My client George. Busted for marijuana at Nimbin now labelled a terrorist by police and prosecutors. Welcome to the new legal system of predictive crimes.
George Dickson says he often feels bewildered.
“A lot of people have laughed when I have explained it to them,” he told 10 News First.
“They think it is crazy.”
Dickson, 43, from Black Forest in Adelaide, is under a NSW control order as a “high-risk terrorist offender.”
The order relates to threats Dickson says he didn’t make, and others that he says he didn’t mean. One of them, according to a prison report, was to “blow up Parliament House.” Another, to “set fire to each police station” in the country.
He has also sent letters and emails to politicians, the army and the South Australian police, warning of “lethal force” unless authorities called off their so-called ‘war on drugs’.
So who is this ‘high-risk terrorist’ called George?
Tall, powerfully built, with trim dreadlocks and a goatee beard, Dickson in an earlier age would have been seen as just another dope-smoking hippie.
Cannabis is his thing. He passionately believes it should be legalised.
Still, he largely avoided the attention of the law until May 2018, when he turned up at the Nimbin Mardi Grass, an annual cannabis festival in northern NSW.
Police arrested him for cannabis possession and then charged him with resisting that arrest. He was driven to Lismore police station and released a few hours later.
But by then it was late at night. Police refused Dickson’s request for a lift 30 kilometres back to his lodgings in Nimbin.
Left standing outside the police station, cold and frustrated, Dickson picked up a rock and smashed the windows of two parked police vehicles.
For the first time in his life, he was sentenced to jail.
At a group therapy session in prison, the co-ordinator made a report of his threats to “blow up Parliament.”
“I said we should fight back against Parliament,” Dickson told me outside court.
“One of the other gentlemen (prisoner) beside me said we should set fire to police stations. I laughed and agreed with him.”
Suddenly, he was no longer a low range offender with no history of initiating violence.
He was in the sights of our newly ramped up anti-terrorism laws.
Under those laws, Crown Prosecutor Mark Tedeschi QC argued in the NSW Supreme Court, “a threat to do a terrorist act is itself a terrorist act.”
“That quote (about blowing up Parliament) has been quite a burden,” Dickson said.
It has been quite an issue.
For three months, Dickson has been placed under terrorism control orders that determine every aspect of his life.
He is required to live in a homeless shelter in Yennora in Sydney, a city where he has never spent much time. He wears a monitoring device on his ankle and every move is watched.
“Every Tuesday they come to me and ask what do I want to do for the next week, where I want to go, what time,” he said.
If his plans are approved, he must follow an exact map. If he meets anyone socially, he has to report their name, date of birth and address to Community Corrections.
“The guy who makes my coffee doesn’t count,” he said.
He was refused permission to see his dying father or attend his funeral in Adelaide. Nor could he visit his ageing mother.
He was back in court on Friday trying to fight the Crown’s move to extend his interim control orders into the distant future.
The Crown case is that Dickson remains an unacceptable risk of committing violence or inciting others to commit violence.
Forensic psychiatrist Dr Anthony Samuels gave evidence he believes Dickson “might damage a public building or a car or abuse a policeman (but) I don’t think he wants to kill people or cause major harm.”
I have never done violence and I have no intention ever to do it.
If he gets the court’s permission, he said hopes to continue to campaign for cannabis law reform and to lobby politicians.
He said he didn’t think his previous letters and emails amounted to “threatening to kill people”, but in future, he said he will play it safe.
“I will certainly modify my language,” he said.
NSW Supreme Court Judge Mark Ierace will decide in the next ten days whether control orders will remain against Dickson, and if so, how severe or restrictive they should be.