Apr 3, 2011

Justice denied

As you probably know the Court of Appeal has affirmed the findings of the High Court concerning the so called Urewera 18. 15 of the accused have been denied a jury trial. This, in my opinion, can be politely termed a judicial atrocity.

Both the High Court and the Court of Appeal have suppressed their reasoning, no doubt in an attempt to deflect criticism. It is absolutely unconscionable that the Court can to decide to deny a fundamental democratic right without offering the public any justification.

One of the primary functions of a jury is to act as a safeguard against the arbitrary exercise of government power. Given that the Urewera 18 were the victims of arbitrary government in the first instance the Court should, in theory, act as a check against that arbitrary power. However, in reality the Court has, and I do not make this accusation lightly, colluded with the executive (the Police) in ensuring that the government comes out of this process having saved face.

This case, right from the original terror raids in 2007, has been a source of considerable embarrassment for the Police. It gradually became apparent that the Police acted on a fragile and misconstrued basis. Those arrested ranged from small-time rural crack-pots to people who call for the protection of snails to pohara Maori-rights activists. The Solicitor-General slapped down the possibility of charges under the Terrorism Suppression Act and the media revealed just how wild the basis for action was. The Police allowed their childish imagination to cloud their objective reasoning. The majority of the accused now face firearms charges as opposed to anything ‘terror” related.

I’ll conclude this post with a quote from I/S over at No Right Turn (he puts it far better than I could):

The blunt fact is that without a jury, there can be no public confidence in the outcome of a trial such as this. Only with the bullshit detector of 12 random people scrutinising the case can the rest of us believe that justice was done. But I guess a fair process we can have confidence in is just too risky for the police.

UPDATE: For the two best pieces of analysis see this posting from Pablo at Kiwipolitico and this piece from Fran O'Sullivan.

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