Government ignores High Court, won't change prisoner voting law

The Government has now given its answer - "The Government has no current plans to introduce legislation allowing prisoners to vote."

When the Government passed the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Bill in 2010 it chose to ignore the submissions from civil society groups, it chose to ignore the Attorney-General, and it chose to ignore the NZ Bill of Rights Act. It also ignored the landmark case in the European Court of Human Rights case where a similar ban on prisoner voting was found to be against the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Government has now chosen to also ignore the High Court of New Zealand and its declaration that the law is inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

Chairperson's Report 2015

I was elected as the chairperson of the NZ Council for Civil Liberties at last year’s AGM. At the time I wrote about how and why civil liberties matter to me. Ultimately I, “…believe that a freedom and rights-based democracy is the best way to build a society that gives everyone the chance to be the best they can be.”

But when I look at the events of the past year, I fear that we’re going backwards.

Submission: Child Protection [Child Sex Offender Register] Bill

INTRODUCTION

The New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties Inc [NZCCL] welcomes the opportunity to present a submission on this Bill, and I make this submission on behalf of the Council.

This Bill contains a proposal which is designed to reduce the risk of serious harm to children from known child sex offenders living in the community.  This is to be given effect to by the creation of a child sex offender register.

The Regulatory Impact Statement acknowledges that there is limited research evidence available from other jurisdictions about the effectiveness of such registers.  Accordingly no estimate of the value of the anticipated benefits has been possible.   It seems clear that this is virtually a “blue skies” approach, and one might be excused for thinking that, without the provision of substantial additional assistance for those whose names will appear on the register, the proposal is directed towards significant further restrictions on a small group of individuals for whom there is in general little public sympathy.

Notice of NZCCL 2015 AGM

The New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties will take place on Wednesday, 11 November, at St Andrew's on The Terrace commencing at 12.00. 

The AGM is expected to take about 30 minutes and will be followed (at approximately 12.30 pm) by a discussion about civil liberties in  general and about how the Council is to proceed in the coming year.

All are welcome and prospective members will be able to join.

Publishing legal opinions - the SIS and GCSB respond

Back in March we wrote a letter to the NZSIS and GCSB with a suggestion about how they could improve transparency and oversight without risking New Zealand's security. We also copied the letter to the IGIS to see if they had any comment. Our suggestion was:

It is my understanding that the GCSB | SIS does prepare legal analyses of the various parts of the Act so as to ensure that staff act within the letter of the law. My suggestion is that the agency should make these legal analyses (edited for security reasons as required) publicly available. As these legal analyses would only discuss the publicly available law, I believe that making them public would not risk New Zealand's security. This would lead to a better public understanding of what the GCSB | SIS can and cannot do under the current law thereby reducing uncertainty and increasing trust.

After some nagging of a rather tardy GCSB, we now have responses from all three.

Letter: Where's the govt action on prisoners' right to vote?

We are concerned by the lack of action from the Government in response to Arthur Taylor's successful challenge to the law taking away prisoner's right to vote. The decision of the High Court to declare the law to be inconsistent with the NZ Bill of Rights Act is unprecedented and surely calls for a legislative response.

Accordingly we have written to Amy Adams, the Minister of Justice, and Chris Finlayson, the Attorney-General, to ask them how and when they intend to remedy the situation.

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