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Lawless expected to plea to lesser charge over protest

Published: 11:09AM Tuesday June 12, 2012 Source: Fairfax

Greenpeace activist Lucy Lawless is expected to have burglary charges dropped in court this week in return for pleading guilty to a lesser charge.

Lawless and her group attracted international attention during their four-day protest against Arctic drilling from their perch at the top of 53-metre drilling derrick on the Noble Discoverer in February.

At the time the ship was moored at Port Taranaki while being provisioned for a voyage to Alaska.

After months of plea-bargain wrangling between Greenpeace's high-profile Auckland criminal lawyer Ron Mansfield and bosses, the Taranaki Daily News understands prosecutors will this week ask for the burglary charge to be withdrawn and replaced with one of unlawfully boarding a ship.

Police initially charged the eight with burglary after taking advice from Crown prosecutors.

The more serious charge drew criticism from Greenpeace and raised concerns that a burglary conviction could hinder Lawless' acting career by limiting entry into some countries such as the United States.

Previous actions by Greenpeace activists at Port Taranaki and offshore have attracted lesser charges including trespass.

The eight, who were to appear in New Plymouth District Court tomorrow, are now expected to appear in Auckland District Court later this week where they will plead guilty to the charge.

They return to New Plymouth District Court in September to be sentenced.

Mr Mansfield was in court yesterday and unavailable while Greenpeace declined to speak before the case was dealt with in court.

Search and Rescue Sergeant Andrew Ross said last night he was one of three Taranaki SAR members who climbed the derrick to bring the group down. There was no opposition from them, he said.

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