sect member guilty of intimidation
Sydney Morning Herald
October 22, 2010
A MEMBER of the controversial sect, the Exclusive Brethren, has been found guilty of intimidating several members of a Channel Seven television crew.
The journalists had been filming an interview with a former member of the sect outside the Brethren's Ermington church in March when they were followed by a car along Victoria Road.
Jacqueline Quist, a Today Tonight reporter, said in a statement tendered in court they had filmed sect members outside the Brethren's church ''from a respectful distance'' and unsuccessfully tried to speak to members.
As they finished, she said, the journalists were approached by a man in a blue polo shirt claiming to be a curious neighbour.
The journalists and the former Brethren member drove off in two cars, but soon noticed a black Mazda 4WD was following one of the cars with the man in the blue shirt in the passenger seat. The two Channel Seven cars stopped at a petrol station, knowing there would be CCTV cameras there, the Downing Centre Local Court heard.
The sound recordist, Geoffrey O'Rourke, said: ''I was very intimidated. I was trying to keep a calm head.''
As he got out of his car to photograph the car and the two men inside, they drove off.
When the journalists continued their journey, the black car reappeared, switching lanes to catch up with one of the journalists' cars, until it ''lunged forward so it was only one to two centimetres from my car,'' O'Rourke said in a statement in court. He said he feared he would be ''run off the road or even killed''.
The Melbourne-based reporter Quist also feared for her safety. ''The driver of the black Mazda seemed to have no regard for any road rules,'' she said.
The journalists drove to City Central police station where they filed a complaint, but the black Mazda drove off.
When O'Rourke left the station, he was followed again, this time by a blue ute.
Police stopped the car and questioned the people inside. Police claim the passenger, Lionel Stephen Laming, had been a passenger in the black Mazda. Laming refused to name the Mazda's driver, who had got away.
Laming, 32, from Eastwood, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to failing to nominate the driver of the Mazda, but not guilty to intimidating the journalists, intending to cause them physical or mental harm.
He was convicted of the intimidation charge and placed on a 12-month good behaviour bond, but has lodged an appeal.
The Brethren refused to comment pending the appeal. ''Mr Laming's conviction is a private matter for him … he will remain a valued, loved and active member of the Exclusive Brethren community,'' a statement said.
''The Exclusive Brethren does not condone illegal behaviour but rather it preaches respect for, and adherence to, the law.''
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