Stand with Christchurch

Yesterday, Friday 15 March 2019, white supremacists committed acts of terrorism against multiple Mosques in Christchurch where people were peacefully going about their prayers. In the ensuing attacks, 49 people were murdered. Improvised explosive devices were found by Police near the scene of at least one attack.

This is NOT what Christchurch stands for. This is NOT what New Zealand stands for. We are horrified beyond belief that such utter cowardice could be perpetrated against people carrying out totally legitimate activities.

Because of that, Will New Zealand Be Right will not publish until Sunday 17 March 2019. Stay safe. Reach out to any any friends you have in ethnic communities. Give thanks to the Police for the magnificent job they are doing bringing these people to justice.


New Zealand Police not arming themselves

On Tuesday last week a man was shot in Richmond, Christchurch. The shooting happened after he fired a shot gun at police officers pursuing him whilst in a stolen vehicle. The vehicle had run over road spikes laid by the police to stop the vehicle whilst on Breezes Road, but it continued to be driven until it reached Evelyn Cousins Place.

Following the shooting, Canterbury Police armed their officers until the second man was found and taken into custody, on Monday. Despite the short duration of them being armed it was not part of a larger move and New Zealand Police stated that one of the great joys in New Zealand is not having to have officers armed, and that this is the way they would like to keep it.

This is understandable. Arming the constabulary raises tensions with the population and lessens the trust that is needed between communities and their lawn enforcement. There are also good reasons, based on overseas experience about why we should desist arming the police. So far in 2019, 162 people have been shot dead by police in the United States.

162 people – given the proliferation of guns in the United States and the fact that their population is about 65 times larger than New Zealand’s, maybe that should not be hugely surprising. However as we shall see there are several factors that need to be considered

When I look at police shootings here, I am grateful for the training New Zealand police receive. 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.
  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 around fire arms 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 Zealand’s reputation as a safe place with a reliable police force at risk. We cannot afford that.

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. However, a person high on drugs cannot be reasoned with, at least not safely. At that point force is necessary.

But in the Christchurch case, the offender reached for a gun and discharged it several times leaving the police with no choice but to use potentially deadly force.

Minister of Justice admits N.Z.’s justice system is broken

This is a startling admission to make at any international forum, but to say so at the Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights, which happens every five years in Geneva, is something else altogether.

It is an important admission too, as those who have been short changed by its unwieldy ways will attest. Whether one is a victim of violent assault whose attacker get an unacceptably light sentence or was released on parole early; whether one is a victim of serious fraud and watched the people who took thousands of your dollars, which you will never see again, this is a vital first step in the long road rebuilding the justice system.

Sometimes it is the Police who mess up and fail to take a rape case seriously and the alleged attacker goes on to attack others. Sometimes it is Corrections determining that a previously violent offender is allowed out on parole and within a matter of days has committed new offences. Sometimes it is the Courts handing down a wet bus ticket instead of an actual sentence.

No matter who failed in their duties, the results are the same: a gnawing sense of injustice stoked by the knowledge it was totally avoidable.

National Party Justice spokesperson Mark Mitchell is of a frame of mind that does not understand the importance of speaking for all peoples as Mr Little did when he mentioned various minority groups. He might have gone too far in suggesting that the effects of colonialism are still impacting on our society, as at least Treaty grievances have the benefit of there being a path to remediation, which is something not necessarily available for other ills.

New Zealand’s justice system must work for all New Zealanders – irrespective of age or skin colour, wealth or whether or not they have just become a citizen or have been one their whole lives. It must be built on the principles of a fair and unbiased trial or appropriate hearing. It must not permit guilt unless beyond reasonable doubt; detention in jail longer than it is necessary to determine whether charges will be laid or not.

Do pieces of Act of Parliament such as the David Garrett “Three strikes” legislation work? I am not sure of the answer to that, but it seems patently ridiculous to me for someone to commit say two assaults, do time for them and then get 25 years for stealing a car. It is not that I condone stealing cars – I do not condone any improper or illegal interference with other people’s bodies or property – but to get 25 years for such an offence simply because a clause in legislation was triggered, and not on the merits of the offence harms the offender unnecessarily.

Is there a risk of interference by people in order to pervert the natural course of justice so that a person or interest of theirs may be given a more lenient sentence, or no sentence at all? Quite possibly. No doubt politicians and figures of influence such as the C.E.O.’s of large companies have attempted this, and will try to do so again in the future.

Can the watch dogs – the Privacy, Human Rights Commissioners and so forth – do their jobs without political interference? One would hope so, though former Prime Minister John Key rounded on the Human Rights Commissioner because it criticized provisions in legislation regarding the form and function of the Government Communications Security Bureau in a statutory report. He suggested that it would do well to learn to make submissions like everyone else wanting to be involved in the democratic process.

At the end of the day, this is just the beginning. The Government must now look at how it is going to address the admissions made by Mr Little and regain public confidence in the justice system.


The need to respect due process in New Zealand courts

In the nearly one week that has passed since the murder of Grace Millane, there has been an understandably big out pouring of grief. Her murder shocked people.

Understandably there are a lot of people angry about the murder of Grace Millane. People want Grace’s alleged murderer brought to justice and everyone has their own opinion – which they are perfectly entitled to – about what fate Ms Millane’s murderer, whoever it might be, should suffer.

BUT many of these people also want his name suppression wiped. Many of them think that the judge made a bad mistake. I have reservations myself, but they are countered by the fact that the accused has as much a right to a fair trial as the victim has to justice. So people are now resorting to Google searches to find out his name. 50,000 New Zealanders have done it.

These potentially violate New Zealand criminal law. They potentially threaten to derail the trial before it even starts. But I wonder how many of these people doing this will accept that and desist.

Except that it is not just New Zealanders doing it. Google is accused of having aided the violations by allowing the prominent placing of articles in its search engine hits telling us who *allegedly* did it. So too are British newspapers including The Daily Mail.

There are people calling for the death penalty – separate subject – as if the accused has already been convicted, when in actual fact a plea has yet to be entered and will not be until 23 January 2019 at the earliest. On this day the accused will reappear before the court. They seem to forget that a trial has yet to be set down, much less held. We do not know if the alleged murder is even the alleged murder. Right now he is – for all we know – innocent.

Being Judge, Jury and Executioner before a plea has even been entered is premature, prejudicial and along with the violations of the suppression orders, potentially threatens the whole trial. One cannot have justice for the victim if the trial is aborted due to interference or the absence of the conditions necessary for it to be fair and impartial.

I want to see justice for Ms Millane and her family and best friends whose lives at the moment I imagine have been turned up side down and there is no way to undo it. However this does not come at the expense of needing to follow “due process”, a term whose use when I write it in a comment has caused much anger and negativity. Due process is the act of carrying out the necessary procedures to ensure a fair and impartial trial that is not hijacked by individuals or interests in the name of vigilante justice.

So, my message is simple as it is blunt. Hold your horses and put away the knives. You do not know yet who did it and I bet you would not want to be found to have judged an innocent man otherwise.

People jumping to conclusions on Grace Millane – Give due process a chance

On 01 December 2018 a 22 year old English tourist named Grace Millane disappeared in Auckland. For a few days hope was held that Miss Millane might be found alive and that she had simply got lost or gone walkabout. These hopes were dashed on 07 December when the New Zealand Police announced that they were looking for a person of interest. Several hours later, they announced that this person was under arrest. Then yesterday, the worst fears were confirmed: the case had been upgraded to a homicide inquiry and the suspect was charged with her murder.

Right from the start on social media, especially on Facebook people hoped and prayed for her safe return which is completely understandable. When it was announced that the suspect had been charged with murder, the hopes and prayers not surprisingly turned to anger. People have every right to be horrified and angry that it happened in New Zealand, a country thought to be safe for people to visit. They have every right to want want justice for Grace Millane.

But the number of people who are trying to be the judge, the jury and the executioner before the accused is even brought to court is quite serious. The number of people who think the accused is guilty before any plea has been entered tells me that many don’t care about due process and I wonder if they even know what it is?

I have been criticized by many on Facebook for insisting on due process, but I make no apologies. I want justice done, but it is not going to be done by social media. It needs to happen under a court of law before a judge and – if this goes to trial – a jury.

So, let us look at what sections of the relevant legislation deal with due process in a legal setting.

A person detained or arrested by the Police or other arresting authority has rights under Sections 23-25 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, 1990. Section 23 rights deal with the period immediately after being arrested. Section 24 deals with those who have been charged with an offence – this is where I think the Police are probably at with the suspect in the case of Miss Millane. Section 25 deals with the rights of someone being sent to trial.

As for the victim of a crime, their rights are set down in the Victims Code. The victims code is covered under the Victims Rights Act 2002. I assume that New Zealand Police are applying this to Miss Millane’s family who must be going through the most harrowing moments of their lives at the moment, sick to death at the thought that their daughter is gone.

But due process exists for good reasons and are a mark of a functional justice system in any first world country. That includes New Zealand.

So, let us put this suspect to trial. Let us find out what happened, whether he had accomplices who assisted and whether any evidence has been destroyed in an attempt to pervert justice. Let us find out about Miss Millane’s final hours, and why – just assuming for a moment it was him – he was driven to murder a tourist on holiday in New Zealand.

But above all, let us give due process a chance to run its course, because if it turns out there were other people involved, then the blame is not totally on the accused. If there were other significant circumstances involved we need to know about them. Let us do this properly so that two things happen:

  1. The perpetrator or perpetrators are tried, sentenced appropriately
  2. Miss Millane’s family get the justice that they totally deserve

Neither can happen if due process is not followed.