New Zealand Police should not be armed


On 15 March 2019 a gunman shot dead 51 people in two Mosque around Christchurch. The terrorist attack that day was meant to inflame tensions between Muslims and the rest of New Zealand and encourage a war against a minority religion. In response, armed Police stood guard outside the two Mosques, a sight meant to show how serious Police were about making sure there would not be another attack.

However, ever since that horrible day in our history, many New Zealanders have been concerned about the direction New Zealand has taken on how the Police use firearms. The casual creeping trend towards regularly armed cops being present on patrol is just one instance in how Police are more overtly showing their firearms. Another is the formation of the tactical group that was announced before Christmas, and which has already been seen controversy after helping with a raid in Christchurch.

There are several very good reasons why I hope I never see New Zealand police officers routinely wear fire arms:

  1. The New Zealand police are trained differently and are taught to understand that the fire arm is the weapon of last resort. Because it is purpose built for delivering a potentially lethal injury, the threshhold for using a gun are correspondingly higher than that for using a taser, or lesser device such as a baton or pepper spray. I hope it stays that way.
  2. There is a certain degree of risk to the credibility of authorities when they play the fear card. New Zealand is a nation that does not like to be ruled by fear. If New Zealanders think authorities are purposefully playing on fear, the authorities will lose respect and any measures seen as punitive will become the target of ridicule. By giving authorities the means to use lethal force, the red line in the sand between credible fear and scare mongering comes a giant step closer to merging.
  3. The gun culture in America makes things much more dangerous than it does in New Zealand. Because the Second Amendment explicitly permits Americans to use firearms for self defence, and because the National Rifle Association holds significant clout with conservatives who often complain about Americans having their gun rights eroded, it is a highly politicized issue which can cause politicians to tread unnecessarily warily around. We do not have that antagonism here and there is no reason to start now.
  4. There is a degree of moral integrity at stake when a police officer shoots someone – for arguments sake – fatally. Because if that person was not armed, or in possession of something less lethal than a fire arm, unless the officer had expended the non-lethal options at their disposal and had failed to subdue the suspect, that officer has potentially committed manslaughter (giving the officer the benefit of the doubt that they did not intend to kill). How can one ascertain the suitability of an officer to possess firearms?
  5. The Police Complaints Authority and the system of accountability it uses to ensure that complaints against the New Zealand Police can be assessed have been found wanting with current cases. One where a formal complaint is laid for the accidental shooting of a homeless man high on methamphetamine could expose it and New Zealands reputation as a safe place with a reliable police force at risk. We cannot afford that.

However, a person high on drugs cannot be reasoned with, at least not safely. Their reactions, their understanding of their immediate physical circumstances and their location is likely to be affected. An officer who approaches a person in such a state is right to be wary.

Despite the concerns that New Zealand police may become like their American counterparts, I think the public scrutiny on the police force and their reactivity to that scrutiny is a good thing. The certainty that individual shootings are automatically referred to the Police Conduct Authority means officers have good reason to be careful about the use of force.

National Party ignoring causes of gangs existence


According to National leader Simon Bridges we have a gang problem that he is vowing to crack down hard on. Fuelled by the recent violence in Tauranga where police have been fired at by people not stopping for a check point; by a double shooting; by shooting events witnessed by children, Mr Bridges has vowed to take action against gangs following these events. But as we shall see, the National party have a major flaw in their approach.

“Get tough on crime” is a common policy plank for conservative parties. It is applauded by the members and supporters of those parties because of the belief that it sends a signal to criminal elements, organized and individuals alike, that society will not tolerate gang behaviour. And we certainly should not. Gangs are intimidating with their presence. Their lifestyle is one of violence, crime, drugs and other legally and/or socially improper activities. To join a gang one has to do certain things – the patches earned by individual members are not simply awarded to anyone who wants to join.

But at this point I believe that I and a lot of other New Zealanders diverge from the path that National wants to take us down. And the reason for that is as simple as it is fundamental:

National are ignoring the causes of the gangs existence in the first place.

Why do gangs exist? This is a simple question, and a fundamentally important one, but the answer is not so simple. Many of the people in gangs come from broken homes. They never had role models in their lives, and education was not a priority. Love was non-existent. The phrase “learn right from wrong” was unheard of. At an early age they might have been involved with drugs and the illicit side activities that go with this.

But the broken homes that these people came from are not exclusively broken in the sense of nobody cares/bad parents. Some of them come from families where the parents are at work for long periods of time, left school early either because of costs or lack of support. Simple things like ensuring children get breakfast in the morning and have lunch to eat at school goes a surprisingly long way towards reducing disruption and making them want to stay in the education system.

Teenagers who make up a number of younger recruits are a vulnerable bunch when it comes to peer pressure. A teen might have mates who have connections and be wanting that teen to join them. At an early age they might already be getting exposed to weed, pornography, alcohol and other illegal or adult material.

I want to be clear that this is absolutely not attempting to say we should go kindly on gangs. It is not. I am saying that in order to understand why gangs are doing what they are doing, we must first understand the why. Why do gangs exist in New Zealand? Until that gets answered and addressed, you can forget about adequately tackling the gangs, their activities and dissuading those who might be tempted to join, from doing so.

 

Just deport Karel Sroubek and be done with it


Karel Sroubek, who tried to import MDMA ecstasy powder, and was found guilty of misusing passports to come to New Zealand has been denied parole by the Parole Board for the third time. Mr Sroubek, who arrived in New Zealand after fleeing the Czech Republic on a friends passport, has a long record of criminal activity, including associations with gangs in New Zealand and the Czech underworld. His third application for parole was met with “see you in November”, when the next hearing will be scheduled.

As far as I am concerned Mr Sroubek has no place in New Zealand. The combination of his long record of criminal activity both in New Zealand and in the Czech Republic in my estimate more than qualifies him for deportation. The botched review of his case by the Minister of Immigration, Iain Lees-Galloway and his decision to grant a convicted criminal with existing links to New Zealand and Czech criminals, residency, undermines the value of being able to stay in New Zealand indefinitely. The subsequent decision to remove any prospect of removal points to a Minister failing to accurately assess and understand the gravity of Mr Sroubek’s past.

People with knowledge of Mr Sroubek’s case and his time in the New Zealand prison system say that he has been an excellent inmate and that he has been keeping himself occupied with yoga classes. He has been encouraged to employ one of the prison psychologists available, and has said he will, but not in prison. However, when he was asked about residences he could stay at upon release from prison one is that of a person on parole themselves and another is that of a person with strong gang connections.

Over the years other prospective residents have been deported from New Zealand for much less than the crimes Mr Sroubek has committed. Several of them had contributed far more to the country than Mr Sroubek has, and due to unfortunate circumstances such as visa difficulties, ill family members and so forth, were deported. I fail to see what makes Mr Sroubek so important that he must stay here, especially considering the gravity of his criminal record, the lies that have gone with it and the probability of reoffending. Just deport him and be done with it.

 

 

New Zealand’s $1.4 billion money laundering problem


New Zealand has long been viewed as a soft spot for money laundering, high end fraud, among other crimes. Across the last few years numerous examples of money laundering activity in New Zealand or linked to New Zealand businesses have appeared

  • In 2016 an expert said that New Zealand banks were missing large numbers of suspicious monetary transactions
  • Also in 2016 the so called Panama papers showed how a steady flow of foreign cash into New Zealand became a flood as its holders sought to avoid it being taxed in the proper jurisdictions
  • The same year John Shewan’s report found 12,000 foreign trusts existed in New Zealand – a number that plummeted to 3,000 within a year suggesting many were used for money laundering or other improper monetary purposes
  • In August 2019 $9 million was seized in an anti-money laundering sting in Auckland
  • Just a few days ago the Chief Executive Officer of Westpac resigned after allegations that Westpac failed to pick up 23 million individual breaches including payments to Philippine based child exploiters

Now it has emerged that New Zealand has a N.Z.$1.4 billion money laundering problem. This estimate does not include the domestic cheats who do not pay due taxes to Inland Revenue Department. Globally it is part of what the International Monetary Fund believes to be a $6.5 trillion problem.

New Zealand needs to crack down hard on money laundering. As the resignation of Mr Hartzer shows, money laundering can be linked to some extremely dark criminal activities including child exploitation. A significant part of the crack down would need to ensure a long term budget increase for the police unit investigating financial crime. There would also need to be a revisit of the amendments made to the Anti Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act 2009.

The Government seems to be rising to the challenge. It has made changes that took effect in January for real estate agents. In August changes for the racing industry and businesses with high value products regarding the need to comply with the A.M.L.C.F.T. Act took effect. In 2018 the obligations for businesses providing trust services, lawyers, conveyances and accountants were changed.

But there is more that can be done. I believe that tightening the sentencing regime for those convicted of money laundering, conspiracy to participate in money laundering and providing support for those involved in it can be tightened up. Whereas many of the people who commit offences against the human body are disturbed, come from messed up backgrounds or may simply not have had a loving family to show them right from wrong, organized crime is quite different. The victims of money laundering – although individual victims certainly exist – are whole communities, businesses and in the worst cases the reputation of entire nations.

Whereas the impacts of rape, murder and so forth – certainly not trying to put any of these crimes down in terms of their gravity – on the individual, the family and their lives are well documented, how well do people know about the absolute worst of white collar crime? How well do we know what we as a society, as a nation and as a people are missing out on by not tackling money laundering and the people who engage in this kind of activity?

I fear the answer is not very well at all.

Sorry Grace


Dear Grace Millane

This is a horrible article to write. It is horrible by virtue of the circumstances leading to it, which should have never happened.

So, your killer has been convicted by a jury that took 5 hours to reach a verdict. I can only admire their stamina going through that and am not surprised that they have been stood down from jury duty for the next 7 years. They would have seen some horrible evidence of a cowardly brutal murder committed by a person who it appears was a prolific liar.

I can only admire the police that handled the case, who would have had the god awful task of telling your family that they had lost their daughter in what should have been a fantastic once in a life time trip. What an awful job to have to do.

I am sorry Grace. I am sorry that my country was where you took your last breath in what would have been absolutely horrendous circumstances. You should have been safe here. You should have been able to enjoy all that Aotearoa had to offer and you appeared to be having a magnificent time doing exactly that. You met a man who you thought you could have some intimacy with and who appeared to be getting on well with. You should have been able to leave that room and enjoy your 22nd birthday and the hopefully many more that would have followed.

I can only hope as do my fellow New Zealanders that your killer gets the due sentence. I hope that the New Zealand justice system gives your parents a sense of closure on what without doubt would have been the most shocking, horrible experience they and the rest of the Millane family should never have had. It will never bring you back from the dead. It will never make your parents, and siblings lives what they would have been with their vivacious daughter, sister around to cause hilarity, mischief and rain down love.

I am sorry that you will never get to live the full and happy life you so richly deserved to, because of one man’s cowardly act.

Sorry Grace. Except in the eyes of your killer, it really honestly was not meant to be like this. You were meant to be able to go home or continue to travel after finishing in New Zealand happy with what you accomplished, full of awesome memories of the places you went, things you did and the people you met.

You were meant to be able to find a job, a place to live, someone who genuinely loves you and be able to love back. You were meant to be able to be so much more than this, a horrible part of the New Zealand homicide statistics for 2018. The only stat you really should have been was another visitor to these shore who had a great time and went away happy and content.

But because of this cowardly act, you are not.

I am sorry Grace.

Fly with the angels.