The way the Government Communications Security Bureau had been exposed in the Kim Dotcom case has changed the way the attack on the Waihopai spy base should be seen, the Court of Appeal has been told.
The spy bureau is the government department behind the attempt to extract more than $1 million from the three peace protesters who were acquitted on grounds of "claim of right" on charges of burglary and intentional damage.
Adrian James Leason, Peter Reginald Leo Murnane, and Samuel Peter Frederick Land, had entered the GCSB base at Waihopai Valley, Marlborough, on April 30, 2008, and damaged the inflated covers for two large antennae used to intercept satellite communications.
Despite the three being acquitted on the criminal charges the GCSB, through the attorney-general, sued the protesters in the civil court. A High Court associate judge decided they had no arguable defence to the claim for an as yet undecided cost of the damage.
The three have an appeal against that finding being heard in the Court of Appeal today.
Leason's lawyer, Michael Knowles, said the GCSB should have to prove their case properly.
The conduct and activity of the GCSB had come before the nation in the Dotcom proceedings and it would be most dangerous to shut the door on the three men. The GCSB spied illegally on the internet millionaire, Dotcom, as part of the internet piracy case American authorities have mounted against him.
There would be no justice if one standard was applied to the three protesters and another to the GCSB, Knowles said.
The three were accused of being vigilantes but they were acting against vigilantes.
Their case was that the spy base was supplying information to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and their actions were needed to defend the lives of others.
They had produced evidence that the Waihopai Base was used to support the vigilante conduct of the United States and United Kingdom, Knowles said.
Today's appeal hearing began at 9.30am with just one member of the public in the gallery but just before 10am a large group arrived.
Six extra seats were brought into the normally 28-seat court.
Knowles said the three were asking for the opportunity to present their defence to the claim at a full and fair trial of the issues. He said they acted in defence of others and, as an alternative that their actions were necessary.
Five years after the event, after a full criminal trial, it had yet to be established that they had committed any unlawful act, Knowles said.
The appeal hearing is continuing.