Sep 20, 2011

National shows contempt for our democracy

The National Government acts not according to principle, but according to what is pragmatic and favourable for those with power. From

The government will introduce legislation suspending the effect of the Supreme Court Urewera judgement after legal advice rendered nearly all police video surveillance footage unlawful. 

Prime Minister John Key today revealed legal advice that almost all use of covert video surveillance by police had been rendered unlawful by the Supreme Court ruling - a decision with potentially significant implications for law and order in New Zealand.

"To give you an idea of the scale of the impact this has, ministers have received advice up to 40 current trials may be affected by this decision and over 50 police operations will be impacted. 

"We therefore have the immediate and pressing concern that police are currently left in a position where they are unable to investigate some serious criminal proceeding." 

Key confirmed that police had been forced to suspend all video surveillance, including major operations, because of the Supreme Court ruling. 

Cabinet had decided today to take legislation to Parliament temporarily suspending the effect of the decision and it intended to pass it next week under urgency. It was seeking cross-party support to do so.
It appears from the Prime Minister’s statement that the Police were employing unlawful investigation methods across numerous cases. Investigation methods that the Chief Justice described as “deliberately unlawful”.

If the Police were aware in the Urewera investigation, which occurred years ago, that they were employing illegal investigatory methods, yet continued to do so in the years following the completion of the Urewera investigation, then the Police must be held to account. The law should not be bent to accommodate law breakers (i.e. the Police), the law should be used against those who break it intentionally.  

Of course we are going to receive no such thing from this Government, in fact, we will receive the opposite. The Prime Minister has indicated his intention to enact retrospective legislation under urgency. This is a gross assault on the rule of law, but on par for a National Government.   

Retrospective legislation is often associated with despots and, in New Zealand, Tories. Laws should apply prospectively and never retrospectively. The enactment of retrospective legislation destroys certainty in the law and is absolutely arbitrary.

A fundamental tenant of the rule of law is freedom from arbitrariness i.e. freedom from the random enactment and application of laws. The government’s actions in this instance represent arbitrariness at its most bitter. It is worth noting that the Search and Surveillance Bill, which is currently before the House, will fix the so called problem that the Police face. Meaning the bill will legalise the currently illegal practises the Police are employing, but the government would rather arbitrariness and ram through new legislation as opposed to pushing the Search and Surveillance Bill up the order paper.    

The Police are not above the law. One of the most basic conceptions of the rule of law is that nobody is above the law. The Police must obey the law and when a transgression occurs the criminal justice system must be invoked against the offender. This applies as much to a law breaking constable as it does to me.

The Police actions in the Urewera investigation represented a blatant breach of our constitution, of which the rule of law is a cornerstone, and a blatant breach of human rights which, therefore, offends s8(d) of the Police Act 2008.

In reality, the Government can legislate how it wants. However, any decent government should carefully balance their right to enact laws against fundamental social and constitutional values. Government’s right to govern is often limited by what is basic and decent in our society as well as the Treaty of Waitangi and the principles of the Treaty, constitutional conventions and, quite importantly, the rule of law. In my opinion the government’s actions represent a form of double jeopardy and will undermine our confidence in democracy. The government’s legislation will validate the evidence the Police illegally obtained meaning charges can be brought against the former accused. This is, as I said, a form of double jeopardy and an affront to notions of democracy, justice and our egalitarian values. No doubt such legislation will violate a host of international laws as well as domestic law.

The government is also sending a big fuck you to the Courts. The government’s actions, or intentions I guess, in this instance illustrate how authoritarian this government is. This is the daddy state. A government that rules for those in power. As a Maori, I have no confidence in this government. They do not govern in my interests. This government undermines Maori confidence in our democracy. The sooner we turf these pig-headed losers out the better. 

See also: NRT, Imperator Fish, Political Dumpground, Robert Winter, Tumeke, The Dim Post and Gordon Campbell. But for the best analysis see this piece from Dean Kinight of Vic Law School and Andrew Geddis of Otago. 


  1. RSS feed is still running words together. . .

  2. Bugger, I wonder why that is. I'll try and fix it. Cheers.

  3. "The government’s legislation will validate the evidence the Police illegally obtained meaning charges can be brought against the former accused. This is, as I said, a form of double jeopardy..."

    Nope - for what it's worth, Key told the truth on this. Attorney General Chris Finlayson has released the Video Surveillance Bill and it specifically excludes any changes to the Urewera 18 ruling. Meaning the video evidence ruled inadmissible in that case can't be reused against the Urewera 18 defendants for other charges.

    Of course, the key clause of the Bill lets police use covert video surveillance anytime they get a search warrant, without any restrictions on the video collection or use... Wonder how long before cops are getting their jollies filming bedroom scenes? Deeply disturbing.

    Mad Marxist.



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