evasive in cross examination.”
It's also plausible that Dennis was not telling the truth, admitted Tammen, but interpreted her testimony as an attempt to reach a peaceful resolution with RCMP.
No evidence was provided that Dennis physically tampered with the site, and it was noted by Tammen that RCMP did request her help in negotiating with the other protesters.
On November 2 in Smithers, Tammen sentenced protester couple Hannah Hall and Logan Staats to 225 and 75 hours of community service, respectively, for their violations of the court injunction.
The courts have yet to process all of the remaining protesters charged, with a trial expected to conclude this week for Wet'suwet'en hereditary chief Dtsa'hyl, also known as Adam Gagnon, charged with criminal contempt for allegedly blocking construction on the pipeline.
Editor's note: This story has been corrected to better reflect the findings of Justice Tammen. We apologize for the error.