Articles

Guest post: The Police Arms Race

Guest post by Michael Bott

Greg O’Connor wants all Police to be armed. The Prime Minster John Key thinks that some move towards the routine arming of police is inevitable and Police Minister Judith Collins isn’t interested in what woolly liberals think (i.e. anyone with an alternative view to herself). Ms Collins suggests as an interim measure most Police cars being fitted with “lock boxes” containing guns and has strongly hinted if the Police Commissioner Howard Broad wants all his officers armed then she wouldn’t oppose the call. Interestingly the Commissioner has expressed caution. I agree. Before we rush head long into a Wyatt Earp response to perceived violent crime in New Zealand we should pause and ask some questions.

Encouraging conversations about justified limitations on rights

Some thoughts on the NZ Bill of Rights Act 1990 at its 20th Anniversary

The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (BoRA) is having its “ups and downs”.   After the hopeful start of being conceived as “superior law”, providing a yardstick against which the courts could strike down legislation that was inconsistent with our civil rights and freedoms, the BoRA was enacted as an ordinary law.   It is, of course, widely recognised as a “super statute”; a statute setting standards that Parliament ought take note of when passing legislation.  On the “down swing” again, it appears that this ideal is loosing ground as Parliament legislates further limitations on the rights in the BoRA, by way of subsequent legislation.

NZCCL Annual General Meeting - Nov 10th

The Annual General Meeting of the New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties will be at 12:30pm on Wednesday the 10th of November.

It will be held in the upstairs seminar rooms at St Andrews on The Terrace, Wellington. Access is through the church office on the North side of the building.

All members are welcome. It is possible to join on the spot at the AGM.

Public Talk - The Not Quite Bill of Rights

Following the AGM (approximately 1pm) Andrew Butler will give a presentation - "The Not Quite Right Bill of Rights".

Changes to name suppression laws

The government has announced plans to implement the recommendations of the Law Commission to change the laws around name suppression. In summary:

Summary of the Issues Paper re the Official Information Act

The Law Commission is working on a review of the Official Information Act. They have just released the first Issues Paper, representing their initial thinking on the matter.

In general they believe that the Official Information Act and Local Govt Official Information and Meetings Act are working well and do not need any major revisions. They suggest:

Constitutional lawyers reject the special powers Earthquake Act

A group of constitutional lawyers and law professors have expressed their concerns about the Canterbury Earthquake Response and Recovery Act in an open letter to NZ and Parliament.

Over and over again history demonstrates that unconstrained power is subject to misuse, and that even well-intentioned measures can result in unintended consequences if there are not clear, formal measures of oversight applied to them.

Select Committee make a mistake, recommends giving all current prisoners the vote

Andrew Geddis at Pundit has pointed out a serious flaw in the amendments proposed by the Law and Order to the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Bill.

Disappointment as select committee recommends taking vote from prisoners

The Law and Order Select Committee has recommended (PDF) that the bill to strip the vote from all prisoners should be passed. The Electoral (Disqualification of Convicted Prisoners) Amendment Bill, a private member's bill submitted by National's Paul Quinn, takes the vote away from prisoners sentenced to less than 3 years in jail (prisoners sentenced to over 3 years have already lost the vote). 

The NZ Council for Civil Liberties made a submission against the Bill, reiterating the importance of the right to vote:

Blogger convicted for online breach of suppression order

Blogger Cameron Slater has been convicted in the District Court for 9 breaches of name suppression orders. He has been fined $750 on each charge plus $130 court costs. Read the full decision.

Concerns over quake emergency powers law

Parliament has passed the wide-ranging Canterbury Earthquake Response and Recovery Act. This allows the government to override a number of laws as it desires, without public or parliamentary oversight. It will stay in force until April 2012.

Reaction to the constitutional overreach in the Bill has been strong:

Customs Gathering Intelligence at the Border

Why did Customs copy the address book from a mobile phone owned by the wife of Michael Quinlan, owner of the Switched on Gardener chain? (Tony Wall - Sunday Star Times).

The incident has sparked concerns police are circumventing warrants by using Customs' sweeping powers to detain, search and take information from international travellers.

Moana Jackson - A further primer on the foreshore and seabed

Moana Jackson has written A Further Primer on the Foreshore and Seabed.

It's an interesting summary of the original 2004 Foreshore and Seabed Act and the minimal changes to it in the proposed replacement, the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill.

Tech Liberty submission on Search & Surveillance Bill

Tech Liberty has posted their submission about the Search and Surveillance Bill. Click the link to read the full details, but the recommendations are:

Strengthening the Bill of Rights Act

Blogger No Right Turn has two useful articles about strengthening the Bill of Rights Act.

Official Information Act Performance

The Official Information Act is an important facet of New Zealand's democracy. By making all government information available on request, unless there is a reason for it to be withheld, it allows citizens to hold their government to account. However, to be effective, it requires the ministers and government departments to honour their roles in releasing information willingly and in a timely manner.  

A Brief Report - Celebrating 20 Years of the Bill of Rights

A brief account of the public lectures from Sir Kenneth Keith and Rayhan Langdana on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the passing of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

Celebrating 20 years of the Bill of Rights Act

The 20th anniversary of New Zealand’s Bill of Rights is being celebrated at Victoria University’s Centre for Public Law on August 26.

Sir Geoffrey Palmer, former Prime Minister and architect of the Bill of Rights, is giving a public lecture about his aspirations for the legislation at its inception.

It's back - the Search & Surveillance Bill returns

Guest editorial by Val Morse

An interim report on the Search and Surveillance Bill was issued by the Justice and Electoral Select Committee last week. The report is an admission that the bill will confer enormous new powers onto 70+ government agencies. 

The report confirms that police will get a load of new powers: video surveillance where police trespass on private property will be legal; the circumstances in which audio bugging will be legal will dramatically increased from what it is at present. The threshold for warrantless searches is being lowered, as are the circumstances for setting up roadblocks.

Making a submission to a Select Committee

What's involved with making a submission to a Select Committee?

Thomas Beagle accompanied Kevin McCormack to support him in making the Council's submission about the Electoral (Disqualification of Convicted Prisoners) Amendment Bill.

Read about it.

Is the Internet a human right?

A report on a talk from Jonathan Penney, Cyberlaw Fellow at Victoria University, about the connection between internet access and s14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights.

DomPost misinterprets school search guidelines

The article from the DomPost (also in Stuff) starts with:

Schools have been told they can now search pupils for weapons and drugs without fearing legal action.

New edition of classic NZ Civil Rights Handbook released

The latest edition of Tim McBride's classic New Zealand Civil Rights Handbook has just been released.

WCC backs down on city-wide liquor ban

The Wellington City Council has dropped plans to impose a city-wide liquor ban after strong public opposition. The current ban on consuming or carrying liquor has been extended from the inner city to Newtown and Mt Cook.

The NZCCL made a submission on the issue as did 603 others, with 76% of submissions opposing the ban.

Tech Liberty on Copyright/Filesharing

Tech Liberty has made a submission on the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill.

This is the replacement for the earlier s92A of the Copyright Bill. The original version was flawed on a number of grounds and highly offensive to civil liberties with its lack of due process ("guilt upon accusation") and intrusions into privacy.

The new bill is significantly better but Tech Liberty remains concerned that internet disconnection continues as a possible punishment.

How technology changes privacy online

How much do you publish about yourself online?  What can people find out about you by looking at your photos?

Tech Liberty writes an article about how improving technology can mean that data that was safe to share in the past can now reveal more than you expect.

ACTA: Bad for Civil Liberties

Tech Liberty has written an article about the ACTA treaty's implications for civil liberties in New Zealand.

It lists five areas for concern:

Free Speech for Corporations in US

The US Supreme Court declared on 21 January 2010 in a landmark decision that corporations have all the rights of free speech that citizens have enjoyed since 1791.

Search & Surveillance Bill to be Redrafted

The Government has announced that the over-reaching Search and Surveillance Bill is being redrafted.

This is at least a partial victory for the large number of people and groups who opposed the original bill as being an unwarranted expansion of government power.

The new version should be available in July/August.

Sunday TV program article about the Search & Surveillance Bill

The Sunday program does a Big Brother episode about government spying and the Search and Surveillance Bill.

Is it protection or prying? SUNDAY investigates legislation which will dramatically increase the state's authority to peep into your private lives. Just who is reading your emails, listening to your phone conversations and where does it stop? Should we be afraid? One legal heavyweight says it's "creepy" and warns it is open to abuse.

Surveillance: current law

Tech Liberty surveys the ways that the government can eavesdrop on people.

A follow-up article will cover search laws.

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