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


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.

Return prisoners' right to vote

The recent decision in Taylor v Attorney-General is intriguing in several respects. This decision is the first occasion that a High Court Judge has gone so far as to issue a formal declaration that a law breaches the BORA. The legal and constitutional aspects have already been addressed by other commentators, this is essentially a civil liberties perspective.


NZCCL Christchurch Meeting

Our last meeting was so successful we decided to have another one. Come hear Dr Chris Gallavin, Dean of Law at the University of Canterbury, champion of Phillipstown School, and lawyer about town.

Talk will be followed by round table discussion on civil liberties in Christchurch. The meeting may then adjourn to the pub downstairs.

When: Tuesday, 1st September, 7pm

Location: Catalyst IT offices, upstairs above Pomeroys on Kilmore St


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