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New Zealand’s first ever sabotage conviction

On December 1st 2022, 62-year-old grandfather Graham Philip was sentenced to just over three years imprisonment for sabotage. He is the first person in New Zealand to be charged with sabotage, a charge originally intended for spies in World War 2.

Sabotage is defined in the Crimes Act 1961 as intent to “prejudice the safety, security, or defence of New Zealand” combined with action to damage property “necessary to keep intact for the safety or health of the public”.

Last November, Philip attacked Transpower infrastructure. If he had succeeded, electrical transmission between the South and North Islands would have been cut, resulting in significant power outages. He failed to stop the flow of power, but repairs to the damage he caused are expected to cost around $1.25 million dollars.

At his sentencing, lawyer Bill Nabney said Philip was remorseful and his actions were a result of deep frustration that the concerns of unvaccinated New Zealanders weren’t “taken seriously” by the Government or mainstream media.

Philip received a 30% sentence reduction for good character and his guilty plea.

State response

Every aspect of the case was initially suppressed creating a lot of attention and speculation among the anti-mandate movement that Philip was a political prisoner. 

Philip was held in maximum security at Spring Hill prison for seven months. Philip’s was denied bail at three hearings, and others were postponed or cancelled. A trial was set for May 2023. In May 2022 his charges were upgraded to sabotage and he pled not guilty.

His wife went public with his story in an interview with Counterspin Media. This led to a series of protests outside court. With supporters clearly displaying his name; the Court subsequently dropped his name suppression. Mainstream media then covered the story and Philip was moved to a normal remand facility, Waikeria Prison.

It was revealed the reason for the suppression was “concern from authorities that details of the charges could lead to ‘copy-cat’ offending”, and “by all accounts, the attack was very easy to undertake”.

Background to the case

During the first lockdown, Philip’s wife was made redundant as a result of the lockdown. Philip also decided the vaccine was dangerous, and became vocal on social media in opposing the Government’s COVID response. In 2021 he was visited by police at his home and fined for participating in a small lockdown protest. He was visited by police two more times, despite not being suspected of any crime.

When the vaccine mandate was instituted, Philip talked openly on social media about ways to cause disruption to the Government “if you found yourself a hunted non-citizen in a country owned by evil foreign powers”. He carried out his attack in late November, and on December 8th was arrested on seven charges of wilful damage.

At a High Court hearing in Rotorua on November 4 2022, Philip changed his plea to guilty, to the surprise of many of his supporters.

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