Second firearms overhaul announced


The Government has announced the impending second tranche of firearms legislation. The announcement was made following the second of several gun amnesty collection days to recover firearms that had been made illegal in the wake of the 15 March 2019 terrorist attacks.

When the Government announced its plans for dealing wit New Zealand’s arsenal of military grade automatic and semi-automatic weapons, it was intended to happen in two phases. The first, immediate phase, would quickly end the legality to own weapons such as the AR-15 which was used in the Christchurch terrorist attacks. This was the emergency legislation that was pushed through Parliament at speed in March and was enforceable by the end of the same month.

Because a lot of New Zealanders are unaware of Parliamentary process there was a perception that the Government intended to confiscate peoples firearms without whim or reason. This was despite the government being clear that it was intended to be a temporary stop gap measure whilst more comprehensive legislation was drafted. The perception, which was rumoured to have been enabled by American firearm lobbyists, was coldly met by politicians from both sides of Parliament with the exception of A.C.T. Member of Parliament David Seymour.

It would be followed by the much more comprehensive and permanent legislation that would set in law a tighter regime around the acquisition and ownership of such firearms. In the meantime there would be amnesty days up and down the country where people with firearms that had been banned could be surrendered to the Police at drop off points. The owners of the guns being surrendered would be given an indication as to how much they would receive in financial compensation for handing them over.

The Police acknowledge that there are many guns that they probably do not know about. An estimated 200,000 to 300,000 potentially illegal firearms are thought to be circulating within New Zealand.

The new laws will target those with criminal histories; people with mental health issues including those who might have tried to use a gun to kill themselves. Those who are espousing open violence against society or particular individuals or groups of individuals are also likely to be seen as a red flag to Police when issuing gun licences. A firearms register will be established by the Police, and the cost of maintaining the firearms licencing office will be better offset by changes in the cost of licencing. New offences and the matching penalties are also likely to be added.

This time there will be a select committee period lasting three months. There will be substantial time for firearm advocates and firearm safety advocates to get their messages into submissions and prepare for hearings in front of the Select Committee. This was, contrary to the honest beliefs of some, always intended to happen – there was never any intention to block the permanent tranche of legislation from public scrutiny.

Time to overhaul name suppression laws


Recent proceedings in courts have laid bare the issue of how up to date our name suppression laws are. From the foreign media violating name suppression orders around the suspected murderer of Grace Millane to Joanne Harrison who used name suppression to continue her offending, the circumstances might be different, but the risk of a miscarriage of justice increases dramatically when abused.

On one hand when dealing with cases where naming the offender risks harming the victim, such as father harms son/daughter, there is a good and obvious case for name suppression. On the other hand if one is dealing with a person who has a litany of serious crimes in the past and the judge has decided that somehow despite the past record, that person deserves name suppression, then there is a clear problem.

Let us look at a few examples. One of the most recent is Joanne Harrison, who has been sent to jail for large scale fraudulent use of taxpayer dollars. A recidivist offender, whilst under name suppression, Mrs Harrison went on to commit even bigger crimes, taking advantage of the fact that no one knew of her or her history. Now we are only just becoming aware of the scale of Mrs Harrison’s offending and the impact that it would have had because another judge has finally decided that the offending is too grave for the public to not know about.

Just before Christmas last year, an English woman on a working visa to New Zealand went missing just after arriving in Auckland. A few days later she was found dead in the Waitakere Ranges. It was a homicide. Not long after that the Police arrested someone on suspicion of murdering Grace Millane. Then something illogical happened: the Judge imposed name suppression on New Zealand media, but the media from other countries, namely Britain ignored it and so did social media. Within a short period of time the whole internet knew who had been arrested. This drew criticism from the Minister of Justice Andrew Little and the New Zealand Bar Association.

But here is the problem. He is only SUSPECTED of murdering Ms Millane. Yet by the weight of public opinion he was tried, convicted and sentenced by the public on social media on the same day he appeared in court to enter his plea and apply for name suppression. The trial is not due to start until 04 November 2019. We now run the risk that this person will never get a fair trial because the public are already convinced beyond reasonable doubt he did it.

If we approach the problem from another angle, sometimes the Judge is confronted with a highly affluent figure who has spent considerable money on hiring a good lawyer. Despite the severity of the charges the affluent figure might get their name suppression simply because the lawyer knows enough about the legal ins and outs to find a way of justifying name suppression and does so. Here this can become a major problem, because let us suppose for example it involves a large sum of money that they were responsible for the appropriate use of, it disappears and later on turns up in private accounts. The defendant shows little understanding or remorse for what they did and only appears regretful that s/he was caught in the first place. The defendant continues to pose a risk that the public is not aware of because money was able to buy name suppression.

I am thus not of the opinion that name suppression laws should be completely dumped, but I think there is a strong case for radically overhauling how we apply them. Perhaps all media entering a court room should sign an agreement stipulating that whilst covering the proceedings they agree they are subject to New Zealand laws including judge rulings on the case

In the case of Grace Millane if there comes a point where the judge is convinced the prospects of a fair trial are wrecked, no one gets justice. Not Grace. Not the defendant. Nor her family. No one.

And that is not okay.

 

Attitude change to Police pursuits needed


On Saturday 3 people were killed when the car they were in ran over Police spikes, crashed into a tree and went up in a ball of flames. They were in a car that was the subject of an abandoned Police chase when it went over spikes that punctured the tyres, causing immediate and catastrophic loss of control. As families of the dead prepare to mourn the loss of their loved ones, it is time to have a look at why so many people are making the really silly mistake of running from the Police.

A Police chase starts because it is an offence to evade law enforcement. If the Police see someone has noticed their presence and is trying to evade, it is an offence to harbour or otherwise assist them in their evasion.

Despite this there is a long and sad litany of people who have or killed/injured others as a result of running away from Police chases.

  1. A pregnant woman and fleeing driver are killed in a two car collision.
  2. A vehicle in Lower Hutt flees the Police, flips, injuring 3
  3. An underage driver and passenger killed in a crash fleeing Police

I personally believe that the ability to stop a chase from happening before it starts lies solely in the hands of the person that the Police want to talk to. Simply stopping for the Police will save lives, money, and resources.

However that attitude change is not going to happen unless there is an effective deterrent. It needs to be something that is grave enough to make someone contemplating a pursuit think twice, such as a week or a month in jail for simply evading arrest. Few, if any will want an instant jail rap on their criminal record. The potential impact it would have on ones employment prospects and ability to obtain things like a passport or go overseas because they had committed an offence for which they would receive a jail sentence, is something the sentencing judge should consider remarking on – crime has consequences and often the longer term aspects such as loss of certain liberties could be better highlighted.

For their part though, Police might want to look at the case of Queensland, Australia where officers are only permitted to chase if there is an immediate danger to life or have good reason to believe a serious crime has just been committed. The same applies in the state of Victoria. In South Australia incident controllers can terminate a chase at any time. That said, a lot of chases in New Zealand only last a couple of minutes or even seconds, because Police see that the danger of continuing the pursuit is too hazardous and stop.

But it is all too late for three boys aged 13, 13 and 16 who are now dead, and devastated families wondering how it came to this.

Sroubek must go now, Jacinda


Dear Prime Minister

Re: Karel Sroubek

I am writing this to you regarding the activities of Czech national Karel Sroubek.

You are as well aware as I am that lying to border officials or any officials for that matter is a serious offence. Mr Karel Sroubek would have been aware of it himself when he approached New Zealand border officials for the first time back in 2003 that he must be honest with the authorities.

As we have now seen that was not the case. Mr Sroubek has conducted himself in a way that opens valid questions about his intentions. He claimed to be getting away from corrupt Czech authorities and that his life would be in danger were he to go back. He arrived on a false passport under the name Jan Antolik and was granted residency in 2008. He built a new life as a kick boxer, a gang associate – something that would immediately generate police interest – and as a businessman importing drink.

Yet Mr Sroubek continued to commit offences. He was caught importing 5kg of MDMA, which is used to make ecstasy and sentenced to 5 years and 9 months. A Parole Board hearing in October declined him release from prison, saying his story was long winded and manifestly untruthful.

Now, I have no idea what you heard or when you heard it. I am trusting that you have been and will continue to be totally honest about Mr Sroubek and the allegations surrounding him. I am trusting that Mr Lees-Galloway was totally truthful in his conduct as the Minister responsible in this matter so far and that he, like you, will continue to be totally honest about what has happened and is going to happen. New Zealanders have been quite clear that they are not impressed with this case. As Prime Minister you told New Zealanders to read between the lines. They did and found that they have doubts about the whole case.

Mr Lees-Galloway sent Mr Sroubek a letter stating the conditions of his and warned Mr Sroubek. The warning was that should evidence of activities contrary to what the Minister had been told come to light, his residency would be void and he would be potentially eligible for deportation again.

I accept that when people leave countries where they allege persecution one has to consider the severity of the danger they are in. I accept that hasty departures in such situations mean one might not have had time to get their immigration documentation in order.

But as a New Zealand citizen, tax payer and law abiding person I want to be very clear with you and your Government, including Mr Lees-Galloway now. Mr Sroubek had had multiple chances to come clean about his activities and history in past brushes with immigration authorities. Mr Lees-Galloway gave Mr Sroubek a final chance to comeĀ  clean. He has failed to do so.

Mr Sroubek has had his chances. He lied multiple times. He has committed crimes serious enough to give him significant jail time and the Parole Board in October declined his release How and why would New Zealanders, the authorities or the Government of New Zealand want to trust him now?

Deport him. That is all.

I thank you for your co-operation on this matter.

 

Inconvenient facts undermine all sides in Karel Sroubek case


An array of facts have come to light that could be considered politically inconvenient to all sides in the case of Karel Sroubek, a Czech national who has been convicted of drug smuggling, and quite bizarrely allowed to remain in New Zealand as resident. The revelation that new information has come to light on the case, has caused the Minister for Immigration, Iain Lees-Galloway to immediately review the case.

National Party leader Simon Bridges says that Mr Lees-Galloway should quit his Ministerial portfolio’s as he has shown himself to be unfit to make an appropriate decision.

Mr Bridges omits to acknowledge that one of Mr Lees-Galloway’s predecessors, Dr Jonathan Coleman, former National Party M.P., and one time Minister of Immigration in 2011 permitted Mr Sroubek to enter New Zealand then. Dr Coleman most probably knew of his circumstances,

Mr Sroubek claims that the Czech police attitude to him endangers his safety and that corruption in the Czech police force meant it is more appropriate to flee to a foreign jurisdiction (New Zealand). He did this on a false passport. He then got convicted for importing $375,000 worth of MDMA which is used to make Ecstasy. Mr Sroubek also has had several brushes with New Zealand Police. All of this he has admitted.

However Mr Lees-Galloway told Parliament this afternoon that more information has come to light which he is reviewing with urgency.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told people to read between the lines on Mr Sroubek’s case.

The people did read between the lines and the overwhelming majority think a big mistake was made trusting the story Mr Sroubek offered. Other than Mr Lees-Galloway and his colleagues including Ms Ardern, I have yet to see anyone write in defence of Mr Sroubek.

Mr Lees-Galloway, tried to be honest with Parliament by immediately informing it of new information this afternoon. In doing so, he was trying to repair some of the damage tha would have been caused when this all went public several days ago.

Except that the new information – should it further implicate Mr Sroubek – will in the minds of New Zealanders make Mr Lees-Galloway’s decision making look like the shambles it has been. How could they have confidence in him after that?

Let us admit this much now. No one at this rate is going to come out of it squeaky clean, especially given that ever since Mr Lees-Galloway told New Zealand that he was approving residency for this convicted criminal, the public reaction has been overwhelmingly hostile for very obvious reasons. Mr Sroubek would have an almost impossible task finding work, establishing himself as a reputable person and his nature suggests that more brushes with the blue arm of the law in New Zealand are a certainty.

New Zealand should save itself from a potentially messy and very costly situation now by ending Mr Sroubek’s residency and deporting him forthwith. There is no other way this can end appropriately.