Last December, we reported on the case of 31-year-old Phillip Galea, a member of extreme right-wing group Reclaim Australia who was found in possession of five tasers, more than 3000 times the legal limit of mercury (which can be used to make bombs), bomb-making guides and a manual on how to make explosives and illicit drugs.
Despite the plethora of evidence indicative of planning an act of terrorism, police charged Galea with just two relatively minor offences: ‘possession of a prohibited weapon’ and ‘possession of a precursor substance’; both of which remained in Melbourne Magistrate’s Court rather than proceeding to a higher court.
He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to just one month in prison and a fine of $5000.
We contrasted that case to a strikingly-similar incident earlier that year involving a 17-year-old Muslim boy who was allegedly found in possession of bomb-making guides and parts capable of making explosives. The boy was charged with ‘other acts done in preparation for, or planning, terrorist acts’ under section 101.6 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code, also known as ‘preparing for a terrorist act’, which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
The boy’s case is still going through the Supreme Court of Victoria and he remains behind bars.
Using other examples, our blog highlighted the disparity between the treatment of ‘white, Caucasians’ versus ‘Muslims’ who are allegedly found in possession of material and/or items capable of assisting in the manufacture of bombs – the former often being charged by police with minor offences, and the latter almost invariably facing extremely serious ‘terrorism’ charges and kept behind bars for months or even years awaiting the finalisation of their cases.
Galea Charged with Terrorism
It seems Mr Galea’s lenient treatment by police and the courts may have failed to deter him.
On Saturday, police conducted simultaneous raids on four Melbourne properties, arresting and charging Galea with ‘collecting or making documents likely to facilitate a terrorist act’ and ‘preparing for a terrorist act’.
Counter-terrorism Command Assistant Commissioner Ross Guenther told the media:
“We were concerned across a period of time that we received information that the threat to members of the community was escalating”
“I’m happy to say we’ve interrupted something that was quite serious in terms of harm to our community”
“Earlier this year we received information that suggested there were individuals or an individual looking at either advocating the commission of harm against Victorian individuals or producing documents or materials that might lead to the causation of harm to members of the Victorian community”.
Mr Guenther refused to provide details of the alleged threat or the items seized.
Before his brief appearance in Melbourne Magistrate’s Court yesterday, Galea told the media:
“I will be fighting these charges and I believe they are a conspiracy against the patriot movement”
He was refused bail and will next appear in court tomorrow.