Current Articles

These are the civil liberties issues we are currently involved in.

AGM with Keith Locke

Please join us to hear Keith Locke speak on "The Future for Civil Liberties in New Zealand" at the NZCCL AGM on Tuesday 24 November 2009

Please join us to hear Keith Locke speak on "The Future for Civil Liberties in New Zealand" at the NZCCL AGM:
12.30-1.30
Tuesday 24 November
Lounge
St Andrews on The Terrace
ALL WELCOME

The need for a Council for Civil Liberties has never been higher. As you know, over the last few years there have been unprecedented attacks on human rights and civil liberties in New Zealand and across the western world. To respond to America’s ‘War on Terror’ we have passed many pieces of legislation that are exempt from, and contravene our Bill of Rights Act, and which have led to the abandonment of some of our long-cherished freedoms, such as the right to silence and the right not to incriminate oneself.

As a life-long campaigner for human rights in New Zealand and around the world, and a staunch critic of some of the legislation passed over the last few years, Keith Locke is in a good position to make an assessment of the current position and future trends.

NZCCL is trying to relaunch itself as a web-based national organisation that encourages debate and participation, and to develop a cluster of people who are able to provide informed comment and submissions about legislation and reports as they arise. We encourage you to come along to the AGM, and consider how you might contribute to the cause of civil liberties.

AboutMe is to privacy as FYI is to the OIA

The New Zealand Privacy Commissioner has launched a new tool, AboutMe, to help people request their personal infomation from a wide range of government agencies and businesses.

The Privacy Act gives people the power to find out what information an agency holds about them and to request a copy of it. This new tool just makes it easier to make the request. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner does not store a copy of your request nor does it see the response.

Non-personal and official information

One of the first questions asked is "Are you asking for personal information about yourself?" but it turns out that this is a bit of a trap - anyone answering no is told that this is the wrong tool to use. People wanting official information are told they can use the FYI site to request it.

 

 

 

Ban on Gang Insignia

The Wanganui District Council's Prohibition of Gang Insignia Act 2009 and the subsequent WDC bylaw breaches basic liberties.

Even if the by-law is successful in stemming gang activity within the Whanganui district (and NZCCL has considerable doubt that that will be the case) the by-law itself breaches basic liberties. The argument that the end justifies the means was used by the US to justify the use of torture in Iraq and Afghanistan. This legislation legalises intimidation and harassment of gangs on the grounds that gangs themselves may intimidate or harass other people.

The Wanganui District Council (Prohibition of Gang Insignia) Act 2009 and the subsequent WDC bylaw are examples of a how laws should NOT be made. Because of its potential breach of the Bill of Rights Act, the Wanganui District Council needed to have an act of parliament to sanction its determination to ban gang insignia from Whanganui. However the act was passed only by 62 votes to 59, with three Act Party votes being gained through an assurance by the government that it would support Act’s three strikes legislation (already ruled out as breaching the Bill of Rights).
This means that the PGI act was passed with only a minority of actual support.

Details of the act
One can see why it was not supported. The act specifies a number of named gangs and also “any other specified organisation, association, or group of persons” identified by the Council.
There are restrictions. It must be an organisation identified by a “common name or common signs, symbols or representations” whose “members, associates or supporters individually or collectively actively promote, encourage, or engage in a pattern of criminal activity”, and only “to prevent the likelihood of intimidation or harassment of members of the public” or avoid or reduce confrontation between gangs.
The ban only affects public places as specified by the Council, but including roads even if they are not in the control of the Council. The ban must NOT mean that all public places in the district are specified places.

Bylaw imitates act
The council bylaw is in effect a copy of the act, with the addition of a map and description of the public places that needed to be specified under the act. In the rest of this discussion the arguments relate to both the act and the bylaw, except where specified.

Concerns about the legislation
1. Definitions
There are no clear guidelines as to how to determine what constitutes a “pattern of criminal activity” or “intimidation and harassment”. “Criminal activity” may include the occupation of Motua Gardens, or other protest activity. It may be an assumption that criminal activity is being conducted, but without the support of convictions. Similarly with intimidation or harassment. Some people might view a black power member taking a child to school as intimidatory. Other people might regard a police officer as being intimidatory. There is no defence for gang members to argue that intimidation or harassment was not likely to take place.
2. Separation of powers
In effect this legislation removes from the courts to the executive (the council) decisions relating to criminal activity. The legislation is based around sets of assumptions – that organisations are engaged in criminal activity (if so then they should be prosecuted) and that their members might be considered to be engaged in intimidation or harassment by virtue of the insignia they bear. These assumptions must be made not by police or by councils but by the judiciary, and should be based on evidence. This legislation therefore undermines the legal process.
3. Freedom of expression
The council believes that a dangerous precedent is set if people are restricted in their ability to wear whatever clothes they like. This rule applies equally to women wearing trousers in the Sudan, or the burqa in New Zealand, as it does to people wearing gang insignia. If people are offended or intimidated by a person’s clothes then they need to make a case for themselves. A few years ago in New Zealand the police regularly harassed gay and trans people. This legislation regarding the wearing of gang insignia legalises the same form of harassment.
4. The council’s definition of ‘specified places’
In the bylaw passed by the Wanganui District Council, the map of ‘specified places’ includes the entire urban area, as well as a number of halls, parks and reserves and other public places outside the urban area, as suggested by the police. It also includes State Highway 3 and other arterial routes.
This broad specified area would seem to be in conflict with the Act, which states that the effect of the act must not be that all the public places in the district are specified places. The council map includes all the Whanganui urban area, even though council press releases generally refer only to the CBD.
5. Freedom of passage
Because of the broad scope of the ban, it would seem to prevent freedom of passage of other gang members not related to the Whanganui region, but merely passing through on the open road. These gang members may be stopped by the police and their vehicles searched, even if they are not wearing patches at the time.
6. Potential for abuse
Because there are no clear guidelines as to who is or is not covered under the definitions of ‘gang’, ‘criminal activity’, ‘intimidation’ or ‘insignia’ it is entirely possible for the council to extend the legislation to include protest groups or other organisations it wishes to suppress. Similar legislation has been used overseas to restrict the activities of environmental and human rights groups.

The ends do not justify the means
Even if the by-law is successful in stemming gang activity within the Whanganui district (and NZCCL has considerable doubt that that will be the case) the by-law itself breaches basic liberties. The argument that the end justifies the means was used by the US to justify the use of torture in Iraq and Afghanistan. This legislation legalises intimidation and harassment of gangs on the grounds that gangs themselves may intimidate or harass other people.
A number of other councils have expressed a wish to introduce a similar ban. Each of those will require the passing of a specific act of parliament. It is to be hope that, given the closeness of the vote on this act and the strong criticism of the Act Party deal by its own members, that no future act will get through the parliamentary process.

Batch Hales
On behalf of NZCCL

11 September 2009

Campaign to Stop the Search and Surveillance Bill

The law on searches and surveillance is inconsistent. Over the years all kinds of agencies have acquired various powers to enter your home or other private premises to gather evidence to support legal action.

We´re not just talking about the Police and the Serious Fraud Office here; the Pork Board, the local dog catcher and scores of other agencies are authorised to put you under various forms of search or surveillance. And right now this situation is being "rationalised" with a Search and Surveillance Bill which is currently going through the parliamentary machine, pulling all the rules about different kinds of warrants into a single (though not coherent) document.

The overall effect of this Bill will be to increase police powers and give every law enforcement agency all the search and surveillance powers (with few exceptions) currently held by any one agency. What is presented as a rationalisation of the law is in truth a huge expansion of the power of the state.

This means that Pork Board inspectors and dog catchers will have a raft of new search and surveillance powers. Not only will they be able to knock on your door and come in saying they have the right to check on dogs or pig-meat, as they have been able to in the past. They´ll now be able (if they suspect a breach of the legislation they enforce) to get warrants allowing them to break down doors, covertly install bugs and cameras and so on.

Even parts of the establishment are worried about this Bill. As you might expect, the Privacy Commission and the Human Rights Commission have reservations, but even the Chief Justice was sufficiently worried to criticise the Bill.

Bell Gully, an establishment law firm, argued that the "premise that each of the government agencies to which it applies ought to share common search and surveillance powers is flawed." They note that this Bill represents a considerable expansion of surveillance powers, and is "likely to lead to circumstances in which the powers are used in unexpected ways."

Another who is worried is President of the New Zealand Law Society, John Marshall QC. Marshall said in his submission that "The proposed homogenisation of powers would result in a dramatic expansion of powers for certain agencies .... The Bill´s approach is still observably `one-size-fits-all´.... [I]t is difficult for the Society to comprehend why non-police enforcement agencies require, or are suited for, such a striking expansion of powers."

While John Marshall might be concerned about the increased power of minor law enforcement authorities who inherit the search and surveillance powers of the Police under this Bill, in fact that may be a less serious development than the increased powers of the Police themselves, who are slated to acquire the powers of the Serious Fraud Office.

The Serious Fraud Office was established in 1990 with certain powers considerably stronger than those of the Police, intended to address high-level and complex business crime. The SFO can get warrants which allow them to make you give them documents, and to interview you without your normal right to silence, both on pain of imprisonment, essentially even if this will incriminate you. So powers designed to untangle complex large-scale white-collar crime will now be available to the police if they have reasonable grounds for suspicion that you are involved with two or more others in planning any offence (past, present or future) punishable by imprisonment, which is the majority of NZ offences. This is a scary thought for many, including activists, trade unionists and journalists. Under the Bill for example, Police could force a journalist to give up their sources. They could get a warrant against an organiser of a picket (if they "reasonably suspect" the picket will involve say trespass, disorderly behaviour or unlawful assembly) which essentially says, either you give us the names of other organisers, tell us the detail of your plans, and give us any associated correspondence, or you will go to jail.

This Bill is no minor consolidation of existing powers, but a new departure.

A public meeting is organised for 8 April, 7.00 pm, in the Old Government Building Lecture Theatre 2 (VUW Law School) Wellington to discuss the Search and Surveillance Bill which is due to be reported back to Parliament on 1 May. Warren Young, deputy president of the NZ Law Commission and Michael Bott, prominent civil rights lawyer and representative of the Wellington Council for Civil Liberties, are the presenters. The moderator for the programme will be Dr. Sandra Grey, Senior Lecturer, School of Social and Cultural Studies, Victoria University

Batch Hales 
06 362 6140 
batch.hales@xtra.co.nz

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.

Events in New Zealand

Our Police force are moving further away from the old policy of policing by consent. Taser usage has increased and now all frontline Police are carrying Tasers.  Strangely this policy change was announced by the Police Commissioner as if it’s a trivial operational matter rather than a political issue that should have been fronted by the Minister.

At the same time, Customs are looking to expand their already considerable powers at the border in order to push their desire to become more of a security/law enforcement agency. In particular they have asked for the ability to force people to give up passwords at the border, thus enabling Customs to examine someone’s whole life - just in case.

At the same time we have seen the government step up attacks on dissent, by pursuing journalists Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson for challenging the official narrative.

TPPA

A big issue for many this year was the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement which was recently finalised. Negotiated in secret with the text still not available to the citizens of the countries who negotiated it, this is potentially a serious blow against our democracy.

This is not so much for the contents of the treaty, although this is still to be determined, but because it’s expanded far beyond a simple trade agreement into many other areas. It increasingly looks like an attempt by the negotiating governments to lock-in certain policies into international treaties to remove them from the democratic realm.

Official Information Act

One positive note is that activist Jane Kelsey challenged Minister Tim Groser’s rejection of her request under the Official Information Act for documents concerning the TPP negotiations. After her appeal was rejected by the Ombudsman, Jane applied to the court for judicial review.

While in theory she won the case with the requests being returned to the Minister for proper consideration, in practice the outcome will probably be the same and it appears to be too late anyway.

However, the judge made a number of comments critical of both the Minister and the Ombudsman and provided some firm guidelines to assist politicians and government employees in making such decisions in the future. This would seem to be a win for the Official Information Act.

I note that the Council helped fund this court case as we thought that it touched upon some important issues around transparency in government.

In other OIA news, earlier this year the Ombudsman raised the alarm about how government departments are responding to OIA requests and is currently midway through an investigation. We hope that this will result in more substantive changes than the weak, and seemingly abandoned, recommendations of the Law Commission

Bill of Rights

In a second example of the courts standing up to the government in support of civil society, the High Court has for the first time declared that a New Zealand law is inconsistent with the NZ Bill of Rights Act. Justice Heath found that the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act was clearly in breach of the rights in the BORA (as was submitted by the Council at the time). While this is good news, unfortunately our toothless Bill of Rights means that nothing will happen and the law is still in force.

Other issues of note

Other issues of note include the furore around the short-term banning of the book Into the River, an action that ended up damaging the credibility of the Film & Literature Review Board more than anything else. The book is now freely available again.

The issue of euthanasia also appeared again with lawyer Lecretia Seales losing her own court battle to receive a medically assisted death. ACT MP David Seymour is now proceeding with another attempt to pass a euthanasia bill, for which he has asked for input from the Council.

Actions of the Council

The Council has engaged with a number of issues over the past year.

Nagging the government

Some of this engagement can just be described as “nagging the government”. This includes asking the government what it intends to do as a follow-up to the report of the Constitutional Advisory Panel about New Zealand’s constitution. Sadly the government’s sole interest in constitutional matters seems to be around changing the flag and I do not expect to hear anything more from them.

We also continue to ask how the government is going to respond to the issue of prisoner voting after the recent court decision, but once again we are yet to receive any substantive answer.

Spying and surveillance.

A major part of my activity this year has been around the issues of spying and surveillance.

The Council has been part of the Stop the Spies. This is a loose coalition of groups formed to oppose the spy agencies and to help inform people around the time of the Intelligence Review. The Council hosted public meetings in Wellington and Auckland, as well as contributing to a separate meeting in Christchurch.  I also assisted in the production of the People’s Review of the Intelligence Agencies, a far more wide-ranging review than the narrow official review (available from our website).

We also wrote to the intelligence agencies asking them to help reduce the ambiguity around their governing laws by publishing their own legal interpretations of what they could and couldn’t do. The GCSB has already started doing so while the SIS has said it would be impossible.

Submissions

The Council did not make many Select Committee submissions this year. We refused to take part in the farcical two-day submission period for the Countering Terrorist Fighters Bill, instead writing to express our concern with this bastardisation of the process. A Select Committee member later revealed that they never even looked at the written submissions anyway.

Public meetings

As well as the public meetings for the People’s Review, I was very pleased to have David Williams come and talk to us about the Treaty of Waitangi and how it has been compared to a Maori Magna Carta. It was a fascinating talk and we hope to have the video up on our website soon.

Online activity

The Council website at http://nzccl.org.nz continues to be updated with activities, events and copies of speeches and submissions. I particularly wish to thank Stuart Moriarty-Patten for his regular monthly feature Liberty Watch, a round-up of civil liberties related news.

The Council also has a Twitter feed at http://twitter.com/civillibertynz that we use to publicise events and comment on political issues of the day.

Christchurch

Stephen Judd has stepped forward to start up a Christchurch chapter of the Council for Civil Liberties. A couple of meetings have been held already and I hope this continues into the next year.

Media

Finally, we have responded to a number of media enquiries over the course of the year with appearances on a number of radio shows and in print.

Plans for the future

It’s clear that we need to keep working to promote civil liberties in New Zealand. I see this as taking two main streams:

  • Helping to hold the government to account.
  • Promoting the importance of civil liberties to New Zealanders.

Holding the government to account

We will continue to comment on government actions and plans when they interfere with civil liberties.

My interest is around privacy and surveillance/spying. With the Intelligence Review being released in February and the government’s plans to reset the privacy social contract and repeal/re-enact the Privacy Act, I expect to be busy.

Promoting civil liberties

However, I believe our main focus as a group has to be around promoting civil liberties to New Zealanders. The best protection against government erosion of civil liberties has to be a populace that values and defends them.

This year we made some steps towards this with mixed success. We hosted and promoted some public meetings, but the turnouts were disappointing and we obviously have something to learn about how to create and run successful events.

However, this is an age of digital activism and we need to go where the people are – online.

While some deride this as ‘slacktivism’ where people might click a Like button but not put any more effort in, we believe that we need to cater for these sorts of ‘soft supporters’. Firstly, they’ll give us a base of like-minded supporters to talk to and speak on behalf of. Secondly, they’ll help share our message. Thirdly, it’s an easy entry point that will, over time, provide an easy way for some to get more involved in the future.

We’re thinking about what we need to do to implement this and hope to have something up and running in the new year. Alongside this we also need to update and modernise the Council’s website.

We need your help

The Council does important work but we need to be doing more of it as I fear that we are currently losing too many battles. If you think you can help we would be grateful for your ideas, your efforts, your resources, and your time. Please contact me at thomas@nzccl.org.nz

Thomas Beagle
Chairperson, NZ Council for Civil Liberties

28th October 2015

Chairperson's Report for 2009-2010

Chairperson's Report To Members At The Annual General Meeting Of The New Zealand Council For Civil Liberties Inc Held On 10 November 2010

Another year has passed and it is time to report once again to members.  This has been a busy and generally productive year for the Council.  The Executive continues to meet on a monthly basis, and all 4 members have attended virtually every meeting.

Access to, and the development of, the Council's website has made us far more accessible to our members, the New Zealand public, and to the media.  As a result there have been substantially more enquiries, and we have generally been able to respond effectually to requests made to us.  The corollary is that there is an increased amount of time needed to be spent in dealing with these matters, and that is proving to be rather taxing for our small executive.  A hint, perhaps, that there is scope for some expansion in the number on the Executive, so local members are invited to consider whether the time is now right to take on such a role.

Auckland Council of Civil Liberties

A particular pleasing aspect of the year has been the increased liaison with the Auckland Council.  Their President, Barry Wilson, has been in Wellington on business, and we have been able to meet up with him on a couple of occasions.  This is proving to be a useful opportunity to share views and to discuss ways in which we can further enhance our association.  Unfortunately, the Canterbury Council is in recess and their involvement with us is mainly in the realm of moral support.

NZCCL Website

Members are encouraged to visit our website on a regular basis and to look particularly at the Current Issues, Current Submissions and Blogs Sections.  There have been several submissions and numerous blog items added to it during the year.  The scope for blog items represents a significant opportunity for material to be harnessed and made publically available.  Currently, there are a lot of issues where a civil liberty perspective is crying out for an airing.  A large number of our members are learned and literate, and our website provides an opportunity to publish appropriate articles and comment.  We urge you to take full advantage of it.  In this regard we acknowledge the preparation of a detailed Draft about Fluoridation prepared by John Lee, a Life Member and former President of the Council during the 1980s, which is currently being considered by the Executive.

Tech Liberty

We are particularly indebted to the tireless work of Thomas Beagle, who has been on the Executive for the past year.  Thomas has a significant involvement with our website, and is a prolific writer of blogs.  In addition, he is the prime mover in a relatively new organisation, Tech Liberty, where the goal is to defend civil liberties in the digital age.

Charitable Status Not Available

The Executive has considered making an application to the Charities Commission for registration as a charity, as that status would enable members to claim taxation relief for their donations.  However, the legislation is so dated that there is a real question as to whether the Council would qualify, especially as there are a number of high profile organisations, which had previously been classified as charitable, now finding that that status has been withdrawn.  While this matter will be considered in the High Court early next year, the more preferable approach is to update the legislation to provide a more accurate definition of what constitutes a charitable activity in the 21st century.  The Green Party has endeavoured to promote an appropriate Bill but as yet there has been little buy-in from the main political parties.

NZ Civil Rights Handbook

We draw your attention to the recent publication of “The New Zealand Civil Rights Handbook”, which has been completely revised, updated and expanded by Tim McBride.  Members are invited to obtain and peruse a copy as it is an extensive publication and reasonably priced.  The Executive is looking at how the Handbook can be made more widely available, especially to young people, as there is currently a paucity of civics information delivered within the education system.

Finally, we consider that the Council is in good heart and we are looking forward to another interesting year, and to seeing some of you at the Annual General Meeting.

 

Issues

Some of the issues examined by NZCCL in the last year:

  • Search and Surveillance Bill
  • Three strikes legislation
  • Private prisons
  • Internet filtering
  • Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)
  • Wellington CC liquor ban
  • Electoral disqualification
  • Review of the Official Information Act
  • Review of the Bill of Rights Act
  • Arming the police
  • Seabed and foreshore legislation
  • Copyright and file sharing
  • Emergency powers for Canterbury Earthquake
  • Changes to name suppression laws
  • School rights to search students
  • Fluoridation
  • Boy racer legislation

Batch Hales

Chairperson

Civil Rights and Liberties – What the Constitutional Advisory Panel had to say in its Report

NZ Council for Civil Liberties welcomed the opportunity presented by the Constitutional “Conversation” to consider how civil liberties might be strengthened through changes to New Zealand's constitutional arrangements.

The terms of reference for the Constitutional Advisory Panel established by the Government were to encourage people to become better informed and share their views about New Zealand's constitutional arrangements, and the Panel was asked to look for areas of broad consensus where further work could be done.

The Council met with Deborah Coddington from the Panel, and held a series of meeting for members through which our submission was developed. The focus which emerged was that Parliament and the Executive ought not to be able to derogate from the rights and freedoms of people in New Zealand, with as little constraint as happens now.

To quote from our submission: “Those elected to carry out day-to-day governance should recognise that citizens have already endorsed civil liberties and human rights, and that the regular election process does not include any intention (on the part of electors) to give their regularly-elected persons/groups, the power to abrogate civil liberties and human rights.”

The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (the Act) was one area where the Panel felt there was a measure of agreement that further work would be worthwhile; the Panel recommended that the Government set up a process, with public consultation and participation, to explore in more detail the options for amending the Act to improve its effectiveness such as:

  • adding economic and cultural rights, property rights and environmental rights
  • improving compliance by the Executive and Parliament with the standards in the Act
  • giving the Judiciary powers to assess legislation for consistency with the Act
  • entrenching all or part of the Act.

The Panel said it heard differing views as to whether human rights are protected, respected and fulfilled appropriately, and concern at Parliament's ability to pass amend the act or pass legislation contrary to the Act with the support of a simple majority. The Panel noted that the Act, and changes to it, was used as a vehicle to address a range of concerns, for example, better protection of the environment, the gap between rich and poor.

Interestingly, there was a range of views on the point made in our submission that rights are inalienable. Others expressed a contrary view; that rights come with responsibilities and may be taken away, for example, from those who commit crimes. The Panel maintained the approach of setting out the range of views rather than commenting on the implications of such an approach.

The key points from the Council's submission are set out below, along with our analysis of what the Panel had to say on the matter -

  • Strengthen the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act by raising its constitutional status and improving the reporting process on proposed legislation;

Yes, the Panel agreed that further work is warranted to find ways to improve compliance with the Bill of Rights Act by the Executive and Parliament. The Report mentions entrenching the Bill of Rights Act. i.e. requiring more than a simple majority to amend or repeal the Bill of Rights Act.

  • Review the processes for incorporating human rights and civil liberties in international human rights instruments to which New Zealand is a party, into our domestic law;

The Panel did not refer to this idea.

  • Add to the Universal Periodic Review an internal process for reporting on progress in implementing measures to protect and enhance civil rights and freedoms in New Zealand;

The Panel did not refer to this idea.

  • Add a right to privacy and to property to the rights protected in the Bill of Rights Act;

There was support for adding new rights; economic, cultural and social rights, property rights and environmental rights. The Report mentions support for and against the idea of adding a right to privacy, but did not recommend it.

  • Develop a single, coherent codification of New Zealand’s constitution to enable citizens to better appreciate their duties, rights and expectations as to standard of governance.

The Panel supported a continuing conversation about New Zealand's constitutional arrangements. The Panel agreed there is a need for New Zealanders to better understand how our constitutional arrangements function, and suggested thinking about drawing the current constitutional arrangements into a single statute.

A continuing theme from other submissions seemed to be the importance of preserving Parliament's sovereignty; this points to a limited, even if enhanced role for the courts. The Panel commented that while broad support for a supreme constitution was lacking, there is considerable support for entrenching elements of the constitution.

The Panel presented its Report to the Government and the next step is a formal response by the  Government. The Council has asked the Ministry of Justice when we can expect the response and have been told that the Government is currently considering the Panel’s report, but there will not be a response until after this year's election.

Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2006

On 21 October 2009 the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act came into force. This law enables the government to confiscate property and compel people to provide documents and other evidence even where there are no criminal prosecutions. This is done through the sleight of hand of pursuing the forfeitures as ‘civil’ proceedings.

This dangerous and immoral act is one of an array of intimidatory laws passed since 2002, that constitute the greatest attack on people’s rights and civil liberties ever in New Zealand’s history. The need for such legislation has not been demonstrated – it merely mirrors similar iniquitous legislation passed by Britain, Ireland and Australia.

The law moves the onus of proof from the prosecution (applicant) to the defendant (respondent) – the person whose property is being forfeited needs to prove that it is NOT from the proceeds of crime. It rides roughshod over a whole number of civil liberties, including the right to own property, the right of free speech, the right to silence, the right not to incriminate oneself, the use of confidentiality, and the burden of proof.

The Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2006

The Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2006 replaces the Proceeds of Crimes Act 1991. In effect it extends the ability to confiscate property gained for the purpose or resulting from the proceeds of crime. It extends it in three ways:

  • It introduces a new type of forfeiture that is not based on criminal conviction but merely strong suspicion that it was acquired through the proceeds of crime.
  • It provides a new range of investigative powers to police and a new Office of Criminal Proceeds Prosecution that is independent and not accountable to the Attorney-General, and has all the official powers of the police.
  • It moves the burden of proof from the prosecution (or ‘applicant’) to the defence (or ‘respondent’).

This is how the act is explained in the Explanatory Note:

It replaces (the Proceeds of Crime Act 1991) with a conviction-based forfeiture regime limited to instruments of crime (items used to commit or facilitate the commission of criminal activity) and a non-conviction-based confiscation regime to deal with all other property representing the proceeds of crime or assessed to be the value of a person’s unlawfully derived income.

The non-conviction-based regime or civil regime will operate completely independently of any criminal proceedings that may be course or contemplated. Consequentially, the same person may be the subject of both criminal prosecution (including potential forfeiture of instruments of crime) and confiscation action under the civil process.

Necessity for change

There has been a great deal of beat-up in New Zealand about the need to deal with gangs and the proceeds of drugs in New Zealand, as well as the huge estates owned by some of the directors of failed financial organisations. This has led to desire to ‘punish’ those people by taking away their ill-gotten gains.

However the Proceeds of Crimes Act was designed to do that. Anybody convicted of a major crime could have property confiscated if it was shown that the property was owned as a result of or in pursuit of criminal activity. There is little evidence that that act was not working or that further measures were needed. The police needed to successfully prosecute a person for the crime and then show that the property was related to the crime.

Few people would approve of property being confiscated without a conviction taking place.

Civil proceedings

The website www.businessdirectory.com defines a ‘civil case’ as a “lawsuit brought to redress private wrong, such as breach of contract, encroachment, or negligence; or to enforce civil remedies such as compensation, damages, injunctions.” Other definitions emphasis that it relates to “private rights and civil actions”, and the US courts states: “an action brought to enforce or protect private rights’.

It is hard to see how the restraining and forfeiture actions in this Act fit any of the definitions of a ‘civil’ action. In no part of the Act does it state that the State has been materially wronged or needs to be compensated in any way. And there are in the Act none of the safeguards accorded respondents in civil actions. Instead respondents are subject to the same constraints as if they were being prosecuted in criminal courts –search warrants, examination orders, production orders and seizure of property.

The concept of this process as a ‘civil action’ is no more than a convenient fiction to enable the forfeiture to take place against people who have not been charged for any crime.

Civil liberties

The Act rides roughshod over a whole number of civil liberties, including the right to own property, the right of free speech, the right to silence, the right not to incriminate oneself, the use of confidentiality, and the burden of proof.

  • The burden of proof. The law moves the onus of proof from the prosecution (applicant) to the defendant (respondent) – the person whose property is being forfeited needs to prove that it is NOT from the proceeds of crime, or or other defences against the case.
  • The right to own property. Property in the Act is forfeited not as a result of its being acquired through fraud, but because it was either allegedly purchased using profits from the proceeds of crime, or because it was itself used in criminal activity (‘tainted’ property). In other words the owning of the property is legitimate, even though it may have been acquired as a result of criminal activity. Others who have interest in the property need to prove that their interest was not gained through criminal activity, which puts innocent parties in a position of appellants. People can be deemed to have ownership in property even where they do not have an interest, and the property can be forfeit on that basis.
  • The right of free speech. Where there has been a restraining or forfeiture order on their property, the owners of the property are forbidden to mention the fact, except when seeking legal advice.
  • The right to remain silent. The defendants or respondents are required to provide evidence and papers that might incriminate them or others. They can be prosecuted for remaining silent.
  • The use of confidentiality. The Act requires people having confidential information that will help the case for forfeiture to break their confidence and provide information.


Abuse of powers

  1. Director of Criminal Proceeds Prosecution is an independent government agency not responsible to the Attorney-General or to other law-enforcement agencies. It has little supervision of its activities.
  2. It has powers to restrain and confiscate property based not on conviction but on suspicion of criminal wrongdoing. The property may be forfeited even where a criminal conviction fails.
  3. To gain information to convince the High Court of the need for forfeiture the Director is able to use powers well beyond those available to other agencies in the pursuit of civil matters, and contrary to the Bill of Rights. These include obtaining warrants, issuing restraining orders, requiring documents, obtaining production orders, issuing examination orders, and requiring other people to assist in obtaining the information.
  4. Respondents are put in the position of disproving the case brought by the Director – a position that is particularly unfair and invidious because they do not have available to them the same powers, and the case against them is based not around prosecution but suspicion.
  5. The confiscation of property can only take place for criminal activity that, if a prosecution was called, would have carried a maximum sentence of at least five years in jail. This would include most activities covered by the ‘anti-terrorism’ legislation, so that the confiscations could ‘legitimately’ be used to prevent protest and remove from protest organisations the means to protest.

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:

...the ability to vote is of such fundamental importance in a democratic society that any move to weaken further the idea of universal suffrage by removing the vote for a certain class of person is to be strongly resisted.

The Council did support the idea of amending the Bill, but thought that it should be changed in the opposite direction so that all prisoners have the right to vote:

Most of those persons currently in prison are one day going to be released into our society when their sentences are finished, and this particular change can be a signal to them that, regardless of their past offences, they are still members of our society. 

We are disappointed that a majority of the Committee have ignored our views and those of nearly all of the other submitters, preferring to support this vindictive and vengeful law change. The Labour and Green members of the Select Committee also opposed the change:

Labour: No evidence was submitted to the committee that could suggest that this bill would show any positive influence on reducing crime or recidivism. ... With no evidence of any positive change for society, there is no justification for truncating an individual right under the Bill of Rights Act.

Greens: This bill will do nothing to make our society safer; if anything it will make it more dangerous by further marginalising prisoners.

The changes also go against the law in other countries with a similar legal and political heritage to ours. As the New Zealand Law Society notes:  

In comparable jurisdictions such as Canada, Ireland, South Africa, and Australia, the highest courts have in the last ten years held that blanket bans on the right of prisoners to vote are unlawful or unconstitutional. The European Court of Human Rights has held similarly in relation to a blanket ban on prisoners voting in the United Kingdom.

This law change is inconsistent with New Zealand's Bill of Rights Act and our obligations under the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). It reflects poorly on the committee members who supported it and, if passed, will reflect poorly on Parliament and our country. We urge Parliament to vote against it.

Falun Dafa and Wellington City Council

This article outlines instances of systemic discrimination against the Falun Dafa Association by the Wellington City Council over the last two years. This discrimination, involving refusal for the organisation to participate in various parades and other public events, appears to be motivated by the desire to maintain good relations with China, but is in effect condoning and supporting China’s repression of the organisation within China.

File attachments: 

Get Smart - the Intelligence Review

The Intelligence Review is a review of New Zealand's intelligence services being conducted by Michael Cullen (ex-politician) and Patsy Reddy (lawyer and board member). The Terms of Reference (PDF) include:

  • "Whether the legislative frameworks of the intelligence and security agencies (GCSB and NZSIS) are well placed to protect New Zealand’s current and future national security, while protecting individual rights."
  • "Whether the current oversight arrangements provide sufficient safeguards at an operational, judicial and political level to ensure the GCSB and NZSIS act lawfully and maintain public confidence."

Public submissions are due on August 14th with report expect on or before 29th February.

Our view

We have serious concerns about government spying in New Zealand. We believe that government spying has the potential to seriously undermine democracy and civil society.

The extent of New Zealand's participation in the Five Eyes global spy network has shocked us, and the carefully phrased denials about mass spying on New Zealanders are not particularly comforting.

The actions of the SIS and GCSB are generally kept hidden, and what we do see leaking out shows that they often exhibit bad judgement and can't even follow their own rules.

We don't hold out much hope for the review achieving anything much. The reviewers are both "don't rock the boat" insiders and they're already indicated that they see membership of the Five Eyes spy alliance as required, even before they're done the review. We're also disappointed by the lack of substantial public consultation, with just a small window for interested people and organisation to make written submissions.

Public meetings

To help compensate for the lack of public consultation, the NZ Council for Civil Liberties is pleased to announce that we are hosting public meetings in Wellington (6pm July 29th) and Auckland (6pm August 6th).

As well as speeches come along to have your say about what should happen to the GCSB, the SIS, and New Zealand’s participation in the Five Eyes spy network.

Speakers

  • Thomas Beagle - NZ Council for Civil Liberties (Wellington and Auckland)
  • Nicky Hager - Author & investigative journalist (Wellington)
  • Anna Thorby - OASIS (Wellington)
  • Maire Leadbeater - Author of Peace, Power & Politics (Auckland)
  • To be confirmed (Auckland)
  • You - everyone gets to have their say

 

Get Smart event poster

 

 

 

 

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

The Government has now given it's 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.

 

Vindictive

This was a vindictive bill, designed to further punish prisoners by taking away their right to vote. While being a prisoner obviously means that you lose many of the freedoms and privileges enjoyed in our society, there is no natural causal link between being in prison and being unable to vote.

The Council's position is that, as with our other rights, the right to vote shouldn't be unreasonably withheld. As strong supporters of a free and democratic society, we think that prisoners should be encouraged to think of themselves as being part of our society and having a stake in its future as part of their rehabilitation, and that participating in elections is part of this.

We note that our society has gone back and forth on this issue as this line from the bill shows: "The bill as introduced would reinstate the law in this respect as it was between 1956 and 1975 and between 1977 and 1993."

In our letter, we asked the Government to introduce a new bill to amend the offending law and that "this would be a positive step, and show that the NZ Government takes the NZ Bill of Rights Act and civil liberties in New Zealand seriously." The Government has once again shown that they do not.

 

The weak place of the Bill of Rights in our constitution

Unfortunately this decision also reveals just how toothless our courts are when it comes to Bill of Rights issues. This was a historic decision - the first time that a court has made a declaration that the law was inconsistent with the NZ Bill of Rights Act - and the Government has just shrugged it off.

It is a sad irony that this decision by the courts appears to have weakened the position of the Bill of Rights Act in our system rather then improving it.

The Council believes that the position of the NZ Bill of Rights within New Zealand's constitution needs to be strengthened. In our submission to the Constitutional Review we said that we "...would strongly recommend that the provisions of the BoRA be set above all other Statutes: Our strong preference is that the provisions of the BoRA be incorporated in a constitutional codification..." while also allowing that other lesser changes could also help.

Unfortunately we can add the Constitutional Review to the list of improvements to New Zealand that the government has chosen to ignore. We can only hope that future goverments will pick up this issue and provide better protection for New Zealanders' rights and civil liberties.

 


Full text of letter from Minister of Justice Hon Amy Adams

(Undated - received 2nd December 2015)

Thank you for your correspondence of 14 September 2015 about prisoner voting and the steps the Government proposes to take in response to the High Court declaration of inconsistency.

The Government has no current plans to introduce legislation allowing prisoners to vote.

Parliament considered the issue of consistency with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 when it passed the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Bill (the Bill). The Attorney General tabled a report in Parliament soon after the Bill was introduced, pursuant to section 7 of the Bill of Rights Act. This report, that the Bill appeared to be inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act, was discussed during the parliamentary debates on the Bill.

Parliament may form a different view from the Attorney-General about whether a particular right of freedom is limited or whether the limitation is justified. In this case, Parliament decided to pass the Bill. The High Court declaration of inconsistency has no impact on this decision.

Thank you for writing.

Yours sincerely,

Hon Amy Adams

Minister of Justice

File attachments: 

Govt's lack of response to the Constitutional Advisory Panel Report

In November 2013 the Constitutional Advisory Panel delivered its report to the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Māori Affairs.  The Ministers then submitted a final report to Cabinet.  The Report is therefore with the New Zealand Government and it is the practice that the Government provides a response to the report within 6 months; this ought to have occurred during 2014, even with the delay around the General Election.   

The Constitutional Advisory Panel’s work on the “constitutional conversation” engaged a significant number of New Zealanders: Panel members attended many meetings, and received and considered 5,529 submissions. 

The Report contained a number of recommendations; the key submission being that the Government actively support a continuing conversation about the constitution by ensuring people can find out more about the current arrangements and options for our future. 

The recommendation with regards the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act was that the Government set up a process with public consultation and participation to explore in more detail the options for amending the Act to improve its effectiveness.

On 5 January 2015 New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties wrote to the Prime Minster, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Attorney-General asking when the Government would provide a response to the Constitutional Advisory Panel’s report and what plans have been made to progress the consideration of constitutional issues.

The answer we received from the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office in May 2015 was:

The Government is considering the Panel's report. If the Government decides to undertake further work, or propose constitutional change, there will be more opportunities for New Zealanders to have their say.

New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties considers that given the importance of our constitutional arrangements, the resources and effort put in around the constitutional conversation, the clear  wide public interest in the issues, and the contribution that civics and citizenship education could make to social engagement across the spectrum of society, it is unacceptable that the Government dismisses the Report in this way.

The Council will continue to look for opportunities to put New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements into public forums for considered discussion.      

Guest article: The FATCA threat to NZers civil liberties

Buried deep within the massive omnibus tax bill now before the Select Committee in Parliament is a provision that if enacted as it is, will strip an entire class of New Zealanders defined by national origin, association or mere accident of birth, of their privacy and civil liberties under the Privacy Act and the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.  Further, the Government is taking this action at the behest of the foreign state.

The United States practices what they call “citizenship based taxation”.  Essentially anyone whom the United States, at its sole discretion, defines as a “US person” is subject to American tax on their worldwide income.  US persons who live abroad are required to file complicated annual tax returns and reports of all their financial assets and activity even if no tax is owing.  There are ruinous fines and the threat of prison even for inadvertent non-compliance.

Last year the US Congress also passed the Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) which requires all financial institutions worldwide to report all accounts held by US persons under penalty of onerous financial sanctions.  Since for a New Zealand financial institution to do so would violate several provisions of the Privacy Act and the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, the Government proposes to amend tax law and enter into an Inter-governmental Agreement to allow this information to be transmitted to the IRD for onward relay to the American IRS.  Part 11B of the Bill will require all New Zealand financial institutions to audit, gather and report to the IRD information on all accounts that at any time during the year have a value of $50,000 or more held by US persons.

 

Who is a US person for purposes of this Act?

The Government would have you believe that they are merely assisting our American friends in stopping tax evasion by a few wealthy individuals.  This is far from the truth.  First, any US citizen is a US person even if they also hold New Zealand citizenship.  One may become a US citizen by naturalization, by birth in the US, or by birth overseas to a US citizen parent.  There are an estimated 7 million US citizens abroad by that definition.

Note that one can be a US citizen through the accident of birth even if you don’t want to be, have never claimed to be and have never set foot in the US. For example, a child born to a New Zealander studying or working temporarily in the US automatically becomes a US citizen at birth.  No registration or positive claim is required. Likewise, a child born in New Zealand to a US citizen parent will almost always be a US citizen.  In both of these cases, the Kiwi is required to report and pay taxes on their worldwide income and in both of these cases a New Zealand financial institution will be forced to give their bank details to the US IRS.  Second, any holder of US permanent residency (the famous “green card”), is a US person subject to the same requirements even if the person no longer lives in the United States unless they have formally surrendered the residency. Thus, an innocent Kiwi, who may not even know she is a US citizen for tax purposes, will have her bank details sent to US authorities and will be subject to all the taxes, interests, fines and penalties provided for in American tax law.

The above cases above would be bad enough.  However reporting is also required when a US person has a beneficial interest in an account.  Thus, the spouse, partner, child or other close relative of a US person will have their financial data reported to the US even if they have no other connection to America.  And it doesn’t stop there, anyone with a joint account with a US person will be reported. Family trusts with even one US person as a beneficiary? Reported.  Businesses where a US person has signing authority over an account?  Reported.  Companies where US persons hold 10% or more of the shares?  Reported.  Joint beneficiary with a US person of life insurance policy?  Reported.  And as we’ll see the reporting doesn’t stop there, based on instructions from the IRD thousands of people unconnected in any way to the US or a US person will have their private financial details reported to the American tax authorities.

 

How do the banks know which accounts to report?

The IRD has issued compliance instructions to financial institutions as to which accounts must be reported.  The reporting is based on indicia which may show that the holder is a US person or that US person has beneficial interest in the account.  The indicia, which can found on the IRD’s web site are:

  • Indication of a place of birth in the US. (Born in the US but left as a child? Reported)
  • Current US phone number, mailing or residential address (Kiwi working or studying temporarily in the US?  Reported)
  • Standing instructions to transfer funds to a US account. (Send pocket money to your son or daughter studying, working or travelling in the US? Reported)
  • An account with an “in care of” or “hold mail” address as the sole address. (Out of NZ for awhile and getting your mail in care of a mate? Reported.)

 

Implications for Civil Liberties

The 2006 Census recorded 21,000 New Zealanders with a place of birth in the US and this is the number usually offered by the Government as the number affected.  Clearly though, the number will be far, far higher than this. Based on average family size and immigration, I think that 100,000 is probably a better estimate of the number of innocent Kiwis who, without their consent, will have their private financial information transmitted to a foreign tax authority.  No suspicion or probable cause is required.  The rules are based solely on national origin and association.

Section 19 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, referring to the grounds of discrimination spelled out in the Human Rights Act (1993), expressly prohibits discrimination based upon “ethnic or national origin, which includes nationality or citizenship”.  It also prohibits discrimination based upon marriage, civil union or de-facto partnership with a particular person” or upon “being a relative of particular person”.   

Yet the Government’s proposed legislation will set up an entire class of New Zealanders who will be outside the protection of the Bill of Rights Act based solely upon an accident of birth or a choice of association.  In New Zealand’s impoverished democracy, of course any Act passed for any reason that contravenes the Bill of Rights Act takes precedence.  That makes it legal, but it doesn’t make it right. To allow the whims of a foreign government to dictate which New Zealanders have rights and which may be safely discriminated against is a violation of natural justice and a dangerous precedent.

As it is written, the bill is not confined to the American situation.  The IRD can enter into these agreements with any country that passes similar laws.  If the UK or South Africa, to say nothing of China or Zimbabwe, decide they would like to have the bank details of anyone born in those countries, will New Zealand hand them over?  Further, in many countries, banks and insurance companies now decline to do with business with “US persons” even for something so basic as a savings account.  Standard Chartered Bank in Hong Kong places the words right on their website: “We regret this account cannot be opened for US residents”.

One would have thought that the argument over categorizing people by national origin, registering their assets and stripping them of their rights was settled in 1945.  Most of us remember a previous Prime Minister who tenaciously and successfully defended New Zealand’s sovereignty even against the US Navy.  Are we to believe that the current Government cannot even stand up to the American tax man?

This guest article has been published anonymously at the request of the author.

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.

The routine arming of police carries obvious dangers. There is a proud tradition in New Zealand of policing by consent, not by force, policing with the support and the co-operation of the public. The arming of Police puts a distance between the public and Police. The fact that every officer carries on his or her person a device to inflict lethal force is the ultimate example of the State sanctioned threat of force to effect control. This represents a change in culture that could ultimately distance Police from co-operation with the public.

There is the logic of the Arms Race about O’Connor’s argument. Police need guns because the other side may have them, and if all Police have them, Police and society will be safer. This sounds like the reasoning of escalation between the Americans and the Soviets that drove the Arms Race. With respect the more guns there are in society the greater the likelihood that they will be used.

The other point is that when a gun is fired even if the bullet hits the target it may travel out of the target and beyond, further what happens if the officer misses? This happened in Auckland last year and Halatau Naitoko an innocent courier driver was killed. He left behind grieving parents, a grieving partner and a young child who will only have faint memories of her father if she’s lucky. With the greater availability of guns for Police the risk of innocent people being caught in cross fire will increase. The officer who shot Mr. Naitoko was reported as having the offender in his scope, but when he pulled the trigger it was Mr. Naitoko who was shot in the chest. Also worrying was that another officer fired a round with his glock pistol in the direction of the offender from 40m away. It was luck that more people were not killed.

The Police Commissioner Howard Broad writing in Police magazine Ten-One last year observed. “We also have to ask how many officers’ lives might have been saved if they were carrying a hand gun. I can think of one – I can also think of two instances where the officer was beaten to death with his own baton.” This is a valid point, what if an officer is “jumped” and his or her weapon is taken? With more guns on hips this scenario becomes increasingly likely. Further most offenders who use a firearm use a rifle or shotgun. A pistol is no match for one of those. In the truly sad case of Len Snee and Hawkes Bay gunman Jan Molenaar, Mr. Snee did not have a show, armed or unarmed. He was taken by surprise and shot at close range by a rifle.

What of the tricky situation, where you have a mentally unstable person smashing windows with a golf club in the early hours of the morning? If the officer on the scene has a gun rather than withdrawing and containing there is an increasing likelihood that the officer will confront the person and use the weapon. Commissioner Broad appears to agree, “So our strategies rely on officers’ good judgment. They are trained to identify risk and if they encounter an armed situation, to withdraw, cordon and contain until appropriately armed officers can be deployed. If the situation is equivocal, they have arms at ready resort with which to equip themselves. This tactic has worked very well for over 40 years.”

In my youth local Police were stationed in areas for years and knew the community they were part of and were seen as part of the communities they served to protect. If someone was unhinged a calming word and de-escalation was usually the chosen tactic. In our new culture of zero tolerance, tact and diplomacy appear to be placed in a “lock-box” as pepper-spray, Tasers, and now pistols appear to be weapons that are increasingly considered as a first resort. When guns become more common so will their use and I doubt if society will be any safer.

IPCA again decline to investigate badge-hiding police

The IPCA have responded to our letter asking them to investigate the officers who deliberately hid their badge numbers while evicting the Occupy Auckland protesters in 2012.

They have refused our request, claiming that "the Authority has limited resources and can only direct its attention towards the most serious cases." 

We believe that this is a serious case as it demonstrates a conspiracy of multiple members of the police to subvert their own policy, assumedly with the intention of breaking the law. Whether the IPCA doesn't take it seriously or doesn't have the resources to investigate, it demonstrates  that the IPCA is failing to do its job.

The IPCA also claims that "Following a review of the Police inquiry, the authority believes that the sanctions applied do fall within the parameters of what would be considered appropriate under the circumstances." This kind of "don't you worry about it, we've looked into it and it's ok" is surely the exact opposite of what we should expect from an independent complaints authority. It fails on openness, it fails on transparency, and it fails to reassure that either the IPCA or the Police are doing their job in controlling rogue cops.

We deserve better from both the IPCA and the Police.

Immigration finally agrees to obey Public Records Act

We are pleased to report that Immigration NZ has finally agreed to honour its legal obligations under the Public Records Act, and will now be recording reasons for its decisions made under s.61 of the Immigration Act. (See our earlier articles here, here and here.)

Internal Administration Circular 13-08 (pdf) now replaces the problematic IAC 11-10. In it, para 34 says "Immigration officers considering section 61 requests should briefly record their reasons for decisions on the file."

This contrasts with the original instruction that reasons should not be recorded, with internal emails showing that this was to expressly avoid potential for "...the risk of judicial review and ombudsman complaints."

We are pleased that this change has been made, but disappointed that it took complaints to both the Ombudsman and the Chief Archivist after Immigration refused to back down from their initial position. 

 

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.

Along with police, some 70 government agencies - from IRD to the Overseas Investment Office and the Pork Industry Board - will be able to apply to conduct video and audio surveillance and install as yet undeveloped surveillance devices into your home, car, community centre, church, marae, school, place of business, etc. While the report indicates that these new powers will be slightly smaller than originally envisioned in the Bill, the overall thrust is the same: a massive increase in state power to surveil ordinary New Zealanders. 

Fundamental problems remain with the Bill

One of the fundamental problems with this bill is that it makes on-going 24-hour-a- day surveillance equivalent to a one-off search. That conclusion is not accepted; the two are very different. The ability to watch and/or listen to people on a continuous basis is not the same thing as capturing evidence at a distinct moment in time.

Secondly, the bill dramatically shifts the centrality of video and audio surveillance to being the first and primary means of law enforcement and crime solving. The privacy implications for ordinary people from video and audio surveillance are profound. The current law says that audio surveillance can be utilized effectively as a last resort when other methods have not worked or are not available. We would argue that even this tight restriction is being abused by police. 

Thirdly, the bill makes no differentiation between video and audio surveillance. Again, most people would not agree with that conclusion. The old adage, 'A picture speaks a thousand words' illustrates well why video surveillance is indeed a far greater invasion of privacy than audio surveillance. It is without hyperbole to say that legalising trespassory video surveillance would be ushering 'Big Brother' into people's living rooms.. 

The authors of the Bill seek to balance 'human rights' with the State's right to violate them. The State, however is the one making the rules, and as such, there is no 'balance'. When our 'human rights' are not convenient for the police or other enforcement agencies, they are simply and routinely ignored. We believe that the so-called 'Oversight' provided by review clauses, the Privacy Commissioner or Ombudsman are simply incapable of holding any of these agencies to account.

Some of the most disturbing provisions

Warrantless Searches - Circumstances in which 'enforcement officers' can search with no warrant are being expanded, now only 'suspicion' will be required to conduct a warrantless search.

Plain view searches - Grants 'enforcement officers' the right to seize items in plain view. We believe that this will apply to computers and other data storage devices. Once seized these items can be copied in their entirety.

Remote access searches of computers - agencies will be empowered to search computers (including for things like web-based email)

Examination orders - These orders require someone to report to the police for questioning. The right against self-incrimination is totally compromised by this law. You may have to go before a judge to have them determine if you are incriminating yourself, thereby incriminating yourself...a catch-22.

Production orders - allow 'enforcement officers' to sit back and order you to produce documents on an on-going basis that you have or will have in future if they suspect that an offence has been committed

At 442 pages long, the 'interim report' does not go any way to making this complex piece of legislation easier to understand or more accessible to many New Zealanders.


Get Active and Stop the Bill!

Submissions can be made until 3 September 2010. We would encourage people to send a submission, regardless of how long or short it is, indicating that you do NOT support this bill.

We must take a stand against this horrific invasion into our fundamental freedoms!


Interim Report: download the PDF

Email submissions to: Justice and Electoral Select Committee Clerk james.picker@parliament.govt.nz

Contact the Campaign to Stop the Search and Surveillance Bill: stopthebillnow@gmail.com

Campaign website: http://www.stopthebillnow.blogspot.com

 

Letter sent to IPCA re police officers hiding their identities

We have written to the Independent Police Complaints Authority to ask them to investigate the police officers who deliberately hid their identities by sharing badge numbers while evicting protesters in Auckland in January 2012 (see One News report).

We will report back any response we get from the IPCA.

Dear Independent Police Complaints Authority,

I am writing to you on behalf of the NZ Council for Civil Liberties.

We note with concern your decision not to take action against the police officers who deliberately obscured their identity while evicting the Occupy Auckland protesters in January 2012. Apparently the IPCA does not see this as a case of serious police misconduct, a position we cannot agree with.

One difference between a civil society and a police state is that in a civil society police can be held accountable for their actions. Obviously this cannot be done when individual officers cannot be identified, so we have rules that say that police must be identifiable including the use of badge numbers.

By deliberately using incorrect badge numbers, these police officers have conspired to remove this limitation, to become unaccountable. This is of particular concern due to the nature of the policing they were doing, where there was a significant chance of a violent clash between police and the protesters being evicted. One wonders about the level of pre-meditation required to share badge numbers and what this says about the intentions of the officers involved to break the law.

We take no comfort from the news that the officers have been disciplined by the Police, especially when the Police found "no malicious intent", something that seems very unlikely especially when no other explanation is given. Indeed, this lack of credibility about the Police enforcing rules amongst themselves is one of the reasons for the creation of the IPCA.

We urge you to reconsider this decision and take action against these officers. 

 

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.


14th September 2015

Dear Minister Adams

Prisoners and the Right to Vote – section 12(a) of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990

At its meeting on 12 August 2015, the New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties (NZCCL) noted the decision of Mr Justice Heath in the High Court in Arthur William Taylor and Others v Attorney-General of New Zealand and the Chief Executive of the Department of Corrections [2015] NZHC 1706.  The Council considers that the Judgment calls for a response by the New Zealand Government and Parliament.

You will be aware that the case was taken by a number of prisoners serving sentences in New Zealand prisons at the time of the 2014 General Election.    The plaintiffs were disqualified from voting in the election by section 80(1)(d) of the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act 2010, amending the Electoral Act 1993.    Heath J made a declaration that section 80(1)(d) is inconsistent with section 12(a) of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.  This was because, as the Judge found, the provisions produced arbitrary outcomes and could not be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

Heath J said that the primary purpose of a declaration of inconsistency is to inform the public of New Zealand that a provision of the statute law is inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act.   That was as far as the High Court could go, however, the NZ Government is in a position to take action to remedy the defect in the legislation.   

The decision that the disenfranchising provision was not consistent with the Bill of Rights Act will not have come as a surprise because the Attorney-General advised Parliament at the time the amending legislation was introduced to the House, that it appeared to him to be inconsistent with section 12(a) of the Bill of Rights Act. 

The NZCCL members asked me to write to you and the Minister of Corrections requesting that you take the High Court’s declaration of inconsistency seriously, and introduce a new bill to amend the offending provision, removing the features that contribute to the inconsistency with the Bill of Rights Act.   This would be a positive step, and show that the NZ Government takes the NZ Bill of Rights Act and civil liberties in New Zealand seriously.

It would then be up to Parliament to consider a new bill.  Parliament would again have the benefit of an opinion from the Attorney-General as to whether that bill is inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act.  

Please let us know, as soon as possible, the steps the Government proposes to take in response to the High Court declaration of inconsistency.

Yours sincerely

Marion Sanson

Executive Council member, NZCCL

Cc Attorney-General, Chris Finlayson

Liberty Watch - April 2011

Round-up of civil liberty news for April 2011.

Petrobras Oil Survey

East Coast Maori plan to take a complaint to the United Nations for not being consulted over the New Zealand Government's decision to award a permit for oil and gas exploration.

Brazilian oil giant Petrobras is conducting a survey of 12,000 square kilometres of seabed off East Cape determine if oil or gas are likely to be under the ocean floor in commercial quantities.

The company has a permit to conduct the search in the Raukumara Basin and a legal obligation to continue under the terms of an agreement with the New Zealand Government.

A legal representative for Te Whanau a Apanui, Dayle Takitimu, says the iwi has decided to go to a number of United Nations committees.

Ms Takitimu says its concerns include breaches of human rights, racial discrimination in property rights for Maori land, and the rights of indigenous people.

http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/72941/maori-to-complain-to-un-ove...

The Air Force has confirmed it has sent an Orion aircraft to investigate the protest against an oil exploration project off the East Coast of the North Island. The Air Force says it is doing this on behalf of police and will do this as long as police need it.

Newszealand.blogspot.com 11/4/11

Paralympics seek accord with Jetstar

The budget airline ran foul of the Paralympic team after it said it could only take two out of eight wheelchair bound team members on a flight booked in May.

Jetstar is the only airline operating in New Zealand to restrict the number of wheelchair bound travellers.

Human Rights Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan said that the law in this respect is very clear, "Anyone who provides a good or service to the public in New Zealand has to do it in a way that takes account of the requirements of disabled people unless it would be unreasonable to do so, or unless there is a potential harm to the person."

Noonan said that they while every case has to be assessed on its own merits, the extra costs associated with catering for disabled passengers would not be enough for Jetstar to claim it is "unreasonable" for them to take them.

http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/paralympics-seek-accord-jetstar-4123130

 

Jetstar stops disabled pair flying

Tanya Black and Dan Buckingham – presenters of TVNZ disability show Attitude – had been due to fly from Auckland to Wellington but were not allowed on to their aircraft after they were told they each needed to fly with their own caregiver.

Jetstar spokeswoman Andrea Wait said the airline's policy stipulated that, if a passenger needed help boarding, they were required to bring along another person as a carer. Passengers needing special assistance were required to notify the airline before flying.

The low-cost airline had fewer staff on board than other carriers, so could not necessarily assist those with disabilities, she said.

Dominion Post 13//4/11

New Zealand Copyright Law Violates Human Rights

Parliament has passed legislation dealing with online copyright infringement, which could ultimately result in people having their Internet connections cut. The Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill was passed under urgency.  The new law comes with a presumption of guilt, meaning that anyone accused of copyright infringement is by default presumed guilty. On the other hand, owners of copyright need do nothing more than simply accuse alleged offenders, leaving the burden (and high legal costs) of proof of innocence to hundreds of thousands of individual Internet users in New Zealand. Furthermore, it turns an ISP into unpaid police who have to do what the movie and film industry tell them. If a studio says that someone is pirating, the ISPs have to believe them and send a warning notice to those customers telling them they may have infringed copyright.

After three strikes the copyright owner can take a claim to the Copyright Tribunal who can place a $15,000 penalty on the Internet account holder.

The Commerce Minister has threatened that if his law does not work in two years he will introduce a tougher regime

http://www.techeye.net/internet/kiwi-politician-compares-internet-to-sky...

Three Strikes Law May Violate European Human Rights Law

Professor Dr Albin Eser, Emeritus Professor of Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure and Comparative Criminal Law at the Law Faculty of the University of Freiburg in Germany delivered a lecture titled “Human rights guarantees in criminal law and procedure from a European perspective” at the University of Auckland Law School.   He said that he had been “quite amazed” to hear of New Zealand’s Three Strikes law and such legislation would probably pay insufficient heed to the individuality of each case, and might violate the principle of proportionality in European human rights law

http://www.law.auckland.ac.nz/uoa/home/news/template/news_item.jsp?cid=3...

Call for research into high rate of Maori imprisonment

The lobby group, Rethinking Crime and Punishment, says an independent centre should be set up to look at why the rate of Maori imprisonment is so high. Forty percent of Maori men over the age of 15 have been in prison or served a community-based sentence, and Maori are imprisoned at six times the rate of non-Maori. The group's director, Kim Workman, says research is needed into what he calls the disproportionate treatment of Maori within the criminal justice system.

Newszealand.blogspot.com 24/4/11

New law to protect vulnerable children

Legislation to create a new offence for failing to protect a child or vulnerable adult has been introduced to Parliament. Justice Minister Simon Power said it had been fast-tracked and was signed off by Cabinet.

The Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2) will make it an offence to not protect a child or vulnerable adult from the risk of death, grievous bodily harm or sexual assault. The maximum penalty would be 10 years imprisonment. A person can be found liable if they live in the same household as the victim, are closely connected to the household or is a staff member at a hospital, institution of residence where the victim lives. The bill will also double the penalty for cruelty to a child to 10 years and extend the legal duty for parents and caregivers to provide the necessaries of life. "It will no longer be an excuse to say you were not involved in the abuse,” Power said.

Newszealandblogspot.com 11/4/11

Family Court shake-up

A shake-up of the Family Court could end counselling and mediation services, introduce more user charges and restrict cases that can come before the court.

Justice Minister Simon Power announced a review of the system yesterday, a week after he said legal aid in the Family Court would become harder to obtain and more expensive.

But one family court lawyer says the review is "frightening", and others are predicting essential services may be chopped and vulnerable parties be left without court protection.

NZ Herald 24/4/11

Urewera 18 turn to Supreme Court in quest for jury trial

The 18 people arrested during the Urewera police raids have sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court in an effort to have their case heard by a judge and jury.

In December, the High Court ruled that a judge alone should hear the case.

Despite opposition from lawyers for the 18 accused, who appealed to the Court of Appeal, the decision was upheld last month.

Suppression orders prevent publication of the reasons for both courts' decisions.  The Crimes Act does allow trial by judge alone when cases are complex and expected to take a long time.  The Urewera case is set down for 12 weeks.

NZ Herald 24/4/11

Changes to Jury service Rules

Legislation that will enhance the privacy, safety and security of jurors was introduced to Parliament.  One of the proposed changes is to bar people from serving on a jury if they have, in the previous five years, been sentenced to home detention for three months or more. This puts them in the same category as those sentenced to a short term of imprisonment.

NZ Herald 24/4/11

SIS Changes Criticised

The Human Rights Commission has slammed the Government over proposed changes in the New Zealand Security Intelligence Amendment Bill - both the way the bill is being handled and the changes themselves.

The changes will specify in greater detail some of the electronic tracking and seizure practices already being undertaken by the SIS under general authorisations - including tracking mobile text messaging and internet traffic and accounts and IP addresses.

"We are, however, apprehensive about the bill's potential to dilute the accountability elements presently in the act and so undermine fundamental human rights and protections that are an inherent part of a democratic society."

New Zealand herald 7/4/11

The Council of Trade Unions (CTU) also released its submission on the bill, saying the SIS could be able to create an army of informants immune from prosecution.

"We are concerned that this bill sets up structures that will enable random surveillance without sufficient authorisation, at an extreme leading to a situation where there could be a wide network of informants throughout society," CTU president Helen Kelly said.

"While this may not be the intent, we should not set up structures that would allow such outcomes."

Ms Kelly said the CTU was also concerned the bill would have an impact on trade unionists and negatively affect free speech, political activity and privacy.

Otago Daily Times 6/4/11

 

Singer Arrested

Singer Tiki Taane says police arrested him for singing a popular protest song by an American rap group, which he often performs during his shows. He has been charged with disorderly behaviour likely to cause violence

Taane, was performing at a Tauranga club early Sunday when police arrived to carry out a standard inspection of the premises.

It's understood he began singing the NWA song "F**k the Police" while officers did their inspection.

NZ Herald 12/4/11

Tasers to be in every police car

Within months police can expect an easing of restrictions for using Tasers and greater access to them, including one in every frontline vehicle, under new Police Commissioner Peter Marshall.

He also supports more access to firearms, tougher penalties for those who assault police, and a jail term for every time a driver flees police.

But Commissioner Marshall, 57, who started a three-year term this week, is against the general arming of police, even though the Police Association supports it.

Tasers were only in 26 per cent of frontline vehicles, and officers had to gain permission via the communications centre to use them.

NZ Herald 24/4/11

Call for inquiry after prisoner forced to give birth in cell

A penal reform group has called for an inquiry after a woman had to give birth in her jail cell because Auckland women's prison staff had to follow safety procedures before opening the door.

Ms Aitken said guards had to follow set procedures for safety reasons and that included getting approval from senior staff to unlock the door and that two staff had to be present to open the door.

NZ Herald 24/4/11

Apple under fire for iPhone, iPad tracking

Privacy watchdogs are demanding answers from Apple about why iPhones and iPads are secretly collecting location data on users.

Much of the concern about the iPhone and iPad tracking stems from the fact the computers are logging users' physical co-ordinates without users knowing it, and that the information is then stored in an unencrypted form that would be easy for a hacker or a suspicious spouse or a law enforcement officer to find without a warrant.  Privacy watchdogs note that location data opens a big window into very private details of a person's life, including the doctors they see, the friends they have and the places where they like to spend their time.

Otago Daily Times 22/4/11

'Hands tied' on synthetic cannabis

Lawmakers say their hands are tied in their attempts to ban powerful synthetic cannabis products. Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne said he would like to have seen the substances prohibited but New Zealand's outdated drug laws prevented it.

The Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs, after researching and testing the products, recommended they be classified R18.

Mr Dunne said the committee had two options – to classify the products as a restricted substance or as a controlled substance.

"They said they were dangerous but in their conclusion they were less harmful than cannabis" Mr Dunne said.

"They weren't confident they had sufficient evidence to justify them being made a controlled substance."

Mr Dunne said he had no option but to accept the recommendation.

He said the current legislation was very old and written before the substances were available and hoped a Law Commission review of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, due out in about a month, would add more teeth.

Taranaki Daily News 12/4/11
 

 

Liberty Watch - April 2013

Round-up of civil liberty news from April 2013.

 

Asylum

Amnesty International criticises New Zealand Government’s over refugees

Amnesty International has expressed its disappointment with the New Zealand Government’s decision to push forward with a Bill to introduce detention under a mass warrant for asylum seekers.

The Immigration Amendment Bill passed its second reading, and moves New Zealand one step closer to “breaching its international obligations and failing to protect the rights of asylum seekers and refugees…any legislation that aims to deter asylum seekers from their legal right to claim asylum through punitive measures is also contrary to the Refugee Convention,” said Grant Bayldon, Executive Director of Amnesty International.

Scoop.co.nz 17/4/13

 

Constitutional Review

Research reveals lack of awareness of the Constitutional Review

Research just released by Research New Zealand, shows only 33% of New Zealanders are aware of the current Constitutional Review.

This lack of awareness has been criticised by Conservative Party Leader Colin Craig, who said, “Changing our constitution is a major proposition, and this process is proving to be one that is not inclusive of New Zealanders, nor is it one which New Zealanders asked the government to undertake…Our constitutional framework is the property of the people of New Zealand. Unless they explicitly endorse a change, it should be left well alone.”

 

Scoop.co.nz 10/4/13

 

Criminal Justice

Explanation called for on prosecution rates

Justice reform group JustSpeak has released data that show that the likelihood of a prosecution for a Maori person aged 10 to 16 was higher in every category of crime except one compared to a Caucasian.

The figures, compiled from New Zealand Police records, showed that 46 per cent of Maori youth apprehended for sexual assault were prosecuted, while 34 per cent of Pakeha faced prosecution. The only category in which Caucasians were more likely to be prosecuted was "miscellaneous offences".

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia challenged Police Minister Anne Tolley in the House to explain the discrepancy between Maori and Pakeha prosecutions yesterday, saying that disproportionate treatment of Maori in the justice system had first been identified 30 years ago, and questioned whether this bias was being addressed.

Mrs. Tolley rejected accusations of institutional racism.  She said the data did not take into account many factors such as whether repeat offenders committed the crimes or whether evidence was available to help with a prosecution.

JustSpeak spokeswoman Lydia Nobbs noted that the data had some limitations, but she emphasised that it showed an overall trend that the Government should consider.

Tongan community leader Will 'Ilolahia, a co-founder of 1970s movement the Polynesian Panthers, says tactics used then may well be something to consider today to address the discrepancies in prosecution rates between Pakeha and Maori and Pacific peoples.

Then a body known as the Police Investigation Group followed police officers on patrols and offered legal aid and advice to Maori and Pacific Island people they felt were being wrongly apprehended.

New Zealand Herald 11/4/13 & 13/4/13

 

Criticism of 14-year strike 2 warning

The controversial "three strikes" legislation has seen a young man jailed without parole and warned that if he steals another skateboard, hat or cellphone he will spend 14 years behind bars.

In issuing the offender his second strike, Judge Tony Adeane told the man his two "street muggings" that netted "trophies of minimal value" meant his outlook was now "bleak in the extreme".

"When you next steal a hat or a cellphone or a jacket or a skateboard you will be sent to the High Court and there you will be sentenced to 14 years' imprisonment without parole," Judge Adeane said.

Justice Minister Judith Collins said the case showed the law was working. Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman Garth McVicar agreed, saying the sentence of two-and-a-half years' jail with no parole was "fantastic".

Victoria University criminology professor John Pratt said the case "highlighted fundamental problems" with the law, and asked, "Was this really the type of offender that the three strikes law was meant to protect us from?"

Professor Warren Brookbanks of Auckland University's Faculty of Law said the case made a mockery of its promoters' claim that it would target only "the worst of the worst."

Rethinking Crime and Punishment spokesman Kim Workman said the public needed to think about the cost of locking someone up for 14 years for robbing a boy of a cap and a cellphone.  Workman also argued that while some will say he will not reoffend if he knows he's on his third strike, no one knew what he was likely to do given that about 40 per cent of young offenders had neuro-disability disorders such as foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, for which they were not tested.

Sentencing policy expert Wayne Goodall also said the case highlighted the injustice of the law and "we will inevitably see instances of individuals serving lengthy sentences out of all proportion to the actual behaviour".

By the end of March 2013 there were 2684 offenders on their first strike and 17 on their second strike.

The Dominion Post 28/4/13

 

Employment

Man loses job after wrong drug test result

A Blenheim man says he wants answers after "impossible" drug test results caused him to lose his job.

The pre-employment drug test came back positive for opiates, cannabinoids and methadone, despite him maintaining that he had never having taken any of the substances, leading to the man having his employment contract terminated.

When a second supervised test at Wairau Hospital two days later came back clean, the man was told by medical professionals that, given the high levels of cannabinoids detected in the first sample, it would be "practically impossible" for that level of cannabinoids to have left his system in two days.

The man was reinstated in his job but is asking for compensation off Medlab for lost wages from the 4 days' work he missed.

New Zealand Herald 8/4/13

 

Freedom To Protest

Government proposal to ban marine protestors

The Government is proposing to ban protestors from within 500 metres of mining structures and ships in New Zealand's Exclusive Economic Zone.  Potential repercussions include up to $100,000 in fines, or 12 months imprisonment.

Lawyer and social policy expert Michael Bott said, "In many ways it's lamentably sad. New Zealanders have a right to protest and a freedom to protest and express themselves enshrined in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act."

New Zealand Herald 1/4/13

 

Marriage Equality

Parliament votes to make same-sex marriage legal

Parliament has voted to make same-sex marriage legal by 77 votes to 44 making New Zealand the thirteenth country legalise gay marriage.

Gay and transgender couples will be able to marry from August 19.  The terms bride and groom will remain but people will be able to opt to use partner instead.

The legalisation of gay marriage in New Zealand does not eliminate every shred of legal inequalities for gay couples, with a grey area still remaining around adoption.

Same-sex married couples could also run into problems when seeking visas in other countries legal experts warned.

Stuff.co.nz 18/4/13 & New Zealand Herald 20/4/13

 

Police

Police conduct watchdog yet to interview officers linked to Urewera raids

Police involved in the Urewera raids have still not fully co-operated with the agency investigating their actions five years after the controversial operation.

Recent briefings from the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) to Justice Minister Judith Collins said investigators still wanted to interview officers involved in the raids.  However, the difficulties in securing an interview will not stop the release of the IPCA's report into the 2007 raid, which is expected in May.

New Zealand Herald 26/4/13

 

Double-shot Tasers in police trial

Police will have 24-hour access to double-shot Taser stun guns during an operational trial of the new technology.

Twenty officers in the Wellington district are being trained to use the new X2 stun guns, which police are evaluating as a replacement for the current X26 model.

The double-shot stun guns can fire a second charge without having to reload, unlike the older model, which need to be manually reloaded after each charge is fired.

Otago Daily Times 30/4/13

 

Prisons

Prisoner safety in spotlight after two deaths

Two prisoners have died in suspected suicides in Christchurch prisons in three weeks, sparking independent investigations by the Corrections Inspectorate.

A Christchurch Women's Prison inmate was rushed to Christchurch Hospital after being found in her cell shortly after 9pm on Saturday, but she was declared dead after arrival.  Her death came only two weeks after that of an inmate at Christchurch Men's Prison on April 7.

Howard League for Penal Reform spokeswoman Madeleine Rose said the deaths showed Corrections was "failing" to fulfil its duty to protect prisoners.  However, Corrections' Southern Regional Commissioner Ian Bourke said both incidents were being taken very seriously, and that the circumstances of both would be reviewed. The independent Corrections Inspectorate would also investigate, monitored by the Office of the Ombudsmen. Police were notified and the deaths had been referred to the coroner.

Bourke said two prisoner deaths in two weeks in Christchurch were unusual. There had not been a prisoner death at Christchurch Women's Prison for about six years, and that the department took "every practical step" to prevent prisoners harming themselves.  This included a recent change to the risk assessment tools, which provides a checklist to help staff identify a prisoner's risk.  The new mental health-screening tool implemented in June last year also improved Corrections' ability to detect mental illness in prisoners at an early stage.  A senior manager also met with a psychiatrist to discuss prisoner management planning.

Rose however said the rate of suicide in prison was 11 times higher than in society, and that since 2002 70 deaths in New Zealand prisons had been ruled suicide.

The Press 22/4/13

 

Prison care queried after inmate given wrong drugs

Rimutaka Prison's care for its prisoners has been questioned after one fell into a coma for five days when he was given unsuitable medication, according to his lawyer.

The prisoner had been prescribed medication for a shoulder injury, but after his prescription ran out, the prisoner, who has serious liver problems, had to wait three days for a replacement script and was given ibuprofen and the anti-inflammatory drug Voltaren as pain relief in the interim.  He says he was given no instructions with the drugs or told that he should not take Voltaren on an empty stomach.

A few days later he began to feel unwell and lapsed into a hepatic coma, which is caused by liver failure.  He required two blood transfusions and was comatose for five days, spending three weeks in hospital, most of it in intensive care.

In a written statement, Corrections Department offender health director Bronwyn Donaldson said the prisoner had received appropriate care and his medical records showed he was given his medication as prescribed, and that the department was funded to provide primary health service to prisoners that was "reasonably equivalent" to that accessed by the general community.

The Dominion Post 22/4/13

 

Coroner’s report highlights procedural faults in Dixon case

Convicted murderer Antoine Dixon was seen naked, bleeding and with a cloth cord from his anti-suicide gown tied around his neck seven minutes before Corrections staff entered his cell at Auckland Prison on the day he died from self-strangulation.

Officers found Dixon unresponsive and he was pronounced less than 30 minutes later.

In his finding released today, Coroner Garry Evans said Dixon may still be alive had been he treated differently in the days before the incident. Coroner Evans said the "sad case" highlighted several procedural faults in the prison service.  However, a Corrections spokesperson said despite efforts to reduce self-harm in prison "it is extremely difficult to stop someone who is determined to harm themselves."

In the days before his death Dixon was dehydrated, malnourished and believed authorities wanted him dead. Dixon had attempted self-strangulation three days earlier at Auckland Central Remand Prison (ACRP) by tearing material from a suicide prevention gown before being found by officers. He was then transferred to Auckland Prison at Paremoremo because he required a "tie-down bed" that was unavailable at ACRP.

At 8.55pm on February 4, a Corrections officer at the prison's high-risk unit heard a thud coming from Dixon's cell.  The officer, whose name is suppressed, switched on the light and saw Dixon standing behind the cell door with a cloth cord around his neck and bleeding from his head.  He requested support because Dixon was had been deemed so dangerous there had to be four officers present before his cell could be unlocked.  The door was opened at 9.02pm and CPR was started until emergency services arrived. Dixon was pronounced dead at 9.30pm.

Expert witness Dr Peter Freedman, director of emergency medicine at Rotorua and Taupo hospitals, told the inquest that had the tie around Dixon's neck had been removed earlier and CPR started sooner he may have survived. 

Coroner Evans found a number of faults with Dixon's treatment and prisoner procedure.  Had he been transferred to a mental health unit and continuously monitored, it is unlikely he would have died he said. 

Coroner Evans recommended risk management plans to record prisoners' physical and mental health and other issues that put them at risk. Such plans have now been implemented by Corrections.

A review of procedures for prisoner cell and location checks and incident response should also be carried out. Officers should be reminded of exceptions to unlocking policy such as when a prisoner is in imminent danger, said Coroner Evans.

Northern Correction Services regional manager Jeanette Burns defended the requirement for four officers in Dixon's case, citing his "mental state, his history of threats to staff, his erratic behaviour and his martial arts expertise".  However, it was unacceptable it took seven minutes for his cell to be unlocked, she said.

Since Dixon's death a response team is always available and a new mental health screening tool helps to detect mild or moderate mental illness at an early stage, she said, and a senior manager meets a psychiatrist to discuss a prisoner's management plan.

New Zealand Herald 22/4/13

 

Privacy

Inland Revenue Launches New Report On Information Sharing

Inland Revenue has released research that explores the potential impact on the integrity of New Zealand’s tax system of sharing taxpayer information with other government departments to prevent serious crime.

Deputy Commissioner Mary Craig said that although this information is not currently shared with other government departments due to tax secrecy, the Government is looking at whether this could happen, with the right privacy safeguards, to help prevent serious crime and bring offenders to justice.

Ms Craig said the research acknowledged the need to ensure customer confidentiality is maintained and that any information shared is balanced with the risk of error and its misuse.

Deloitte Dunedin tax partner Peter Truman raised concerns about the potential sharing between government agencies of information gathered by Inland Revenue.

If information was to pass from IRD to other government agencies, there needed to be an independent review of the basis for passing the information, to determine whether the information request was appropriate and that taxpayer rights were being protected.  ''A decision to pass information should not rest solely with public servants,'' Mr Truman said.

Scoop.co.nz 11/4/13 & Otago Daily Times 11/4/13

 

The law and surveillance cameras

Security footage from newly installed $37,000 security cameras in Howick Village could not be used against two suspected shoplifters because there were no signs warning the area was under surveillance.

Legislation requires the placement of signs telling people that cameras are in operation and failure to do so means the video cannot be used in court.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner released a guide to CCTV use in 2009. It states that people need to be made aware their personal information is being collected and why, and advises, "Erect signs both near the CCTV cameras and at the perimeter of the CCTV system's range."

Stuff.co.nz 12/4/13

 

Sex offender lost job after being named on website

A convicted paedophile claims he was sacked from his high-paying job as a company CEO when a website published details of his offending.

The Director of Human Rights Proceedings told a Human Rights Tribunal hearing at the Auckland District Court that the 58-year-old had his privacy breached by the Sensible Sentencing Trust (SST).  The Trust refused to permanently remove the man's name and offending details from its website after a court minute revealed no record of a permanent suppression order the man claimed he was granted when he was sentenced to 12 months' prison in 1995.

In October 2009 the man's lawyer wrote to the SST, which removed the man's details temporarily.  When they were republished in November that year a complaint was made to the Privacy Commissioner, which investigated and formed an opinion that the Trust "had interfered with the aggrieved person's privacy".

Simon Judd, acting for the Director of Human Rights Proceedings, told a court there was "scope for huge damage to be done" to the man and his wife if he was not granted interim name suppression.  He said the alleged breach of the man's privacy would be debated later this year, at which point the Human Rights Tribunal would also rule on whether the man deserved permanent suppression.

Mr. Judd said the man's name needed to be suppressed in the meantime, and that when he was convicted of five offences in 1995 articles in the press the following day did not name him.  Mr. Judd said the fact other court stories in the same day's newspaper named other offenders showed there was "a reasonable and proper inference to be drawn ... that the name was suppressed".

The commissioner also found that the official police report on the man had been "wrongfully obtained from the police computer" before it was circulated to the offender's employers.

David Garrett, representing the SST, said the organisation would fight the bid to suppress the man's name in the interest of open justice.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Review Tribunal has issued an interim ruling prohibiting publication of any details of the convicted paedophile on whose behalf the Director of Human Rights Proceedings is prosecuting the Sensible Sentencing Trust for allegedly breaching the offender’s privacy. The ruling also precludes any publication of details about the offender’s partner or her business.

New Zealand Herald 17/4/13 & Scoop.co.nz 26/4/13

 

Schools

Law will allow seizure of phones

Schools may soon be able to seize pupils' mobile phones and search through their contents for evidence of cyber-bullying.

The Education Amendment Bill, will include increased powers to seize pupils' phones and laptops to search for dangerous messages written on social media websites and in text messages, and request police sniffer dogs. Schools would be able to use the dogs to sniff out drugs in lockers and desks, but not on pupils.

Most principals and the Ministry of Education see the changes as a positive step to curb bullying, but others in the sector fear it could damage the relationship schools have with pupils and their parents. 

The Human Rights Commission has advised that the rules need to be clear to avoid schools impinging on pupils' property rights.

Dominion Post 6/4/13

 

Sniffer Dogs find no evidence of drugs in schools

Drug dogs have visited two South Canterbury schools this year but no substances were found at either school.

Mountainview High School and Waimate High School, which had checks recently, both came out clean after the visits.  Waimate High School principal Janette Packman said it was "very pleasing". It was six months since the last check, which was also clear, she said.

There was a cost involved but it was worthwhile, she said.  The school had run checks at random for the past four years and in each case no drugs were discovered.

Timaru Herald 22/4/13

 

Spying

At Least 85 New Zealanders illegally spied upon

The release of a critical report on the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) has revealed that the GCSB may have unlawfully spied on at least 85 people while acting for the Security Intelligence Service (SIS).  While the law bars the GCSB from spying on New Zealanders, there is a grey area when it was asked to do so by another organisation, like police or the SIS, who were authorised.

In response the Government is set to widen the powers of the GCSB to give it the ability to spy on New Zealanders.

Dominion Post 9/4/13 & 3news.co.nz 10/4/13

 

Liberty Watch - April/May 2012

Round up of civil liberty news for April/May 2012.

BROADCASTING

Wellington man fights for his right to complain

A Wellington man is fighting for his right to complain after he was fined $50 last year after making one too many complaints to the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA).  It has been stated that his complaints make up nearly 5 per cent of the complaints against TV One.

Don McDonald complained about a One News story that incorrectly said Kathryn's Supernova was in a galaxy 240 light years away from Earth, when it is actually 240 million light years away.

The BSA said while the complaint did point out an inaccuracy, it was frivolous and trivial and Mr. McDonald had been warned about making such complaints in the past.

Mr. McDonald appealed that decision at the High Court, saying he has being deterred from his democratic right to complain.  The High Court overturned the fine but upheld the judgment.

Stuff.co.nz 2/5/12

 

CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE

Schools searched for drugs

Specialist teams with sniffer dogs have this week searched three regional high schools for drugs – Mount Hutt College, Ashburton College and Geraldine High School.

Mount Hutt College principal John Schreurs confirmed that a specialist company, New Zealand Detector Dogs, was hired to do a sweep of the school with dogs.  In a random search of 16 classrooms there was one bag detected to be positive, about which the school contacted the police.  No disciplinary action was taken, as the bag in question was not always being used on the school site.

In email it was revealed that the decision to search the schools was made not due to “any information received but was part of a proactive programme.”

New Zealand Detector Dogs is carrying out the searches because police were no longer willing to do searches of schools, Mr. Pitcaithly director of NZDD said.  

Ashburton Guardian 5/4/12

 

Call for spyware on kids' phones

During the inquest into the death of a Rotorua teenager who killed herself after getting threatening text messages, MyFone spokesperson Sally Rae gave evidence stating that if New Zealand telecommunications companies got behind an initiative, spy software could be available on all New Zealand cell phones for $200,000.

MyFone was launched in New Zealand last year. The business operates through a website that allows parents to sign up their child's cellphone number and then see any calls or texts made to and from the phone.  The site also provides a tracking service so parents can find out where their child is.

New Zealand Herald 10/4/12

 

Schools demand powers to search for cyber-bullies

Principals want the power to search students' cellphones and laptops to combat cyber-bullying.  Secondary Principals' Association president Patrick Walsh said, "Cyber-bullying has become so common and the consequences so serious, that it overrides privacy concerns." 

Search and seizure guidelines were developed last year to allow principals to search students for drugs and weapons, but principals want it written into law.

Sunday Star times 13/5/12

 

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Sex offender orders 'might breach rights'

Corrections has warned the Government that new "public protection orders" for keeping dangerous sex offenders locked up beyond their original sentences could be challenged by the United Nations on human rights grounds, and that they risk breaching the Bill of Rights.

Justice Minister Judith Collins announced Cabinet had signed off on the public protection orders first proposed in November, and that she expected to introduce legislation this year.  Under the orders, some prisoners, mainly sex offenders, face being kept in purpose-built secure accommodation within prison grounds despite having served their full sentences, on the grounds they still present an unacceptably high risk to the public.

Four Australian states have enacted similar orders, and the UN Human Rights Committee has found that to breach the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Australia's federal government has yet to respond.

Sunday Star Times 13/5/12

 

DRUGS

BSA decision a victory for NORML

The Broadcasting Standards Authority has ruled in favour of NORML, the pro-cannabis campaign group, after an Australian doctor lodged a complaint against the organisation.

The BSA ruled that encouraging and promoting cannabis use on a radio show was "in the spirit of protest" and did not breach standards of law and order, adding "The programme amounted to high value speech because it is legitimate and desirable in a free democracy for individuals to challenge particular laws and promote law reform."

Scoop.co.nz 6/4/12

 

EMPLOYMENT

Man and family spied on by city employer

A company that launched a covert surveillance operation on a Christchurch employee and his family has been ordered to pay $7500 compensation.  The company manager, Mr. Ydgren, spent all day following the employee as he went about his duties.  Ydgren borrowed a family member's car so he would not be spotted, and kept written notes of the day, beginning: ''7.35am left home - dropped son in Rolleston''.

The Employment Relations Authority said: ''Mr. Booth and his family feel violated and victimised,'' by the surveillance.

The Press 5/4/12

 

Worker's privacy 'undoubtedly' breached

An employee whose personal details were leaked during an industrial dispute could seek compensation from Ports of Auckland for breaching his privacy, a law expert says.

Ports of Auckland chief executive Tony Gibson, in a letter to Maritime Union (MUNZ) secretary Russell Mayn, addresses the leaking of personal information, including details of bereavement leave, about employee Cecil Walker to the Whale Oil blog.

The blog published a list of 106 leave days under five categories taken by Mr. Walker, a crane driver, from when his former wife was diagnosed with a terminal illness in 2007 until after her death the next year

New Zealand Herald 12/4/12

 

GANGS

Mob rejects ban on graves insignia

The Mongrel Mob is pledging to fight Porirua City Council all the way to the Supreme Court if it goes ahead with a ban on offensive insignia on headstones.

The council can dictate only the size and installation of headstones, not content, but under a new proposal, sparked by complaints about gang insignia and mottos a new rule stating "no individual monument shall cause offence" will be added

About 10 years ago the Mob replaced the words "Sieg f...in heil" with "SFH" on some new headstones.  However, the cemetery that saw a complaint emerge, Whenua Tapu, has no "SFH" tombstones, and just four with the Mongrel Mob insignia.

The gang have said they are happy to remove swear words, but taking down anything else that had previously been approved would be unlawful, disrespectful and culturally insensitive, adding that Mob membership was similar to religion and some members wished to have the gang's insignia on their headstones.

Dominion Post 2/5/12

 

POLICING

Police teapot tape file won't be released

The police file on the teapot tape investigations is to be withheld from public view.

Following the Police decision earlier this year not to charge cameraman Bradley Ambrose over the now infamous recording of the Prime Minister and John Banks during the election campaign, Newstalk ZB sought a copy of the police case file under the Official Information Act.

Police are refusing to release any documents, citing a ruling from the Chief Ombudsman that says privacy interests in matters that aren't prosecuted are high and need a strong public interest to justify disclosure.

Police say, in this case, public interests don't outweigh privacy interests.

 

AOS members drinking before siege

Fourteen armed offenders squad members who responded to a hostage siege in Opunake in which a gunman was shot dead had been drinking beforehand, police have revealed.  However, none of them was the officer who shot dead the gunman.  

Assistant Commissioner operations Nick Perry said that the amount of alcohol drunk by the officers varied from a glass of wine with a meal to five pints during the previous five hours, Mr. Perry said.  "At the time of this incident the police regulations relating to the carriage and possession of firearms stated that an officer should advise his supervisor if he had consumed alcohol before returning to duty and accessing firearms," he said, adding "The regulations stated officers should not begin duty without the supervisor's approval."

The provision related to general duties officers responding to critical incidents where they would be required to carry firearms and was not intended to apply to AOS callouts, Mr. Perry said.

"It has been since identified that the policy was ambiguous in relation to armed offenders squad staff who were not on stand-by and were being recalled for duty due to emergency situations," he said.

The ambiguity had now been removed.

An employment investigation was commenced, which concluded that the officers had breached the code of conduct by consuming alcohol prior to the callout but due to the ambiguity of the regulations no sanctions were imposed.

Mr. Perry said most of the officers who responded on the night were off duty.

"Some had already worked a shift in their normal roles and were not on stand-by for armed offenders duties but made themselves available due to the nature of the situation."

Taranaki Daily News 25/5/12

 

PRISONS

Inmate wins $600 for strip search

A prisoner has been awarded $600 for being strip-searched twice in one day. 

The prisoner was strip-searched, along with every other prisoner in the high-security block, and soon after, it was decided that he could move back to his lower-security wing. While he was being transferred, the prisoner was left for a short time in a small-supervised space between the wings, called a sally port.  He was then taken into a small room and interviewed before his transfer.

The court heard that while the prisoner was being interviewed, another Corrections officer came into the interview room and was threatened by him.  The officers had to physically restrain the prisoner, moving him back to the high-security wing, where he underwent a second strip search.

The prisoner first appealed to the High Court in 2010 on a raft of accusations against the prison, including the two strip searches, adequacy of prison clothing and heating.  At that hearing, Justice Chisholm found that the first strip search undertaken was unlawful as it breached the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, section 21 of which states: ''Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure, whether of the person, property, or correspondence or otherwise.''

The second search has since found to be unlawful by Justice Chambers.  Under the Bill of Rights Act, there was no provision to search Forrest a second time, considering he had been in a supervised area of the prison, the sally port.

Justice Chambers found it was ''an unlawful search and accordingly an unlawful assault by the officers concerned".  ''The fact Mr. Forrest underwent two unlawful strip searches in the same day make this an 'exceptional case' requiring an award of compensation,'' he said.

Under the Prisoners and Victims Claims Act, the compensation would be paid to the secretary for justice, when it could be used to pay outstanding fines or compensation to victims

The Press 1/4/12

 

Corrections criticised over inmate's death

A coroner has strongly condemned prison systems after it took 13 minutes to respond to a prisoner who collapsed and died in her cell at Auckland Regional Women's Prison. The prisoner, died in her cell in 2008 from an undiagnosed heart condition.

At 9.33pm on November 21 the prisoner activated her cell alarm, which was answered about three to four minutes later. The woman who responded asked the prisoner twice through the alarm intercom system what her emergency was, but received no response and cancelled the alarm without taking any further action.  A Corrections officer doing a routine check then found the prisoner unconscious in her cell about 10.55pm.  Her cell door was unlocked at 11.08pm and resuscitation attempts commenced. They were unsuccessful and she was pronounced dead at the scene.

In a report into her death, Coroner Katherine Greig said the prisoner was let down on the night of her death.  Inspector of Corrections Louise MacDonald found having a system where it took 13 minutes to unlock a cell door was too long and the response timeframe in such circumstances should be no more than five minutes.

In her report today Ms Greig recommended to the chief executive of the Department of Corrections that the Prison Service set a benchmark that meets international standards.

New Zealand Herald 5/4/12

 

Government plans parole changes for high-risk criminals

Inmates considered unlikely to receive parole could have their hearings put off under planned law changes.

Justice Minister Judith Collins said Cabinet had agreed to introduce screening of inmates to postpone unnecessary parole hearings where an offender has "little chance of release”.  Legislation would be introduced to Parliament this year to alter the Parole Act by extending the maximum interval between parole hearings from one to two years.

The maximum postponement period for offenders serving indeterminate sentences and fixed sentences of 10 or more years would be extended from three to five years.

New Zealand Herald 17/4/12

 

Corrections union slams 'degrading' extended search powers in prisons

A proposal to extend strip search powers in prisons has been slammed as needless, degrading and possibly dangerous by the corrections union.

A select committee heard yesterday that procedures for searching inmates for contraband were sufficient, and removing safeguards could lead to an increase in violence.

The Corrections Amendment Bill would remove the need for officers to get permission from a prison manager before searching an inmate. Officials would also perform a more invasive procedure for all strip searches.

Corrections Association of New Zealand president Beven Hanlon said the current strip search procedure was highly successful and he did not believe corrections officers needed greater powers.  He stated that, "I'm not aware of any statistics that say we've got a problem with prisoners concealing things inside them that we're not able to find during a strip search process."

The Corrections Amendment Bill was introduced last year to remove barriers to managing prisoners and encourage efficient, cost-effective prisons.

Human Rights groups have told the committee that basic rights and dignity should not be sacrificed for these goals.

New Zealand Herald 24/5/12

 

PRIVACY

You are digitally recorded 12 times a day

Surveillance cameras are now so powerful that they were able to zoom in on individual spectators at the Rugby World Cup and read their text messages.

Details of police monitoring used for the first time during the tournament were discussed at a privacy forum in Wellington, at which it was revealed that the average person is digitally recorded about a dozen times a day – and even more if they use email and social media frequently.

At the forum Civil liberties lawyer Michael Bott warned against becoming desensitised to digital surveillance.

Dominion Post 4/5/12

 

Accused seeks further compensation

A man once accused of being involved in underage sex may receive a second payout for damages from police after they revealed the allegations to a future employer and the Accident Compensation Corporation, causing him to lose work and accreditation.

The man, who is referred to as EFG because of a court order granting name suppression, has brought proceedings against police complaining they breached his privacy by revealing he had been accused of committing sexual acts on a minor when he lived at Centrepoint, a commune where the "removal of one's sexual limits" was encouraged.

Indecent assault charges were laid against EFG but he was later discharged at a High Court trial.

In 2002, EFG applied for a job with a counseling organisation and allowed police to disclose information about him to the organisation.  The police told the organisation that EFG had been accused of molesting two 8-year-old girls when he was living at Centrepoint. EFG then complained to the Human Rights Review Tribunal that the information police handed over was unbalanced, failed to record his denial of the claims, and failed to explain what happened at the trial, and the reasons for his discharge.

In 2006 the tribunal ruled largely in EFG's favour, ordering the police to pay $12,500 damages and restraining the police from disclosing the information in future.

However, before that decision, EFG applied in 2005 to ACC for accreditation to provide pain management and sexual abuse counseling services to ACC clients.  Police once more made the same disclosures, and ACC declined accreditation.

EFG again complained to the tribunal and the case is still ongoing, but the tribunal has ruled that EFG is able to receive more damages from the police if he can prove he suffered economic loss when the police gave information to ACC, but it ruled EFG could not get more damages for humiliation, loss of dignity and hurt feelings because he was already compensated for this at the first case.

Sunday Star Times 6/5/12

 

Facebook privacy fears for job applicants

The Privacy Commissioner is concerned at reports that employers are seeking access to job applicants' Facebook pages, and has fears that the overseas trend of making it a requirement for employment will catch on in New Zealand.

Commissioner Marie Shroff told MPs on the Justice and Electoral select committee that employers overseas were increasingly demanding access to Facebook pages or even a Facebook password as a condition of proceeding with a job application.

She said such cases were reported in the United States and while there was as yet no evidence of it to that extent in New Zealand, there was anecdotal evidence applicants were being asked to give access to their Facebook page.

 

RACE

Landlord: I want white tenants

A Fiji-Indian landlord has had his rental property listing removed by Trade Me after he described his ideal tenants as "European".  He said the television show Renters had put him off ethnic tenants.  Trade Me removed the ad after users of the site brought up the breach.

Under the Human Rights Act, it is illegal to treat someone seeking property differently based on race or sex.  The act also forbids discrimination based on whether someone has children, is married or is employed, yet several listings seek tenants who are working, single or without children.

However, Human Rights Commission spokesperson, Gilbert Wong, said the rules did not apply when looking for flatmates.  "Someone might advertise for a female flatmate. That's fine because it's about living with someone, as opposed to offering a product or service generally," Mr. Wong said.

Trade Me operations manager Mike O'Donnell said it had been two years since the last problem with racial discrimination, a property ad refusing anyone who regularly cooked ethnic food.

New Zealand Herald 16/4/12

 

Minorities shut out of public service

It has been alleged that Government departments, despite progress in getting women into leadership roles, are failing to promote racial diversity.

Women occupied 40 per cent of senior management positions last year, up from 33 per cent a decade ago, the figures show. However, Maori, who comprise 15 per cent of the population, held only 9.2 per cent of the roles, a decline from 9.7 per cent in 2001.  The proportion of Pacific Islanders in senior roles also fell from 1.9 per cent to 1.6 per cent, and Asian representation was up from 1.7 per cent to 1.9 per cent. The 2006 Census shows Pacific Islanders comprise 7 per cent of the population, and Asians 9 per cent.

Ethnic minorities are also likely to earn less. Pacific Islanders earn on average 19 per cent less than other employees, while Maori and Asian employees lag behind by 11 per cent.

Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres said the situation made him feel dispirited.

Sunday Star Times 20/5/12

 

REFUGEES

NZ at risk of breaching Refugee Convention obligations

The New Zealand government's introduction of changes to the Immigration Act represent a deeply concerning trend that ignores the violent and terrifying situations these people are fleeing says Amnesty International.

“Such changes show a total disregard for our country’s legal and moral responsibility to offer protection to asylum seekers and are, in fact, in breach of New Zealand’s obligations under the Refugee Convention,” says Rebecca Emery, Deputy Director at Amnesty International.  She went on to say, “It is disappointing that the Immigration Minister has used the term ‘queue jumper’, as in fact the queue is a myth, there is no queue for those who are fleeing persecution”, adding that, “People have a fundamental legal right in International and New Zealand law to seek asylum.”

Scoop.co.nz 30/4/12

 

Security Intelligence Service

Report lifts lid on SIS priorities

The Security Intelligence Service's (SIS) annual report for the year to last June says that work relating to the Rugby World Cup was given priority "at the expense of business as usual activities''.  The SIS had planned extensively for "an increased level of terrorism awareness'' during the tournament.  As well as identifying threats to national security, its duties included security vetting of 11,000 people, including caterers, bus drivers, volunteers and hotel staff, who would be close to the teams or dignitaries.

The report also included a statement on the interception warrants in use over the year, which had to be signed by Prime Minister John Key. There were 21 domestic interception warrants for an average of 143 days each, covering cellphone taps, listening devices, interception devices and copying documents.

Otago Daily Times 23/5/12

 

WELFARE

Free birth control for beneficiaries

Women on benefits, including teenagers and the daughters of beneficiaries, will be offered free long-term contraception as part of the Government's welfare reforms.  Critics, however, say the measure borders on state control of women's reproductive choices.

Sue Bradford of the Auckland Action Against Poverty Group said although it was billed as voluntary, there was a power imbalance between beneficiaries and case managers, who were under new pressure to get people back into work.  "My fear is that they will be pressured and intimidated into going along to the appointment for contraception. There are many in the church and community groups who believe that the state should not play a role in women's reproductive lives", she said.

New Zealand Herald 8/5/12

 

Liberty Watch - August 2011

Round-up of civil liberty news for August 2011.

CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE

Government Accused of Choking the Voice of Young People on Policing Bill

Parliament passed under urgency the retroactive Policing (Storage of Youth Particulars) Amendment Bill, closing a legal loophole that prevented police from keeping records of young offenders unless they had been convicted in the District Court.  The Government’s decision to take the Bill under urgency has effectively silenced the voice of young people on legislation which has the potential to impact significantly on their lives, said Kim Workman, Director of Rethinking Crime and Punishment.

“I can understand why government didn’t want to take this legislation through a democratic process. We are hearing a whole lot of stories from young people about abuse of Police powers, and in particular, the high incidence of ethnic profiling. The last thing government needs right now, is to call for public submissions, and have these stories in the public domain”, she added.

Scoop.co.nz 18/8/11

 

Abuse checks on all children called for

A coroner, Dr Bain, has called for compulsory state monitoring of all children until they are 5, with scheduled and unscheduled visits to homes.  He also called for compulsory state intervention wherever there has been domestic or child violence in households, and for children living in single-parent families, as well as significant penalties for those who fail to report child abuse.  Other suggestions were the creation of an anonymous 0800 number for reporting child abuse, compulsory information-sharing between Government agencies, health providers and others, with the Privacy Act over-ridden where necessary, and mandatory reporting by early childhood facilities and schools.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said many of Dr Bain's recommendations, including the mandatory monitoring of vulnerable children, mirrored ideas raised in the Government's green paper.

New Zealand Herald 26/8/11

 

Drunken caregivers 'should be tested'

The head of New Zealand's child death review committee is calling for blood testing adults suspected of being drunk when a child dies from an accident or assault. 

Dr Nick Baker, who chairs the Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee, says parental intoxication is a factor in New Zealand having the developed world's highest rate of sudden unexplained deaths of infants (SUDI), and in many deaths in places such as driveways and swimming pools, yet police did not have powers to blood test adults who were responsible for the children when they died.

Police Association president Greg O'Connor said breath testing or blood testing parents after a child had died would imply the parent was to blame even though it may have been a genuine accident.

He said "I have attended many cot deaths in my career and I would certainly not like to be breath testing parents in those situations where it's almost apportioning blame."

New Zealand Herald 27/8/11

 

Teachers given 'search and seize' powers

Teachers have been given the power to search students - including their cell phones, diaries and laptops.

The guidelines given to schools stipulate how searches should be conducted and give suggestions on when it would be appropriate to make searches - such as an imminent threat of danger or harm to other students.

New Zealand Herald 26/8/11

 

Child smacking book called to be banned

A book,To Train Up a Child, written by fundamentalist United States Christians Michael and Debi Pearl, teaches parents how to smack, thump and pull children's hair as a way of disciplining them, has been removed by

Whitcoulls from its website after a complaint.

The Internal Affairs Department's Censorship Compliance Unit said the book's content would be examined.

On Radio New Zealand Civil Liberties Council chairman Batch Hales said he believes the book is dangerous, as people may use it to justify abusing children and advocates a culture that New Zealand is desperately trying to get away from.  A Californian couple in America were convicted of murder after following the book's instructions and subsequently beat their seven-year-old adopted daughter to death.

New Zealand Herald 24/8/11

 

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Police called 'obscene' in Christchurch looter case

The police's handling of a man with Asperger's syndrome caught looting after the Christchurch earthquake has been described as "cruel and obscene" after the case was dropped.

Despite being asked three times by the courts, police had denied Smith-Voorkamp diversion, which allows first offenders to escape a criminal conviction.

Police said an offender had to admit guilt before they could get diversion, and Smith-Voorkamp has pleaded not guilty.

Smith-Voorkamp was arrested for allegedly taking light fittings from a damaged Lincoln Rd, Addington, property, and possession of tools for burglary, after the February 22 quake.

The 25-year-old has said he had been obsessed with light fittings for most of his life and could not resist his urges, which were fuelled by his Asperger's syndrome.

The Press 4/8/11

 

Bill to rein in legal aid costs introduced

A bill to change the legal aid system and save $138 million over four years has been introduced to Parliament.

The Legal Assistance (Sustainability) Amendment Bill will make 10 changes to the scheme, including tightening the merits test for family cases, adjusting the special circumstances test, re-introducing a user charge of $100 for family and civil cases and introducing compulsory repayment orders.

New Zealand herald 11/8/11

 

No cars flattened

No cars have been crushed under a controversial two-year-old law that promised a crackdown on boy racers.  The Vehicle Confiscation and Seizure Bill was passed in October 2009 and it gave courts the power to send cars owned by people who committed three serious vehicle offences in four years to the crusher. 

New Zealand Herald 15/8/11

 

Urewera raid costs tipped to be millions

The Government has declared spending at least $750,000 on the controversial Urewera raids and their long-running sequel - with some saying the final bill could be for millions.

Law Society president Jonathan Temm said by the time this trial is finished, it is likely to be the most expensive trial in our criminal history.

New Zealand Herald 20/8/11

 

Victim impact law changes welcomed

The father of Dunedin murder victim Sophie Elliott says families should be able to say what they want in victim impact statements, and welcomes Government moves in that direction.

Justice Minister Simon Power has introduced the Victims of Crime Reform Bill to Parliament.  The Bill will make a range of changes, among them clearer guidelines around victim impact statements.

"As there are currently no guidelines governing victim impact statements case law has evolved around what cannot be said, including an outline of the offence and opinions or comment on the offender," Mr Power said.

"This has lead to the unacceptable situation where a victim is effectively censored so they don't offend the offender."

Gil Elliott's statement on the impact of his daughter's death, Sophie Elliott, had entire sections crossed out at the judge's request, before it was read in court.

If passed, the bill will allow photographs and children's drawings to be submitted as part of victim impact statements. Victims of serious crime would have an automatic right to read their statement in court and also be able to attend Youth Court and submit a statement.

New Zealand Law Society family law section chairman Antony Mahon told Radio New Zealand admitting children’s’ drawings were not necessarily a positive move.

"Pictures are fraught, there is research to say that pictures can be quite misleading and even those experts don't agree about what pictures often mean," he said.  "I don't personally think it's an advancement for children's rights to have them directly involved in victim impact statements like this.”

Other changes included ensuring victims got more information about offenders bail and sentences, complaint processes for victims and a Victims' Code to improve the responsiveness and accountability of justice sector agencies to victims.

The code would ensure prosecutors took reasonable steps to contact all victims of serious crime, meet family members before trial, and ensure victims were promptly informed of changes to charges.

New Zealand Herald 17/8/11

 

Policeman escapes conviction

A police detective who rang his boss while being processed for drink-driving used the call to get off the charge in court - exploiting a loophole which could be used by hundreds of alcohol-impaired drivers.

A Detective Constable at Counties Manukau CIB successfully defended the charge at the Auckland District Court on the grounds that he was not given an uninterrupted 10 minutes to decide if he wanted a blood test.

His 10 minutes of think time were considered to have been interrupted after he asked - and was allowed - to ring his boss.

New Zealand Herald 21/8/11

 

DISABILITY RIGHTS

The lack of statistics about disabled people in the workplace is a major problem, says Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Dr Judy McGregor.

“It means we often cannot analyse where disabled people are working, where they get jobs, how many hours they work and which jobs they want. We also don’t know enough about employers’ attitudes.”

For this reason the Human Rights Commission has produced a new report Tracking Equality at Work for Disabled People.

The report confirms that disabled people find getting a decent job is one of their most significant challenges. 

http://www.hrc.co.nz/newsletters/manahau/2011/08/lack-of-data-hinders-ef...

 

EMPLOYMENT

Pay equity

Statistic New Zealand's Quarterly Employment Survey for June shows a per hour pay gap of 13% compared to 12.6% last quarter, and an annual weekly income gap of 17.4% up from 17%.

www.voxy.co.nz 4/8/11

 

INTERNET

Web pirate net nabbing innocent

Innocent internet users could easily become entangled in new copyright laws even if they're not pirating movies or music, a web expert warns, but internetNZ's chief executive, Vikram Kumar, said anyone using peer-to-peer software, even for legitimate purposes, could receive warning notices.

Peer-to-peer is a method of connecting computers that lets users search for, and download, files stored on each of the individual systems that are part of the network.

The software was popular with music and movie pirates, but Kumar said it was used in a wide range of industries - such as the research and innovation sector - to distribute large amounts of information easily.

However, third parties employed by rights holders to catch internet pirates were already sending out warnings to peer-to-peer users, even if there was no real evidence they were illegally downloading.

"This is an indirect method of [copyright policing]. It's one of the low-cost methods used and it tends to throw up a lot of false accusations."

Given the burden of proof in the new law falls on those accused of copyright infringement, Kumar recommended those without a background in computing should stop using peer-to-peer software altogether.

internetNZ has set up a website - http://3strikes.net.nz/ - with information about the new law.

New Zealand Herald 6/8/11

 

Holocaust denial online may become illegal in NZ

Posting racist or xenophobic messages on the internet and Holocaust denial could be illegal if New Zealand signs up to a international cyber-crime agreement.

Justice Minister Simon Power and Police Minister Judith Collins announced a three-year plan to crack down on international organised crime. One proposal involves the Government signing the Council of Europe Cyber Crime Convention, also known as the Budapest Convention.

A protocol of the convention requires nations to make "the dissemination of racist and xenophobic material through computer systems" a crime. It also makes denial or justification of the Holocaust and other verified genocides illegal.

An omnibus bill would come before Parliament next year, if National is re-elected.

Stuff.co.nz 24/8/11

 

MISUSE OF DRUGS

Retailers may fight Kronic ban

A Government ban on the sale of all synthetic cannabis products could spark legal action from the industry, a retailer says.

An urgent bill to ban synthetic cannabis such as Kronic will be considered by Parliament today.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne said the law would be in place by Friday and all 43 current products on the market were expected to be out of shops just over a week later.

Cabinet has approved amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill that would take synthetic cannabis off the market for 12 months, while the Government works on its detailed response to a Law Commission report, which recommends reversing the onus of proof and require the industry to prove its products are safe.

Hemp Store co-owner Chris Fowlie said the Misuse of Drugs Act required the classification of drugs to be based on evidence and Mr Dunne was ignoring that.

Otago Daily Times 2/8/11

 

NATIONAL SECURITY

SIS website

The SIS yesterday launched a website so the public can confidentially and anonymously pass on sensitive information.

The online form says: "As part of the community, you may have information which can contribute to defending and enhancing New Zealand's security, reputation, economic well-being and way of life."

It asks you to notify the SIS "if you believe you have: information of national security concern; or have seen or heard something suspicious that the NZSIS may be interested in". The submitter must classify information as "important and urgent", "important but not urgent", or of "general concern".

Identifying yourself and supplying contact information are optional.

The online form will work in tandem with the freephone line (0800 SIS 224), in place since 2001.

New Zealand Herald 19/8/11

 

GCSB gets judgment against Waihopai 3 without full hearing

High Court associate Judge David Gendall delivered his summary judgement ruling in relation to the Crown Civil suit of the three Waihopai Christian activists. In a 15 page decision Judge Gendall concluded that the defences raised by the three peacemakers fails to make the threshold for an arguable case and has awarded damages against the three men pre-emptively without allowing the case to proceed to a trial.

In contrast, after eight days of evidence at the activists’ criminal trial in March last year, a jury ruled the men not guilty of all criminal charges.

scoop.co.nz 31/8/11

 

NEW LEGISLATION

Cameras in Taxis

The taxi cameras law change, which applies to about 6700 taxis, says each cab must have operating security camera and taxi companies must run a 24-hour call centre.

Christchurch is exempt from the change because of the earthquakes and has until May 1 to install cameras.

Those towns and cities affected are Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Rotorua, Gisborne, Napier, Hastings, Palmerston North, New Plymouth, Wanganui, Wellington, Nelson, Dunedin, Queenstown and Invercargill.

Taxi companies have reassured passengers they would not access footage from cameras in cabs without police authority.  Auckland Taxi Co-Op director Robert Van Heiningen said taxi drivers could not access footage.

The regulations required each company to appoint one person who could access footage. They had to keep a log of what footage was viewed and why.

N Z Police spokesman Grant Ogilvie said police would only release footage to media if it helped with criminal investigations.

New Zealand Herald 7/8/11

 

Freedom campers face $200 instant penalty

he Freedom Camping Bill was passed under urgency and is expected to take effect on September 1.  It was rushed through Parliament to "capture" the visitors expected to hit NZ shores for the Rugby World Cup.

Councils and the Department of Conservation will have the power to restrict freedom camping from specific areas, and fine people $200 for breaking the law; a heftier fine of up to $10,000 can be sought for more serious breaches such as dumping waste.

But concerns have been raised that the new law will capture outdoors-lovers who head away on a Friday night and camp on the roadside before a weekend of hiking, mountaineering, fishing or hunting.

The act defines freedom camping as camping within 200m of a road, road end or the low-water line of the sea or harbour.

Exemptions include "temporary and short-term parking", day-trip excursions and resting or sleeping in a car.

*Local authorities will be able to ban freedom camping, defined as camping within 200m of a road, road end or the low-water line of the sea or harbour.

*Freedom camping in these spots could lead to an instant $200 fine; more serious breaches could incur a $10,000 fine.

*Making preparations to freedom-camp where it is banned could incur a $200 fine, as could damaging any area, or dumping waste inappropriately.

New Zealand Herald 18/8/11

 

POLICING

Mental health concerns over Tasers

The Mental Health Foundation is calling for a formal review of police use of Tasers after figures released show four out of 10 of those tasered in the past year were experiencing mental health issues.

Numbers released by Police Minister Judith Collins this week showed that 37 of the 88 people tasered by police in the 11 months to August were "judged to be experiencing a mental health issue".

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Judi Clements, "We were concerned from the beginning it would not be used as a last resort, it would become something that was normal in use.

New Zealand Herald 26/8/11

 

Prisoners Rights

Clampdown on running businesses from prison

he Corrections Department is about introduce new rules to stop prisoners running businesses after a murderer was able to run help run an imports business from behind bars.

The new rules require all sentenced prisoners to declare any self-employment activities, which will then be assessed for approval, which would only be granted in "exceptional circumstances".

New Zealand Herald 27/8/11

 

PRIVACY

Massive overhaul recommended for Privacy Act

The Law Commission is recommending a massive overhaul of the Privacy Act providing stronger enforcement measures and changes that alternately offer better protection of individual privacy and make it easier for government agencies to bulk share private information.

Changes protecting individuals include a statutory "Do Not Call Register" which would allow New Zealanders to register their choice not to receive telephone-marketing calls.

The Commission also recommends the current exemption for personal or domestic information should not apply if the collection or disclosure of the information would be highly offensive. The change would deal with situations such as when a person posts naked photographs of their ex-partner online without consent.

A key change, if the Commission's recommendations are accepted, would see agencies - which have lost personal data, or had it stolen through hacking or other means - required to notify victims of the data breach.

"People have a right to know if their information has been compromised in a serious way," said Law Commissioner Professor John Burrows.

The commission has also grappled with how the internet changes notions of privacy and recommends clarifying the Act so that "publication" of personal information includes the internet.

It also addresses concerns about the flow of information across country borders and how information can now be held in a nebulous "cloud" of computers located overseas.

The Commission points out protection other countries may not meet New Zealand standards and recommends putting new obligations on agencies to check before they send or store information overseas that privacy will be protected.

On the issue of data matching across government agencies which some see as creeping Big Brother government and ways to monitor citizens' every move, the commission argues there are many good reasons for government departments to share personal information.

Examples cited include collaboration to provide one-stop-shops and "smarter" services, plus working across agencies to tackle social problems such as child abuse.

At the moment such sharing is not always possible under the Privacy Act and the government has had to pass legislation to specifically override the Act.

New Zealand Herald 2/8/11

 

RACE

No-turbans-allowed email racist, says Sikh job hunter

A leading security company has apologised for saying in a job recruitment email that staff are not allowed to wear turbans.  General manager Mike Rutherford told the Herald there was no turban ban at First Security and the email "was the result of a misunderstanding by the person who authored the correspondence".

The Human Rights Commission said banning turbans would be potentially unlawful.

New Zealand Herald 8/8/11

 

Outrage at 'racist' pamphlet

Its alright  to be WHITE, Be Proud" pamphlets which have been dropped through mail boxes and doors, in Blenheim.  Right wing organizer Kyle Chapman said the messages were not racist and should not be viewed that way.  "It is simply a recruitment drive and we are targeting like-minded people, it is not malicious" he said.

Mr Chapman said the messages were posted in random mail boxes during the weekend recruitment drive.  He estimated thousands had gone out across the country.

Marlborough Express 16/8/11

 

STUDENT LOANS

IRD can recall student loans under new law

The Inland Revenue Department will now be able to recall student loans in full under legislation passed by Parliament.

Revenue Minister Peter Dunne said the vast majority of borrowers met their repayment requirements and had no reason to worry, but serious defaulters would be dealt with.

New Zealand Herald 20/8/11

Liberty Watch - December 2013/January 2014

A round up of civil liberties news from December 2013 and January 2014.

Border Control

Backpacker stripped of electronic equipment at Auckland Airport

A backpacker coming home for Christmas had every bit of electronic equipment stripped from him at the airport.

A Customs officer at Auckland International Airport took law graduate Sam Blackman's two smartphones, iPad, an external hard drive and laptop and demanded his passwords.

Mr. Blackman, 27, who was breaking up travelling with his fiancée for a month back in New Zealand for Christmas, was initially given no reason why the gear was taken.

The only possibility of why it occurred was his attendance, and tweeting, of a London meeting on mass surveillance sparked by the Snowden revelations, he said.

However, a Customs official has since told him they were searching everything for objectionable material under the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993.  Mr. Blackman said he did not have anything of that nature and could not understand why he had been targeted.

A Customs' spokeswoman refused to discuss Mr. Blackman's case. She said passengers considered "high risk” received attention at the airport. She also said Customs officials were required to have "reasonable cause” to believe an offence had been committed.

New Zealand Herald 12/12/13

 

Canterbury Earthquakes

Commission releases report on Human Rights in Canterbury Recovery

The Human Rights Commission has released a report calling for people and their human rights to be put at the heart of the recovery in Canterbury, with Chief Commissioner David Rutherford saying, “The Canterbury earthquakes represent one of New Zealand’s greatest contemporary human rights challenges…[and] the report examines human rights challenges that have emerged during the recovery and makes 33 recommendations to improve access to adequate housing, health services and help business make a positive contribution to human rights.”

He agrees that progress has been made, but notes that “many residents affected by the earthquakes continue to experience deteriorating standards of living and quality of life that go beyond the immediate effects of the disaster…[and] rights to property, housing and participation in decision-making have also become major issues.

“A natural disaster is no excuse for human rights to be ignored. In fact, Canterbury shows us that when human rights are incorporated in the response and recovery, they can lead to better decisions, better services and a stronger recovery for everyone.”

A copy of Monitoring Human Rights in the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery is available on the Human Rights Commission website at: http://www.hrc.co.nz/?attachment_id=9754

Scoop.co.nz 10/12/13

 

Children

Unicef raises concerns about the rights of New Zealand’s children

A new report by Unicef makes for further sobering reading about the plight of our country's children.  Titled ''Kids Missing Out'', the report is a summary of the first 20 years of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in New Zealand.

Unicef is the United Nations Children's Fund and its mission is to create a better world for every child. The convention has been ratified by 190 countries.

The report explains how at the time of ratification, in 1993, then Minister of External Relations and Trade Don McKinnon stated that despite making no legislative changes, the convention would ''help ensure that the interests of the children are fully considered in the future''.

Sadly, the report's findings show that while there have been some advances (it cites the repeal of section 59 of the Crimes Act which removed the right of parents to use physical force to punish or correct their children), progress on implementing the convention here has overall been ''patchy and too slow''.

It also says since 1993, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child ''has made a range of recommendations as to how New Zealand might better implement the convention raising, often repeatedly, over 35 different issues''.

Unicef New Zealand executive director Dennis McKinlay says ''the continued failure'' to meet the convention's obligations has ''very real, everyday consequences for children'' and is also ''harmful to New Zealand's standing in the international community'' in terms of human rights and commitments under international human rights conventions.

The report says 20 years after ratification of the convention, an estimated 270,000 New Zealand children live in poverty, which Children's Commissioner Dr Russell Wills has previously said affects their development, behaviour and physical health, can limit their adult potential and comes at an estimated cost to the country of $6 billion to $8 billion.

The report is critical of the increases in hospital admissions for children suffering from poverty-related conditions, access to health services and education, the high rates of child abuse, neglect and family violence, the way in which children are treated by the police and judicial system, and our adoption laws.

It says there are a number of areas in which New Zealand does not fully comply with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and criticises the Government for not committing to implementing the 78 recommendations for alleviating child poverty made by Dr Wills' expert advisory group on child poverty last year.

It says implementation of policies to help children ''will remain ad hoc, reactionary and potentially inconsistent with the convention and each other'' unless an effective convention action plan is adopted, and policy strengthened through legislation.

Otago Daily Times 11/12/13

 

School defends Christian studies

An Auckland state school says most parents want its Christian education programme for five- and six-year-olds to continue.

A woman taking a complaint to the Human Rights Commission about the programme at St. Heliers School says the classes are a form of indoctrination.

Two parents have now complained to the commission to try to stop the school giving religious instruction to Year 1 and Year 2 pupils.

Melissa Muirhead says while she would be happy for her children to be exposed to a variety of religions, Christianity is the only one being taught at the primary school and that amounts to discrimination.

"The school promoted it as a values-based programme, but it's not. It's actually very much Christianity and [coming] from an angle which I think is indoctrination of children at a very vulnerable age."

The head of the school's board of trustees said a survey of parents at the end of last year found more than two thirds wanted the classes to continue, with just under a fifth against them. Gary Ivill said only 12 of the school's 221 children in Years 1 and 2 have opted out.

Parent Roy Warren, who has also made a complaint, said his child comes home repeating Christian beliefs and is only learning about one religious viewpoint.

Another father, Maheen Mudannayake, said he was disturbed to see a volunteer instructor setting up a mock communion with fruit juice and rice cakes at the state school.

Mr. Mudannayake, a Buddhist, removed his children from the optional classes, and said his children are left to draw or do menial tasks during the sessions.

Radionz.co.nz 26/1/14

 

Equal Marriage

361 same sex marriages since law change

Three hundred and sixty one same sex couples have got married in New Zealand from August to December 2013.  The figures show almost one third of the couples are Australian. The total figure of 361 includes 202 New Zealand couples, says Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Jeff Montgomery.

Scoop.co.nz 24/1/14

 

Gender

Pregnancy ban “illegal discrimination”

Banning women from flying in the late stages of pregnancy is "gender biased" and may breach human rights, a University of Canterbury researcher says.

Rules regarding the rights and responsibilities of pregnant women flying with New Zealand airlines vary, but women are generally required to carry a medical certificate stating they are fit to fly after about 28 weeks of pregnancy.

Associate Professor Annick Masselot said the policies were often justified on the grounds of health and safety, despite little medical or scientific evidence to back them up, and it was rare for pregnancy-related medical problems to occur on flights, particularly compared to the number of passengers who suffered other health problems while flying, such as heart, epileptic or high blood pressure problems, she said.

However, pregnant women were still asked to provide a medical certificate while others with "more risky" medical conditions were not.

"Airlines base their policy on over-inflated safety concerns that are gender biased," Masselot said.  The policies were "guilty of over-protecting pregnant women" and created a space for "illegal discrimination".

There had been very few legal challenges to the policies, but a number of recent challenges had been brought to the Human Rights Commission (HRC) by pregnant women refused travel by some airline companies, she said.

She hoped decisions, expected to be released by the HRC soon, would result in a "better environment" for pregnant women.

The Press 31/12/13

 

Gender surgery cost too high for many

A national support group for transgender people says the $500,000 of public health funding spent on gender realignment surgeries over the past five years is woefully inadequate.

In 2006 the Human Rights Commission launched the world's first inquiry by a national human rights institution into discrimination experienced by transgender people.  It found that most trans-people could not access the gender reassignment services necessary for them to live in their gender identity and appropriate sex.  The vast majority of services were not available within the public health system, resulting in many bearing the cost of private assessments and medical treatments, either in New Zealand or overseas.

The inquiry, which took two years, concluded the cost of gender reassignment services was a significant barrier to many trans-people.

Since that inquiry the Ministry of Health has done work to improve the standard of health services provided to trans-people but the barriers for accessing sex change surgery remain high.

Ministry of Health chief medical officer Dr Don Mackie said there was funding through the Special High Cost Treatment Pool to provide just three male to female surgeries and one female to male surgery every two years.

The Press 11/1/14

 

Human Rights

Justice Minister reports on New Zealand’s Human Rights

Justice Minister Judith Collins has visited Geneva to present the first update on human rights in New Zealand since 2009.

An area Ms Collins admits New Zealand can improve on is its figures on domestic violence and social inequality for Maori, the focus of New Zealand's last human rights review.  She has stated, "It's not something we should say we're completely proud of our record. What [we] can say is [we are] very proud of the steps we've taken and that we are very honest about the situation."

After Ms. Collins presented the report, United Nations member countries will later report back with recommendations for New Zealand to improve human rights. However, the recommendations are not legally binding, as it's effectively just suggestions.

When New Zealand was last up for review in 2009 there were 64 recommendations made. Only 36 were accepted.

3news.co.nz 25/1/14

 

Attorney-General launches attack on Law Society

Attorney-General Chris Finlayson has launched a strong attack on the Law Society for claiming that Government's use of urgency was a breach of human rights.

The Law Society has said that its concerns about Parliament's law-making were left out of a Government report to the United Nations.  The Society had criticised law-makers for passing five acts that were inconsistent with the Bill of Rights.

Law Society spokesperson Austin Forbes QC also argued that the National-led Government's use of urgency, when Parliament sat for extended hours to pass legislation, was a breach of human rights.

Mr. Forbes also said the society was particularly concerned about the passing of the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Amendment Act last year.

The legislation passed into law in a single day in May, despite a notice from the Attorney-General that not extending payments to all family carers could breach the Bill of Rights Act.

The society presented its concerns in a submission on the Universal Periodic Review in June 2013, but they were not included in the final report.

Mr. Finlayson said that the Law Society was wilfully misrepresenting New Zealand's human rights record, and the use of urgency was not a human rights issue.  He said that the Law Society had ignored the work that all parties had done to reduce the use of urgency, and that the rate that it had been used was the lowest in years. 

Mr. Finlayson also said that Section 7 notices, which are attached to legislation if they breach the Bill of Rights, did not prevent the passage of the law, adding "Some of the Society's members may want an entrenched bill of rights allowing the courts to strike down laws made by a democratically elected Parliament. However, that is not the law of New Zealand under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act."

New Zealand Herald 31/1/14

 

Media Freedom

Cameron Slater 'incredulous' over ruling

Blogger Cameron Slater says he was "incredulous" that a District Court judge ruled he does not meet the criteria to be considered part of the media.

The Whale Oil founder is being sued by Auckland businessman Matthew Blomfield in a defamation case and has been ordered to hand over confidential sources as part of discovery.

In September Judge Charles Blackie said Slater was not entitled to rely on journalists' rights to protect the identity of sources, as set out in the Evidence Act.

In a ruling made on September 26, Blackie said Slater's blog was "not a news medium within the definition of ... the Evidence Act".

Wellington media lawyer Steven Price said the thrust of the Law Commission's report was that bloggers who were serving the functions of free speech and a free press should be treated as media and be entitled to media privileges.

"Still, it is concerned that the reporting be dispassionate and reliable. It can be argued that Whale Oil doesn't measure up on that criterion."

New Zealand Herald 2/12/13

 

New Legislation

Drunk-cam: Police to film patrons

Drunk patrons will no longer be allowed in bars, and if they are caught, the bar-owner will face a fine of up to $5000.  Police will also film punters, to prove their intoxication.

The new rules are among tougher alcohol measures under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act, which took effect from 18 December and are intended to reduce alcohol harm in the community.

A 4am closing time for all on-licence premises has been well publicised, but other changes are not widely known.  These include police having the power to ban shot-glass drinks or the use of glass vessels after a certain time, and $250 on-the-spot fines for people who drink in a public place or use a fake ID.

Bars are now forbidden to serve intoxicated people. Under the new law, drunks will not be allowed to be in a bar and the bar-owner can be fined up to $5000 for any breach.

Police already patrol bars, but drunks will now be judged by tougher standards and officers will have video cameras at the ready to film them, said Inspector Gary Davey, of Auckland city police.

Two cameras had been bought for the city's enforcement team, Mr. Davey said.

The filming would not be done covertly.

The criteria used to establish intoxication are: appearing to be affected by liquor, impaired behaviour, impaired co-ordination or impaired speech.

Someone who fails two of these tests will be considered intoxicated.

Auckland Council's manager of alcohol licensing, Rob Abbott, said licensing inspectors would also inspect bars. Unlike police, they would not have to identify themselves on entering licensed premises.

"This means they can make some initial observations ... while remaining incognito."

New Zealand Herald 9/2/13

 

Operation 8

Human Rights Commission report accused of being  'toothless'

The Maori Party is bitterly disappointed with the Human Rights Commission’s report into Operation 8 saying the report is toothless, sidesteps important rights issues including institutional racism and discrimination, and fails to outline steps to redress and right the human rights violations that occurred.

Maori Party Co-Leader Te Ururoa Flavell said, "my heart sank when I read the report. While it upheld the view that the human rights of the people of Ruatoki were trampled on, the analysis largely follows the IPCA report, the laws and policies of the police and does not at all reflect the experience, trauma and impact of the rights violations suffered by the children and adults of Ruatoki.

“After five years of waiting, we get a report which glosses over issues such as institutional racism, such as how the police came to violate and terrorise an entire low socio-economic primarily Maori community; the violation of the rights of children, like when Police raided school buses, and homes where children were present; the human rights of indigenous people; the rights of collectives and more. It acknowledges that violations happened, but makes no further practical comment about how to move forward and how to remedy the situation.”

Voxy.co.nz 20/12/13

 

Policing

Taser use, and injuries, on the rise

Police are discharging Tasers more often and the number of people injured by it is increasing, police statistics reveal.

From January 1 to June 30 police showed the weapon, which hits offenders with an electrical charge on 552 occasions and discharged them 72 times.  The number was the highest six-month figure since the weapons were rolled out nationwide in 2010.

The weapons were shown in 21.5 per cent of all tactical responses by police, another six-month high and compared to the six months from July 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011 when they were used in 13.2 per cent of tactical call outs.

The injuries from Tasers were also on the rise, with 10 people moderately or seriously injured as a result of a shot in the six months to June 30.  There had been 14 such injuries in the 18 months before that.

Police also had to use more shots on individuals, having to use three or more discharges on an individual suspect 10 times in that six-month period.  In the 18 months before that three or more shots into the same suspect only occurred seven times.

Anti-Taser activist John Minto said it was only a matter of time before someone died because of a Taser shot, and noting that,  "In the United States hundreds of people have been killed by Tasers.”

Minto wanted to see only the armed offenders squad armed with Tasers, saying, ”The more police have them and the more officers will use them and grab them rather than good body language and communication skills."

Minto said he had seen police act very well without them in the past but if those same situations were replicated today then the taser would be out straight away.

Dominion Post 10/12/13

 

Privacy

People wise up over privacy as they ponder misuse prospects

Reflecting on a year that uncovered global bulk internet surveillance and potentially illegal spying by our own spy agencies, Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff said Kiwis were increasingly concerned about losing control of their information.

"There is a loud sound of penny-dropping all over the place as people are realising the full implication of collecting all this data, the huge risk that it poses, the opportunity for misuse."

She said it was unclear how mass online surveillance by the United States and others were affecting Kiwis because there was so little information.

However, she rejected the suggestion that the horse had already bolted on privacy. "That is a myth perpetuated by the people that have the most to gain from collecting and using information. We shouldn't allow ourselves to be conned by that sort of attitude."

Leaks by former National Security Agency (NSA) intelligence analyst Edward Snowden have revealed the mass harvesting of citizens' internet and phone data, both in the US and overseas.  Closer to home, it was revealed the Government Communication Security Bureau (GCSB) may have unlawfully spied on 85 New Zealand residents, including internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom.

Unsurprisingly, both the GCSB and the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) were the subjects of privacy complaints to the commissioner in the past year.  The GCSB was the subject of 19 complaints, only one of which was found to have substance, while the SIS was the focus of 13, three of which were substantiated.

Both were dwarfed by complaints against other government agencies, with ACC receiving 79 during the year.

Overall, 842 privacy complaints were received, down from a record 1142 in the previous year.

Dominion Post 6/1/14

 

Agencies too slow in destroying shared data

Kiwis' private information is being mishandled by government agencies, which break their own rules when sharing people's details.

Reports from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner reveal agreements between Government agencies to share personal information have been "non-compliant" and have had "substantial issues".

Several agencies have been caught holding on to the information of hundreds of thousands of people after they had previously agreed to destroy it.

The Ministry of Justice was caught three times over a year holding on to personal information of fine dodgers it had received from Immigration New Zealand, Inland Revenue and the Ministry of Social Development. The details the ministry was meant to destroy included cellphone numbers, passport details and employment records.

In another report, the Ministry of Health was criticised for incorrectly retaining death records and running the risk of assuming someone alive was dead.

In another, the Ministry of Social Development was caught tracking people using their tax numbers, which is illegal under the Privacy Act.

Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff said the breaches were disturbing. "This is a highly complex environment with huge amounts of citizens' data, and you do need a watchdog carefully checking what is going on to keep them honest."

Dominion Post 6/1/14

 

Refugees

New Zealand’s ‘twilight’ population of refugees

New Zealand has created a ‘twilight’ population of refugees who have severely limited access to support services both before and after being recognised as Convention refugees and gaining Permanent Residency according to new research conducted by ChangeMakers Refugee Forum and the National Refugee Network.

The research, based on interviews with 18 people who have successfully claimed asylum and staff from agencies working with asylum seekers, found systemic information and service delivery gaps with research participants facing an array of challenges to claiming asylum and permanent residency.

Despite having their claim for refugee status recognised, successful asylum seekers, known as Convention refugees, are eligible to few of the support mechanisms available to refugees who are resettled part of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees refugee quota programme.

According to Alia Bloom, Research Coordinator at ChangeMakers, New Zealand is barely meeting its international commitments recognising the right of people to claim and enjoy asylum.  “As a country we provide a very basic level of support for people claiming asylum and those recognised as Convention refugees. Our research found that even at this most basic level there were inequities and inconsistencies regarding information about support mechanisms and how they could be accessed.”

Scoop.co.nz 9/12/13

 

Liberty Watch - February 2012

Round-up of civil liberty news for February 2012.

CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE

Barring disabled kids ‘inexcusable’

Hampstead School principal Peter Melrose had said that barring disabled kids from schools is inexcusable in reaction to news that disabled services provider IHC has collected statements from families to back up a case to go before the Human Rights Review Tribunal against schools who have turned away disabled children.

Mr. Melrose said every school should be well equipped to handle students with disabilities and there were very few grounds to decline enrolments at any school.

Ashburton Guardian 21/2/12

 

Policy changes allow undocumented children to go to school

In 2010 the Government followed advice from the Human Rights Commission that for New Zealand to meet its international obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, all children, whatever their legal status as residents, should be able to attend school.  However, significant policy related hurdles meant it remained difficult for these children to attend school despite the funding. The criteria said a child had to be in New Zealand unlawfully for six months before they could enroll.  Furthermore, depending on where the family was in the appeal process, a child’s immigration status could suddenly change. This could mean a child, who was attending school, could suddenly be unable to do so because under the previous policy the child would need to be “unlawful” for six months.

 The change in policy means that the criteria are no longer based on the period of time that the child has been living unlawfully in New Zealand.

http://www.hrc.co.nz/2012/policy-changes-allow-undocumented-children-to-...

 

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Radical jury trial overhaul proposed

The Law Commission has proposed ditching trials by a full jury of 12 in favour of trials by a judge and two semi-professional jurors to allow more evidence, such as previous convictions, to be used.  Other proposals include, Judges, rather than lawyers, control trials including calling witnesses; Victims being able to request review of decisions to drop or amend charges; fast-tracking cases with vulnerable witnesses; and defendants' evidence given at the start of a trial instead of after the prosecution.

New Zealand Herald 14/3/12

 

Complaints body sent private details to journalist

The body charged with investigating complaints about judges has accidentally released personal details about those who had sought its help. The documentation contained complainants' names and addresses, and the progress of inquiries into the complaints

There were 181 complaints about judges last year.  The details show that complaints were lodged against judges at the Family, District and High Courts. The complaints contained allegations ranging from judges being "bored", to "not interested in hearing defence" and "not interested in the truth". There was also an allegation that a judge had not taken seriously a claim that two young men had died as a result of serious offending by senior politicians and commercial leaders.

Herald on Sunday 19/2/12

 

Corrections transgender stance unjust

The New Zealand AIDS Foundation (NZAF) has expressed support with the Chief Ombudsman's criticism of the Department of Corrections saying that policies in New Zealand prisons put transgender prisoners at risk of HIV.

Shaun Robinson, NZAF Executive Director, says that one effect of the policy is that transgender women who may not have completed gender reassignment surgery and therefore have not changed their birth certificates are housed in male prisons and treated as male prisoners. "Yet these women identify as women, dress as women, receive female hormones and live their day-to-day lives as women."

Robinson argues that trampling on the human rights of people on the basis of sexual and gender identity is fundamentally unjust. "This is a human rights issue at a base level; the policy is transphobic and places transgender people at severe risk of violence in prisons.

"This decision flies in the face of the recommendations of the 2007 Human Rights Commission Report 'To Be Who I Am' on the rights of transgender people," says Robinson. "The report notes that 'protection from discrimination under the Human Rights Act 1993 requires policies and practices to be inclusive of transgender people, whatever their sex or gender identity' - something the Department of Corrections does not appear to have considered."

Voxy.co.nz 17/2/12

 

EMPLOYMENT

Ad requested good looking people only

An ad for a job selling ice-cream in Mangere required applicants to be fast and hard working but also indicated looks were important. Posted on backpackers.co.nz, the ad invited "girls" to text in a photo with their age and nationality.

"Those who do not send photo will be not selected. Good looks will be an advantage," the advertisement, listed by Rob Galsavo, read.

The Human Rights Act 1993 protects New Zealanders from discrimination based on gender, nationality and age. However appearance-based discrimination is not covered.

New Zealand Herald 26/2/12

 

FREEDOM OF SPEECH

Man fined for selling derogatory clothing

An Invercargill retailer, who was selling hooded tops with the words "Jesus is a c..." emblazoned on the back was fined $500 in Invercargill District Court and an order was made for the destruction of the garments.

The charge was laid by the Internal Affairs Department under the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act.

Southland Times 15/2/12

 

Banned Bloody Mama book reclassified

Bloody Mama, the banned booked seized from a Newtown bookseller by government officials, has been reclassified unrestricted by the Office of Film and Literature Classification.

The decision said readers drawn to the book were likely to be mature enough to handle its adult content, which is restricted to ''one or two sentences'' in the 132-page novel. ''Unlike a film, a book does not make a sudden, colourful impression, and requires a level of engagement with the text that would make it of little interest to children.''

The now defunct Indecent Publications Tribunal banned the novel in 1971.

The office's decision is open to for review from the public or interested parties for a month from March 10.

Dominion Post 17/2/12

 

GENERAL ELECTION

John Key's radio show broke law

An Electoral Commission ruling has found the Radio Live show hosted by John Key last September was an election programme and therefore a prohibited broadcast.

The commission's found the broadcast was an election programme and a breach of the Broadcasting Act.

The Electoral Commission will now see the police to decide whether to prosecute the broadcaster, which could be fined up to $100,000.

Otago Daily Times 9/2/12

 

HUMAN RIGHTS

First guide to religion at work

The Human Rights Commission has released the country's first guide to religion at work.

The Human Rights Commission received 55 complaints last year in relation to religious discrimination, of which 16 were employment related. It is illegal to discriminate on the basis of religion, although there can be exceptions if there is a health and safety issue at work.

The Press 19/2/12

 

Standards for health research could become less stringent

New Zealanders could participate in health research without the chance to give informed consent if draft procedures for health and disability ethics committees are adopted, the New Zealand Law Society has said in its submission on the Draft Standard Operating Procedures for Health and Disability Ethics Committees.

The submission says the proposed changes are a significant departure from the current standards for ethics committees and from international standards for the protection of human participants in research, and If implemented they will have significant human rights implications.

Section 10 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 provides that every person has the right not to be subjected to medical or scientific experimentation.  “The Law Society is concerned that the proposed changes, together with reducing the membership and numbers of ethics committees, will not provide adequate protection for participants of health and disability research. This particularly applies to the right of patients or participants to give informed consent or refusal to participate in research,” Health Law Committee convener Alison Douglass said.

Scoop.co.nz 23/2/12

 

IMMIGRATION

Police and immigration exceeded powers

Police and immigration officials exceeded their legal powers by forcing an Indian woman to put her fingerprints on deportation documents, two separate inquiries have found.

Seperate police and immigration investigations concluded that police, acting on behalf of immigration officers, exceeded their powers by using force to prise open the woman’s clenched fist in order to obtain her fingerprints for deportation travel documents.

As a result of the investigation, Immigration New Zealand has agreed to enter a process whereby the woman and her family can lodge an appeal on humanitarian grounds to be allowed to stay in New Zealand.

New Zealand Herald 3/2/12

 

OPEN GOVERNMENT

Bureaucrats' burying visa decisions 'a blatant act of law breaking'

Instructions to immigration officials not to record information to avoid judicial reviews and extra paperwork have outraged civil libertarians, who are calling it a deliberate attempt to avoid accountability.

The Immigration New Zealand directive to staff concerns section 61 of the Immigration Act, which empowers the Immigration Minister to grant a visa to a person who is unlawfully in New Zealand and not subject to a deportation order.

This power is delegated to Immigration NZ officials and decisions are open to review by the Ombudsman.

In November last year Immigration NZ issued instructions to staff not to "record any reasons or rationale" in all cases involving section 61, including those that are thrown out without being considered, and those that are considered and are accepted or declined.

Council for Civil Liberties spokesman Thomas Beagle said the instructions could violate the Public Records Act, which requires that "every public office and local authority must create and maintain full and accurate records of its affairs, in accordance with normal, prudent business practice".

Failure to comply with the act regarding an individual could see a $5000 fine.

Mr. Beagle said hiding under a complete lack of documentation was against the way a transparent and accountable Government should operate.

New Zealand Herald 27/2/12

 

PARLIAMENT

Parliamentary rule changes affect the use of urgency

A number of changes to the way Parliament is run will help ensure more integrity from MPs, less use of urgency and greater public.

One change gives the House an option to sit for longer and progress bills without resorting to urgency. Under urgency, a bill can pass all its stages and bypass select committee scrutiny, where the public has a chance for a say. Additionally, a minister calling for urgency will have to say why urgency is needed.

Speaker of the House, Lockwood Smith said he did not think urgency had been abused in the last term. "But the problem is that it gives the public the impression that stuff is being rammed through without proper scrutiny” he has said.  A study by Victoria University's Faculty of Law found that during the MMP era, urgency was used the most in the 1996 to 1999 term and the 2008 to 2011 term.

New Zealand Herald 6/2/12

 

Questions raised over lack of support for deaf MP

The National Foundation for the Deaf has said a decision not to give special funding for deaf MP Mojo Mathers in Parliament is ''disgraceful and appalling.''

Spokeswoman Louise Carroll urged Mathers to take the matter up with the Human Rights Commissioner and to look closely at employment laws.

Carroll said, ''I'm hearing impaired. I spend my whole life trying to access information that other people who can hear normally take for granted…. This is just a gross example of it.''

Carroll agreed with Green Party leader Metiria Turei that disabled candidates would be dissuaded from standing for Parliament, adding ''It would seem to me that this is a straightforward issue of access for a person who is disabled, whether that be a wheelchair or a communication equipment is irrelevant” and she questioned Parliament's commitment to signing as New Zealand's third language.

Stuff.co.nz 14/2/12

 

POLICING

Police access Facebook in Wellington murder investigation

Police investigating a Wellington murder enlisted the help of the United States Government to order Facebook to hand over the personal pages of suspects.

They also contacted internet giant Microsoft to gain access to Hotmail email accounts and tracked down those who had contacted a suspect on internet dating sites.

Dominion Post 11/2/12

 

Call to test for alcohol post crash

People injured in car accidents should be tested for the presence of alcohol in their blood before receiving treatment, Otago Southland Coroner David Crerar  has said.

He has asked the Southern District Health Board to institute a protocol requiring, where possible, that a blood sample be taken from patients involved in car accidents as soon as they are admitted to hospital.

Southern District Health Board acting chief executive Lexie O'Shea said, "This is a complex issue and there are a number of ethical and national policy issues which need to be considered."

At present, the board would take a sample from a driver, in the circumstances outlined by the coroner, when requested by the police and as required by the Land Transport Act 1998.

Otago Daily Times 17/2/12

 

'Too many' being Tasered

Seven people have been Tasered by police in Manawatu in less than two years, amid fears officers are using them as "a weapon of first resort".

Figures released to the Manawatu Standard under the Official Information Act show that since Tasers were issued to the region's police officers in March 2010, they have pulled them on members of the public 32 times.

Last year not a single Taser was fired in Palmerston North, but three people were Tasered in the rural areas surrounding the city. In 2010 four offenders were Tasered by police in the city. Figures for 2012 were not available.

Tasers were introduced to frontline police in Wellington, Auckland City, Counties Manukau and Waitemata in 2008. Since the national rollout to all other districts in March 2010, Tasers have been presented on 890 occasions and fired 136 times.

All of those shot by Tasers in Manawatu were men aged between 18 and 40. Of the 136 people shot nationwide, only five were women.

New Zealand Civil Liberties Council spokesman Kevin McCormack said the use of Tasers was inhumane.

Nationally, police fired their guns at three people last year – including in Otaki in March, when a 28-year-old man was shot in the arm by police. The man was wanted by police for assault and driving while disqualified. The man was taken to Palmerston North Hospital in a stable condition. From the beginning of 2008 until September 2011, police drew their firearms 872 times throughout the country.

Manawatu Standard 15/2/12

 

Visit to niece ends with police brutality

A 56 year old retired civil engineer and university lecturer from China who came to New Zealand to visit her niece in Hamilton found her visit soured by alleged police brutality.

Ms Li went to Countdown Hamilton and parked her car in the Countdown car park.  When she returned her car was gone.  Not able to speak any English, she was given body gestures that her car might have been towed away by the towing company.

Spotting a tow truck in the car park, she went to see if the driver could take her to her car. She attempted to explain her situation to the driver and tried to sit in the passenger’s seat of the tow truck as a means of explanation; however, due to the language barrier, the driver misunderstood and instead called the police.

A total of 4 police officers arrived at the scene. After speaking to the tow truck operator, the officers gestured to Ms Li to move away from the tow truck and she obeyed. However, believing that the officers would help her, Ms Li then tried to explain her situation to them through hand gestures. The police officers however did not understand her and they gestured to her that she must move away from the police car. Ms Li followed their instructions and feeling exhausted from her ordeal began to walk back to Countdown to find somewhere to sit down.

In what was described as similar to a “rugby tackle”, the officers then jumped on Ms Li from behind, twisting her arms behind her back and forcing her to the ground.

Ms Li was then yanked to her feet and shoved into the backseat of the police car. During the trip back to the Hamilton police station, Ms Li was groaning with pain, and tried to get the attention of the officer beside her by using her leg and indicating that her right elbow was extremely sore. The officer did not help her, but rather laughed at her and mimicked her groans of pain. It wasn’t until they arrived at the Police station and after the handcuffs were removed that Ms Li was finally able to point her obviously deformed right elbow and was then taken by an ambulance to Waikato Hospital’s Emergency Department.

Upon examination, it was discovered that Ms Li had a dislocated right elbow, which took three attempts to reset and a laceration to her left cheek that required stitches.

A friend showed up in the hospital and was told by the same police officers that Ms Li was “biting and assaulting police officers which was the reason for her arrest, and that she would later be charged by the police and prosecuted in court.”

It is understood that next to the Countdown supermarket there are a few Chinese supermarkets and a transportation centre, where there would have been at least one Chinese speaking person who the police could have asked to act as an interpreter and helped to resolve the situation.

Press Release: Amicus Barristers Chambers

Scoop.co.nz 9/2/12

 

PRIVACY

Commuters express privacy fears over Hop card ad blitz

Personal information from tens of thousands of Aucklanders has been given to a private company by council authorities, with the details then used in a marketing blitz.

Auckland Transport gave the information held on users of the "Hop card" - which are used to pay fares on buses - to a third party, Snapper Services, which embeds electronic chips in the cards so they can also be used to pay for items in affiliated shops.  Snapper then used the email addresses contained in the personal information to launch a campaign advertising its retail services.

Although only names and email addresses are required to register a Hop card, users are also invited to supply phone numbers and street addresses. Although cardholders could elect not to register them, they would be unable to seek credit refunds if they were lost or stolen.

A spokeswoman for the Privacy Commissioner, Marie Shroff, provided a statement of concern it issued in 2008, soon after Snapper cards were introduced to Wellington, about the amount of information asked of registered users.

New Zealand herald 13/2/12

 

RACE

Asians face most discrimination in NZ

Asians are the most discriminated against group in New Zealand, according to a new survey conducted for the Human Rights Commission, and attitudes towards them have changed little in the past five years.

A Human Rights Commission review of discrimination and harassment found that the number of media reports of racially motivated crime dropped in the past year, but still included a number of serious assaults.

Two Thai women were abused both physically and verbally in Nelson, a couple set their dogs on a Filipino man and Japanese student in Christchurch, a man in New Plymouth attacked his Indian neighbours' car with a machete, and a Chinese student was assaulted at an Invercargill petrol station.

The Race Relations Commissioner, Joris de Bres, told the New Zealand Federation of Multicultural Councils in Wellington that an active focus on inclusion of Asian New Zealanders in all aspects of New Zealand life was required to break down discrimination. Asians are now one of our four largest population groups, and one of the fastest growing. Yet the only publicly funded television programme, Asia Downunder, was discontinued last year," he said.  Auckland University, has rightly provided a space for Maori and Pacific students with the marae and the Fale Pasifika, could be thinking how they can similarly provide a space for Asian students who comprise a significant proportion of the student body, he said.

“There are very few Asians on the boards of District Health Boards, not enough Asian teachers in New Zealand schools, not enough Asian local councillors or community board members and Asian migrants continue to face discrimination in applying for jobs”, he added.

De Bres said that one of the organisations that have strongly focused on Asian recruitment in recent years is the New Zealand Police, and that meant they were able to deal effectively with Asian communities after the Canterbury earthquake, as well as being accessible to Asian communities elsewhere, he said.

To view the full review of discrimination and harassment in 2011 visit the Human Rights Commission website

TVNZ.co.nz 11/2/12

 

WELFARE

Women’s health & human rights on the line in welfare reform

Christy Parker, Policy Analyst at Women’s Health Action has responded to the welfare reforms announced by Social Development Minister Paula Bennet which target single and teen mums, and disputed the idea that the current structure of the Domestic Purposes Benefit provides an incentive to have additional children, an idea put forward by the Welfare Working Group and the driver for these reforms.

“This is not supported by international evidence which shows that women’s decisions regarding children are much more likely to be based on their personal and relationship circumstances than on government policy,” stated Ms Parker. “What we do know however is that women who can’t, or don’t, control their fertility whilst receiving welfare support, end up subject to disproportionate levels of poverty and hardship resulting from welfare sanctions such as these. This results in poorer health and greater social and economic marginalisation for both them and their children."

She further added, “That women bearing the burden of these reforms is a human rights issue. Women’s right to the freedom to decide whether or not to have children, and to control their reproductive capacity free of coercion has been affirmed in international human rights agreements which New Zealand has ratified. On this basis alone the reforms cannot be justified, let alone the likely health impacts on women and their children."

Scoop.co.nz 29/2/12

 

 

Liberty Watch - February 2013

Round-up of civil liberty news for February 2013.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Help for wrongly convicted

A leading forensic scientist is launching a charity for people who have been wrongly convicted.  Dr Anna Sandiford, an expert defence adviser at the 2009 acquittal of David Bain, has held initial talks with supporters from backgrounds such as lawyers, legal academics and professional investigators.  She plans to launch the organisation this year fearing outdated legal processes and cuts in legal aid funding are leading to a rising number of wrongful imprisonments.

Sandiford said an inadequate police investigation; substandard forensic science and a poorly prepared defence were the main causes of wrongful imprisonment, adding that legal aid cutbacks mean Crown prosecutors have far better funding than most defendants.  She also said that she believed the cuts also mean some overseas expert witnesses are reluctant to offer their services.

New Zealand Herald 3/2/13

 

Implications Of Criminal Procedure Legislation Bill

Proposed changes in the Criminal Procedure Legislation Bill will substantially change New Zealand’s criminal procedure, if the legislation is not amended, the New Zealand Law Society says.

The Bill is described as non-controversial and necessary to enable the new criminal procedure regime to operate effectively when the Criminal Procedure Act 2011 comes into force on 1 July 2013.  However, the Law Society believes that some of the Bill’s provisions raise concerns that warrant further consideration, Law Society Law Reform Committee member Graeme Edgeler told the Justice and Electoral Select Committee.

Mr. Edgeler said, “The amendment that would allow references to the word ‘crime’ in other enactments to be amended by the Executive will give the government the power to expand some criminal offences by regulation,” adding that, “the expansion of criminal offences should be made by Parliament. The Law Society believes it is inappropriate to allow the Executive the power to amend serious criminal offences in this way.”

This amendment could allow innocuous or not-very-serious behaviour when it is committed with intent to commit a fine-only offence, to be punished by imprisonment, the Law Society’s submission on the Bill states.

Scoop.co.nz 22/2/13

 

Prisoners Compensation Bill Legally and Morally Flawed

Kim Workman, Director of Rethinking Crime and Punishment, told the Justice and Electoral Select Committee that the Prisoners Compensation Bill is seriously flawed from a human rights perspective, in that it breaches the Victim Rights Act 2002, which required under Section 7 that all victims be treated with courtesy, compassion and dignity. It was argued that this legislation denies victims’ rights to prisoners that have been abused and violated by members of the state, and works on the pre-assumption that victims of State abuse are not entitled to be treated as victims on the grounds that they happen to be prisoners.

Scoop.co.nz 22/2/13

 

GOVERNMENT

Rushed Marriage Bill Angers Submitters

Family First NZ says that the chair of the Select Committee considering the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill has today disclosed in Parliament that there have been 21,533 submissions of which almost 3,000 are unique submissions, yet the committee has heard a little over 200 of them as they attempt to speed the bill through.

Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ said, “This is a blatant breach of the democratic right of NZ’ers to participate, and shows the arrogance of the politicians desperate to get the bill passed.”

A number of significant organisations have been excluded from the opportunity to make an oral submission.

Scoop.co.nz 19/2/13

 

GENDER ISSUES

Equal Pay getting Further Away

On 21 February the Business and Professional Women of NZ commemorated Equal Pay Day to mark the number of days extra each year that women have to work to earn the same as men.  The day this year was three days later than it was last year because the gender pay gap has grown again according to the StatisticsNZ Quarterly Employment Survey.  It showed the average hourly wage for men is $29.09, while women earn $25.25 per hour – a gap of almost 12%.

POLICING

Power to search increased at Mission Estate concert

Concertgoers driving into the Mission for the Barry Gibb/Carole King concert found a higher degree of search powers by police as police and security enforced a temporary, but total, liquor ban.

Between the prohibition period of 11am and midnight on February 23 police, under a section of the Local Government Act, had the powers to carry out searches, without a warrant, of vehicles and items people were taking into the Mission grounds.  They also had the power to arrest anyone breaching the prohibition and who did not comply with requests to remove the vehicle or container.

The immediate area of the Mission Estate was also under a liquor ban over the same period.

Hawke's Bay Today 12/2/13

 

Police want more access to Tasers

Frontline police officers are calling for senior staff to let them to wear Tasers on their belts while they walk their beats.  The request comes after Canterbury officers were temporarily allowed to have the stun guns at their side while their patrol cars' cabin safes were being upgraded.  The New Zealand Police Association said that should be practice all the time across the country.

Nationwide, while the cars’ safes were upgraded, the weapons have been stored in a locked safe in the boot of their cars.  In Canterbury however, area commander Superintendent Gary Knowles authorised officers temporarily to carry Tasers as sidearms.  They'll be back to normal procedure of being locked in the safes by next month once the upgrades are completed and police have no plans to change their current policy.

Police association vice-president Luke Shadbolt said he wanted it made a fulltime move across the country.  He said carrying Tasers could give officers options to deal with escalating situations.  Police policy allows for Tasers to be carried on the belt "in certain situations for specific periods" and if operational requirements demand it.

Otago Daily Times 19/2/13

 

Police conduct authority to report more often

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has announced it will make more of its findings public.  Sir David Carruthers, who took over as chairman of the authority last July, told the law and order select committee that he had recently received a legal opinion from a senior lawyer that would allow more of the findings to be made public.

In 2011-2012 the authority investigated 87 of about 2000 complaints it received. Only 14 of those reports were made public.

‘‘I have taken the view from the start that we should report more publicly so people can see what we do,’’ Sir David said. ‘‘In future it’s likely we will be reporting on all our investigations unless there’s an overwhelming private interest.

Dominion Post 20/2/13

 

RACE DISCRIMINATION

Lack of Government Research into Racial Bias in Criminal Justice System

A Shadow Report by the Robson Hanan Trust to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has criticised the lack of New Zealand research into whether the over-representation of Māori in the criminal justice system could be due to racial bias.

Director of the Robson Hanan Trust, and the Rethinking Crime and Punishment Project, Kim Workman, said, “In the last five years, government agencies have researched the adverse early-life social and environmental factors which result in Māori over-representation, and developed culturally appropriate programmes and services for Māori. What they have avoided, is doing anything about the evidence which shows clearly that personal racism and structural discrimination within the criminal justice system exists, and needs to be reduced.”

The Robson Trust has recommended to CERD that it ask the New Zealand government to direct the Justice Sector Leadership Board to research the extent to which the over-representation of Māori in the criminal justice system is due to racial bias in arrests, prosecutions and sentences and structural discrimination, and develop a strategy to address the issue.

Scoop.co.nz 21/2/13

 

WELFARE

Law change targets welfare fraudsters' partners

Partners of welfare cheats will be liable for prosecution and could face a year in jail or a $5000 fine under a law change.  A new offence will be created to target partners or spouses of beneficiaries convicted of fraud.  The Ministry of Social Development would be given more powers to seize partners' assets to recover costs. 

In addition to the law change, the ministry would introduce tougher rules for beneficiaries who had been dishonest in the past.  These "low-trust" beneficiaries would have more restricted access to self-service transactions and would face more rigorous verification of their personal information.  The new policy would affect around 1000 beneficiaries.

The ministry would also formalise information-sharing with related agencies such as ACC, Inland Revenue, Housing New Zealand and the police.

Otago Daily Times 20/2/13

 

Social Security Bill Work Focus Will Make Life Harder for Mums

A number of groups have highlighted the additional disadvantages women will face under the government’s Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill, says Barbara Smith of the Home Education Foundation (HEF).  Under the work focus provisions of the Bill, mothers will need to work 15 hours per week once their youngest turns 5 and 30 hours per week once their youngest turns 14.

“This makes it clear that her plan to cut welfare spending relies on getting single mothers away from their children and into the workforce,” says Mrs. Smith. “While many women are happy to work to support their families, it’s disgraceful that women with very young children and women who choose the full-time job of educating their children at home right through secondary school will be forced into the workplace under this bill….I have heard from hundreds of women who are concerned that their way of life will be threatened by this bill.”

Scoop.co.nz 20/2/13

 

“Guilty of being a beneficiary”

Kay Brereton Co-convenor of the National Beneficiary Advocacy Federation of NZ is concerned that “ government plans for changing the rules for investigating benefit fraud constitutes an abuse of human rights, which removes the privacy rights of a class of citizens.”

Brereton expressed her concern at the removal of the requirement for investigators to first seek information from the parties under investigation. She said, “All citizens of New Zealand believe they have the right to be treated as innocent until they are proven to be guilty.  This will no longer be the case for superannuitants, students, and anyone else who has received assistance from Work and Income, and finds themselves the subject of an investigation by the Benefit Fraud Investigation Unit.  Everyone under investigation will be treated as guilty and likely to delay or impede an investigation.”

“At present the Social Security Act requires the Ministry to first seek information from the beneficiary before seeking it from a third party, it is the effect of this policy change to ignore the legislation.  This intended change to policy means that the Fraud Investigator will first go to; current and former landlords, employers, children’s schools and day-care, banks and others, advising them that the person is a beneficiary under investigation for fraud.”

Brereton further noted, “In many cases an explanation from the accused party will resolve the investigation meaning little or no further resources are needed. Of the 16,266 allegations in 2010 only 2,424 resulted in a debt (14.9%) and of these only 690 were found to have warranted prosecution (4.24%).

“I am not satisfied that this change will not breach the privacy of individuals by disclosing to third parties that the individual is a beneficiary accused of fraud, this may have serious implications in relation to employment, housing and treatment by members of their community.”

Scoop.co.nz 21/2/13

Liberty Watch - February/March 2014

Employment

Lie detector tests for job applicants

Polygraph, or lie detector, tests are now being offered to New Zealand companies and recruitment agencies for use in pre-employment checks.  The test is part of a growing industry in background checking of new staff.  But critics claim the data collection is excessive and take advantage of desperate job seekers.

Resume Check owner James Sutherland, whose company offers comprehensive background check packages, including research into a person's ACC history, immigration status and credit rating, said most candidates were accepting of the process, and any information collected must be relevant to the role, and this was monitored carefully.  Each potential employee had to sign a form allowing the checks to be done, and nothing was forced. "If it's not relevant, they don't do it and all of our clients are aware of their obligations,” he said. 

Labour Party associate labour spokeswoman Darien Fenton however, said she was concerned about the amount of data being collected in pre-employment checks.

She believed it was "over the top" to ask people for their ACC history and was convinced people who were desperate for a job would agree to have the information released even if they were uncomfortable with it.

Assistant privacy commissioner Katrine Evans agreed, advising potential employers to consider whether it was really necessary to know someone's ACC history or hook them up to a lie-detecting machine.

"Before shelling out for a highly intrusive service like polygraph testing, common sense as well as privacy rules mean you should check that it's something that you really need and that you have a really good case which can be justified under the Privacy Act."

The Dominion Post 21/2/14

 

On-site Workplace Drug Screening increases in 2013

The number of on-site workplace drug tests has increased 19% over the last year, the New Zealand Drug Detection Agency (NZDDA) has announced.

In  2013 NZDDA conducted 81,410 on-site drug-screening tests, up from 68,346 tests carried out in 2012.  Of those tests, 5.5% tested non-negative which is an indication that a presence of a drug is detected, down from 6.4% in 2012.

Alcohol screening rose 30% in 2013 compared with 51,252 tests in 2013.  Hair testing, which give a history of drug and/or alcohol use over the previous 90 days, and mostly takes place for ‘white collar’ pre-employment testing has doubled to 476 tests in 2013, with 120 tests being positive.

Cannabis and methamphetamine were the most detected drugs. 

In 2013, 29.2% of non-negative results were conducted for reasonable cause; in 2012 this figure was 31%. 

In 2013 random testing detected 4.9% non-negative test results, down from 6% in 2012, with pre-employment testing at 4% for 2013, down from 5% in 2012.

Scoop.co.nz 13/3/14

 

New Zealand Bar Owner Defends Gender-Biased Ad

A popular bar in Ponsonby, New Zealand has been criticised for advertising "jobs for women only," a day after a restaurant in Stanmore Bay was revealed by the Herald to be doing the same.

An online ad by Chapel Bar & Bistro read: "We need female bar and floor staff at Chapel." The ad invited people to email if they were interested in the job. Luke Dallow, owner of the Ponsonby bar, defended the ad saying it was intentionally worded that way because businesses in central Auckland want to have gender balance.

According to the Human Right Commission, both the bar and the restaurant may have violated the Human Rights Act. A spokesman for the commission said if complaints are filed against both establishments, the case would be handled in the usual way.

The spokesman said it would be up to the Human Rights Review Tribunal to determine if the complaint is unlawful. If a complaint is found in breach of human rights, the tribunal can award compensation for damages up to $200,000.

The Human Rights Act includes grounds for illegal discrimination where employers are not allowed to discriminate against a job applicant or employee, including their gender, religious belief, colour, race, ethnicity and marital status.

International Business Times 26/2/14

 

Refusal to work on Sabbath upheld

A former Fiji national was recently awarded a little over $27,000 by the New Zealand Human Rights Review Tribunal, which ruled that the company that sacked him for refusing to work on his Sabbath contravened his human rights.

Jalesi Nakarawa was awarded the money in a ruling on 24 February for damages and income lost after meat processing company Affco New Zealand sacked him three years ago.

"The right to exercise one's faith is at the crux of the matter," Nakarawa said.

The 57-year-old is a member of the Church of God and his religious beliefs state he should not work after sunset every Friday until Saturday evening.

The tribunal ordered he be paid $12,118.00 for loss of wages and awarded another $15,000 for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to his feelings.

Fijitimes.com 8/3/14

 

New Zealand prostitute wins sex harassment claim

A New Zealand prostitute has won substantial damages for sexual harassment by a brothel owner, with sex workers hailing the decision as a landmark ruling that shows the country as a world leader in protecting their rights.

In what New Zealand media reported as a "world first," the Human Rights Review Tribunal awarded the 22-year-old brothel worker $25,000.

The tribunal heard the brothel owner reportedly told the woman he could do what he liked with the women who worked for him.

Over a three-month period, the older man belittled and frightened the woman until she felt unsafe and on edge, became depressed and turned to alcohol, according to the tribunal's decision released Saturday.

"Sex workers are as much entitled to protection from sexual harassment as those working in other occupations," the ruling said.

Bangkok Post 1/3/14

 

Gay and Transgender Rights

NZ military most tolerant to gay soldiers

New Zealand has topped a new global index ranking armed forces for inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexuals and transgender soldiers.

The LGBT Military Index assesses admittance, tolerance, exclusion or persecution of homosexuals to measure 103 armies worldwide, the Hague-based Centre for Strategic Studies think-tank said.

The think-tank noted that New Zealand had produced a video for the "It Gets Better" project, which reached out to young people struggling with their sexuality.

At the start of the video, the NZ Defence Force says it is proud to be an organisation that accepts its LGBT staff.

Otago Daily Times 21/2/14

 

Government Communications Security Bureau

Spy agency slow to put fixes in place

The path to improvement for Prime Minister John Key's malfunctioning spy agency appears to have frozen, a progress report shows.  Of 80 recommendations intended to fix the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), just 35 have been completed.

The recommendations came after Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Kitteridge's report in April last year raised concerns about 88 instances where the GCSB had spied on New Zealanders.

Mr Key said then: "I acknowledge this review will knock public confidence in the GCSB. This is why the Government has a comprehensive response under way to address the organisational problems at the GCSB."

The response was a list of 80 recommendations intended to ensure the GCSB acted legally. It was also intended to address organisational failings.

The first two reports released in June and September showed 34 recommendations had been completed.

The latest update from December, not released but supplied when sought by the New Zealand Herald, showed just one new recommendation was met in the latest reporting period. It means a total of 35 recommendations have been completed with 45 to go and a June deadline looming.

For the first time, the progress report also included partially completed recommendations. It shows another 27 are in progress, leaving 18 recommendations on which there appears to be no progress at all.

New Zealand Herald 5/3/14

 

Immigration

Hip-Hop group refused entry to New Zealand

Hip-Hop group Odd Future has been refused entry into New Zealand after being determined a threat to public order.

Immigration NZ confirmed in a statement that it refused to allow members of the group to travel to New Zealand.

The Immigration Act 2009 provides that entry permission may not be granted where there is reason to believe there is, or is likely to be, a threat or risk to public order or the public interest.

"Odd Future has been deemed to be a potential threat to public order and the public interest for several reasons, including incidents at past performances in which they have incited violence. In one instance, a police officer was hospitalised following a riot incited by Odd Future,'' the statement read.

New Zealand Herald 13/2/14

 

Media

Press Council to offer membership to blogs

The Press Council will offer membership to blogs and digital media and will get tougher powers for dealing with complaints.

Press Council chairman, former High Court judge Sir John Hansen, said he welcomed broadening the council's remit.

"It's important that all consumers of media have an avenue for complaint, and for them to believe their complaint has been handled with fairness and professionalism."

Digital media will be offered a new form of membership with a fee based on the size of the entity and its commercial or non-commercial status. They must agree to the same statement of principals and complaints process as other members.

Under the changes the council would also have the right, in exceptional circumstances, to censure a magazine, newspaper or website by unanimous decision of the council.

Other new measures include greater power over where an adjudication appears in a publication.

Members will be required to regularly publicise information about the Press Council's complaints process, and member websites will be required to provide an easy-to-find complaints channel with details on making a complaint.

The council will also have the power to direct that elements of a story be removed from an online article, or for a story to be taken down.

The new structure will take effect from 1 May.

New Zealand Herald 23/3/14

 

MPs warned of internet censorship risk

Proposed laws to clamp down on online abuse could instead spark digital censorship, Telecom has warned.

Internet firms that host websites or social media could end up removing content whenever someone complained, in order to avoid penalties, Telecom regulatory manager John Wesley-Smith told MPs yesterday. That would give censorship powers to complainants who were deliberately seeking to stifle debate.

"We are concerned that this will create unhealthy sensitiveness for online content hosts to remove any content that is complained about," he said.

"This raises questions about censorship and freedom of speech."

For content that it did not control, such as third-party websites, the problem would be more pronounced, and Telecom's only recourse would be to shut the sites down, he said.

Telecom was speaking before the justice and electoral select committee, which is considering a bill to criminalise "harmful digital communication," including inciting suicide online.

It would also create a new authority to consider complaints and issue takedown notices, which would cover internet service providers.

The Dominion Post 27/3/14

 

New Legislation

Claims that Bill targeting child pornography offenders needs fine-tuning

The New Zealand Law Society has told Parliament’s Justice and Electoral select committee that some aspects of the Objectionable Publications and Indecency Legislation Bill need further consideration. 

Law Society spokesperson Graeme Edgeler says the principal aim of the bill is to increase penalties applying to images of child sexual exploitation. “But the range of objectionable publications targeted by the bill is much broader, and can include material that is not about sex or child sexual exploitation at all,” he says.

The bill proposes to increase the maximum sentence for making or supplying objectionable material from 10 to 14 years, and possession of objectionable material involving knowledge from 5 to 10 years, but The Law Society questions whether the proposed increases in maximum sentence should be restricted to cases involving images of child sexual exploitation, since this is the principal concern behind the bill.

As it stands the maximum penalty for possessing a book about growing marijuana, which could be considered objectionable under the proposed new law, will be higher than that for actually growing the drug, the Law Society has told MPs considering the new bill.

Otago Daily Times 6/3/14 & Scoop.co.nz 6/3/14

 

Harmful Digital Communications Bill

The Human Rights Commission has welcomed the introduction of the Harmful Digital Communications Bill that aims to address cyberbullying and provide victims with forms of redress.

In the Commission’s submission to the Justice and Electoral Committee, Chief Commissioner David Rutherford says the right to be free from bullying is fundamental to the realisation of basic human rights.  “Everyone, particularly children, have a right to personal security,” he says.

Rutherford says the Commission recognises that although some opponents of the Bill may argue it infringes the right to freedom of expression the Commission considers that restriction justified in order to protect vulnerable people and children in particular.  

“The Bill strikes the right balance between freedom of expression and the need to prevent or reduce harm to others,” Rutherford says.

The Bill will create a new civil enforcement regime that will resolve complaints in a number of ways including mediation and the District Court declaring the breach of Communication Principles.  One of the principles, Communication Principle 10, states that a digital communication should not denigrate someone because of some of the grounds that are unlawful under the Human Rights Act. 

The grounds are colour, race, ethnic or national origins, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability, but The Commission, in its submission, questioned why the principle does not extend to the other grounds of the Act such as beneficiary status which is part of employment status.

Beneficiaries who are hounded or criticised for living off the State, for example, may be equally upset by unpleasant online comment but unable to complain under the Bill. “The Commission finds it hard to understand why some of the grounds have been included and not others.”

Scoop.co.nz 20/3/14

 

Allegation that NGOs fear losing funding if critical of Government

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are being reassured their funding will not be

Some have said they won't put their names to submissions critical of legislation, lest they lose their funding.

The issue came to light when the Auckland Domestic Violence and Disability Working Group made a submission on the Human Rights Amendment Bill to a parliamentary select committee on Tuesday.  It said many of the groups it represents did not want to be named because they were worried about their funding.

Labour MP Maryan Street says she was stunned to hear that, and that it mirrors the climate of fear in the public service. "I found that really shocking," she says, "because this is not how we run this country. This is a human rights bill amendment that we are debating at the moment and if people can't speak up on human rights in New Zealand, what can they speak up on?”

However the Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector, Jo Goodhew, stated that she is concerned to hear the claims and is not sure why NGOs would feel that way.

"I absolutely know that the grant funding is independent of the government and deliberately set up so," Ms Goodhew says.

Radionz.co.nz 26/2/14

 

Police

Plan for police to wear cameras

Justice Minister Judith Collins is reportedly contemplating frontline police wearing body-mounted cameras while on duty after returning from Britain, where officers are trialing the smartphone-sized devices.

The English police say cameras are more effective in securing convictions than verbal evidence.

They are also being used in the United States, France, Denmark, Germany and Sweden.

Police forces say offenders plead guilty earlier when confronted with video footage, cutting court costs and case preparation time.

The cameras also take the heat out of tense situations, once people realise they are being filmed, and the footage can be used to resolve complaints about police brutality.

The Corrections Department is about to begin a six-month trial of on-body cameras for staff in maximum and high-security areas at Auckland and Rimutaka prisons.

Dominion Post 12/2/14

 

No miscarriage of justice in Dotcom raid

Kim Dotcom's lawyers and the Crown are both considering appealing aspects of a Court of Appeal ruling that search warrants on Dotcom's Coatesville mansion were valid.

The warrants, executed by police on the properties of Dotcom and his associate Bram van der Kolk in January 2012, resulted in the seizure of some 135 electronic items.

The Court of Appeal has acknowledged there were "defects" in the warrants, but the warrants were legal.  The finding overturned a previous High Court decision that the warrants were invalid because they were not sufficiently specific. This was a major platform for Dotcom's fight against extradition to the United States to face a raft of charges relating to his Megaupload website.

Chief High Court Judge Helen Winkelmann had decided the warrants were not in sufficiently specific terms and "authorised the seizure of such very broad categories of items that unauthorised irrelevant material would inevitably be captured".

In overturning this decision, the Court of Appeal said a reasonable person receiving the search warrants would have understood what they related to.

The court acknowledged the defects in the warrants were "in form not in substance".

"The defects in these warrants were therefore not so radical as to require them to be treated as nullities."

However, the Court of Appeal dismissed another aspect of the appeal, lodged by the Attorney-General, relating to the seizure of some 150 terabytes worth of data from Dotcom and van der Kolk.

The Solicitor-General had given a direction that the seized items were to remain in the custody and control of the Commissioner of Police until further direction.

However, police permitted the FBI to remove clones of the items to the US. Justice Winkelmann ruled this was in breach of the Solicitor-General's direction and therefore unlawful, and the Court of Appeal agreed.

It also ordered a declaration that the removal of the clones from New Zealand was unlawful and that the police identify the clones that were removed.

New Zealand Herald 19/2/14

 

Failings hid police misconduct

Multiple failings by Southern District police let the criminal conduct of two officers go undiscovered after a car crash involving a police officer and a 17-year-old, an Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) report has found.

However, the authority found no evidence of a conspiracy among the officers overseeing the investigation into the crash in Alexandra nine years ago.

The crash on a country road on July 14, 2005, involved an unmarked police ute driven by Senior Constable Neil Ford and a Honda car driven by Shane Cribb.

Constable Dairne Cassidy was appointed to investigate the crash.

Cribb was subsequently charged with careless driving causing injury. He was convicted in March 2006.

Since January 2006, the authority has received letters alleging that police unfairly and unjustly attached the blame for the crash to Cribb.

This was allegedly done either to pervert the course of justice to protect a fellow officer, or through an incompetent investigation that lacked thoroughness.

After a retrial was ordered in 2008 on the basis of new evidence, police decided not to offer any evidence and Cribb's conviction was overturned.

The police subsequently made investigations that resulted in Ford being convicted of perjury and Cassidy being convicted of attempting to pervert the course of justice. Both officers have since left the police.

In releasing today's report IPCA chairman Judge Sir David Carruthers said the authority's investigation found multiple failings by the police.

These included a lack of adequate supervision and leadership, and a failure to critically examine evidence and remedy deficiencies identified during the investigation.

Police also failed to address concerns about the crash investigation in a timely manner.

Southern District commander Superintendent Andrew Coster said police acknowledged failure at several levels in the way the crash was initially managed and during the investigations that followed, which led to the wrongful conviction of Cribb.

"Police let Mr Cribb down badly, and to go some way to resolving this, we have apologised to him and provided compensation.

"Police accept that without the persistence of those members of the public who supported Mr Cribb, police would not have reinvestigated the case to uncover the truth about how the crash occurred.

"We also acknowledge that a number of poor decisions were made and that there was inadequate supervision and leadership in relation to this event. This was further compounded by an unacceptable lack of action over time.

"It goes without saying that staff involved could have done many things better, and lessons have been learnt since then."

Many changes in local policing had occurred since the crash, he said.

Southland Times 14/3/14

 

Police wrong not to charge officer who assaulted teen

Police were wrong not to charge an off-duty cop who used his baton to attack a youth he thought had smashed his letterbox, a review has found.

The Christchurch police officer, who has not been named, was not formally interviewed over the June 2011 incident and no criminal prosecution was pursued after an internal inquiry despite the 17-year-old victim's parents telling police they wanted some action taken against the officer.  Now, an Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) review of the police investigation has identified shortcomings on the part of Christchurch Police.

"In investigating the police decision not to prosecute, the Authority found that the decision not to interview the officer as part of a criminal investigation was a departure from the proper process," IPCA said.

"The authority also found that the decision not to prosecute the off-duty officer because it was not in the public interest to do so was made without proper consideration of the prosecution guidelines."

In August 2011, the Professional Standards Manager, who was also the Employment Practices Manager for Christchurch Police, submitted a report to the Acting District Commander recommending that the officer should not be prosecuted as it would not be in the public interest.

He considered the Solicitor-General's prosecution guidelines in reaching his decision.

The Acting District Commander also approved the recommendation that it would not be in the public interest to prosecute the officer.

But today, the authority has found that the processes followed by Christchurch Police in reaching their decision not to prosecute the off-duty officer involved were unfair.

It further concluded that the decision suggests that the Professional Standards Manager had "prematurely decided" that a code of conduct investigation would be a sufficient resolution.

The IPCA concluded that any reconsideration of the prosecution decision at this late stage would be "an abuse of process given that the officer was informed he would not be charged prior to engaging in the employment process.”

Canterbury District Commander Superintendent Gary Knowles said, "We have taken careful note of the issues raised by the IPCA and have made sure these are reflected in improvements to our processes for dealing with complaints.

"We have already made changes to the way we handle investigations into officers as a result of this incident.”

Mr Knowles said the staff member who undertook the internal investigation had been spoken to.

"I believe the investigator and the then acting district commander acted with the best of intentions to ensure the matter was investigated appropriately.

"I am satisfied there was never any deliberate attempt to protect the officer or to minimise the seriousness of the offending.”

Mr Knowles said the officer at the centre of the allegations admitted striking the victim and had been subject to disciplinary action, but he remained a serving officer.

New Zealand Herald 20/3/14

 

Police trial powerful pepper spray

Police have announced the extension of a trial of a powerful new pepper spray that is six times more powerful than its predecessor.

The move follows the announcement that firearms and Taser training for an extra 700 police would also be introduced. The changes, to be introduced on 1 July, will see about 5700 police get M4 rifle, Glock pistol and Taser training, and a further 2100 receive Glock training only.

Police Association president Greg O'Connor welcomed the trials of stronger pepper sprays. "When police are facing assault from people on drugs or who have been drinking, pepper spray is a very good option for dealing with those people, who can be very resistant."

The announcement will extend the trials from the Bay of Plenty into the Eastern policing district covering Napier, Hastings and Gisborne.

The trials involve liquid and gel forms of the Sabre Red spray, which contains six times more capsicum than the one used at present, meaning it will work faster, and take longer to wear off.  It also contains a non-permanent natural red pigment, which aids aiming and placement of the spray.

National manager operational services Inspector Jason Ross said police favoured the gel-based spray that they believed was less affected by wind and other environmental conditions.

This meant less risk of cross-contamination. Also, due to its slightly thicker consistency, it had greater range, Mr Ross said.

Pepper spray had one of the lowest injury rates of all options used by police, Ross said.

Just five minor and three moderate injuries resulted from the use of Sabre Red in the Bay of Plenty trial, according to figures released under the Official Information Act.

The Dominion Post 20/3/14 & Otago daily Times 7/4/14

 

Prisons

Inmate complains to UN official

Prisoner Arthur Taylor has told a United Nations official that New Zealand prisons are regularly breaching inmates’ rights.

Taylor has also won an apology from the Corrections Department over his complaint regarding inmates being denied exercise at Auckland Prison.

He had complained to a department inspector that maximum security inmates at Auckland Prison were denied their one hour of open-air exercise on Fridays, in breach of the Corrections Act. After initially claiming the lockdown was not unlawful, the inspector sent Taylor a letter of apology.

On Friday, Taylor met Mads Andenaes of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and in an email to Radio New Zealand, Taylor said he told Mr Andenaes that New Zealand's laws protecting the rights of people in detention were regularly ignored by the authorities, often after political pressure. He urged the United Nations to press New Zealand to introduce an independent inspector of prisons.

Radionz.co.nz 30/3/14

 

Privacy

Privacy breaches 'milked for own gain'

The new privacy commissioner says there is a "disturbing" trend for people to use privacy breaches for their own gains.

Speaking before MPs at a select committee hearing in Parliament, commissioner John Edwards said that, in the rush to share and connect information online, companies and government agencies had not properly considered privacy.

He pointed to the 2011 ACC privacy breach in which a spreadsheet containing the details of 6000 sensitive clients was accidentally sent to an ACC claimant.

"Why do we need to email a spreadsheet containing details with 6000 people to 35 managers? Why do these managers all need this personal information?” he asked

However, he also criticised the accidental recipients of private information for seeking publicity or personal gain instead of returning it. "No right-minded member of the community, when they stumble across a wallet containing identifying details and thousands of dollars, would think they had a right to keep that."

The Dominion Post 21/2/14

 

High-tech blitz on shoplifters

Retailers are rolling out a new high-tech video surveillance system to capture thieves.

Auckland company Eyedentify has developed a "cloud-based" system, which allows retailers to share photos and footage of offenders with each other and the police in real-time.  Information sharing on this scale has never happened in the country before.

After a successful four-month test with a major retailer, the system will be rolled out in more than 100 stores in the Counties Manukau region of South Auckland from next month with a view to it being implemented in the rest of Auckland and Hamilton.

The company has stressed that it had been careful to ensure it adhered to privacy laws.

The Dominion Post 9/3/14

 

Officials look at violence disclosure law

Justice officials are looking at a new British law that allows women to find out whether their partner has a domestic violence conviction, with a view to copying it if it proves a success.

Anti-domestic violence campaigners say such a move would have a massive impact here. They say they are frustrated with privacy laws that mean in many cases they can't tell victims their new partners have a history of abuse.

The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme is also known as Clare's Law after British woman Clare Wood, who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 2009. It is aimed at preventing domestic violence by letting women know if their partners have a past record of violence.

The new law has been rolled out across the UK after a pilot in which 100 women were provided with information described as "potentially life-saving".

Justice Minister Judith Collins said while implementing such a scheme had not been discussed here, she was "very interested" in its effect in Britain and whether it reduced domestic violence levels.

"If it's significantly better than our law changes or it [results in] an improvement in the safety of women and children, then I'd be very happy to look at it."

The Government had already amended privacy laws to allow information to be disclosed to individuals if their life or health, or that of someone else, was threatened, Ms Collins said.

Labour's justice spokesman Andrew Little said his party would also look at such a measure though there would need to be safeguards, for example to stop people being wrongly tainted.

The Dominion Post 12/3/14

 

Discrimination, privacy and the disclosure of job candidate information

A recent decision of the Human Rights Review Tribunal contains significant developments for employers over their obligations to withhold and disclose private information.

The decision, Waters v Alpine Energy Limited, has allowed an unsuccessful job candidate to view information regarding the recruitment process, including CV's of other candidates.

Mr Waters had applied for two positions with Alpine Energy, where he had previously worked for over 20 years. Both of Mr Waters' job applications were unsuccessful.

Mr Waters felt that he had been discriminated against due to his age, and commenced proceedings under the Human Rights Act 1993 alleging age discrimination.

Alpine Energy rejected his complaint and matters were taken to a Tribunal where an issue arose regarding the disclosure of evidence, in particular, Mr Waters sought information related to the candidates (including those that were successful), containing names, addresses, contact details, and other personal information including employment history, experience, and qualifications.

Alpine Energy refused to disclose certain documents on the basis that they were confidential information, not within the company's possession or control, or because the documents had already been destroyed.

The Tribunal has the power to regulate its own procedure however it sees fit, and has a broad discretion to receive any evidence that, in its opinion, would assist in dealing with the matter and ordered disclosure of the other candidates' information stating there was a public interest in preventing discriminatory conduct being hidden behind the cloak of confidentiality. The Tribunal's order also prevented Alpine Energy from redacting the names of the other candidates, as the Tribunal felt the information would be difficult to manage without names.

Alpine Energy had argued that providing such information would harm the free flow of evaluative material from job seekers and that these summaries may hold extremely sensitive and personal information, such as the results of criminal or credit checks, or personal health issues.

Employment law expert Jennifer Mills said employers are increasingly being caught in the middle of on-going tension between New Zealand's privacy laws and its employment and human rights laws.

"Employers should think carefully about the information that they record during the recruitment process, particularly in relation to evaluative material and subjective comments and ensure that they are comfortable about such information being disclosed," Mills said.

Job seekers now need to be prepared for the possibility that their personal information my be disclosed to others.

"Applicants should consider stating expressly, as part of the recruitment process, that they do not consent to the disclosure of their personal information," Mills said.

New Zealand Herald 7/3/14

 

Schools

St Heliers School finds solution to religious stand-off

Parents are said to be "very happy" over the decision by an Auckland school to remove religious education classes from its school day.  Religion will now be taught outside school hours for St Heliers School pupils who choose to attend.

The change followed two complaints to the Human Rights Commission (HRC) and one official complaint to the school from parents in the past two months.

The Christian-based lessons discriminated against non-Christian families and should not be part of a secular school programme, the parents argued.

The Christian classes were taught to Year 1 and 2 pupils for three terms and involved storytelling, songs, drama and crafts.

Children who opted out were sent to other classrooms to work.

The complaints to the HRC claimed the classes were discriminatory by excluding children from their friends on the basis of religious belief for the period of the class, making the children feel ostracised and different.

The HRC complaint had gone to mediation, and a decision was not expected for some time.

New Zealand Herald 11/2/14

 

Welfare

Human Rights Viewpoint Sought on WINZ Shared Care Parenting Law

The office of the Humans Rights Commissioner has been requested to look into the way WINZ treats separated parents who share their children’s care equally.

A single father campaigning to change the WINZ approach to shared care has asked the Commissioner to consider section 70B of New Zealand’s Social Security Act in light of New Zealand’s Human Rights Act and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“If both parents receive a welfare benefit while their kids are young, WINZ treats one equally contributing parent as a full-time sole parent. The other equally contributing parent is treated as an unemployed adult and expected to seek full-time work,” said 50/50 campaign organiser Duncan Eddy.

“This unequal treatment of two people in the same situation seems to me to be a clear example of discrimination, as defined in the Humans Rights Act.  I’ve also asked the Commissioner to advise whether compelling single parents with toddlers to seek full-time work breaches New Zealand’s international human rights obligations,” said Mr Eddy.

In 2011 the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child observed that New Zealand needs to intensify efforts to render appropriate assistance to parents and legal guardians in the performance of their child-rearing responsibilities.

scoop.co.nz 27/3/14

Liberty Watch - January 2012

Round-up of civil liberty news for January 2012.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

PM admits changes at airports possible

Prime Minister John Key has been in talk with his Australian counterpart Julia Gillard about the disclosure of criminal records. Key said further work was needed to improve the exchange of information, and indicated the present system of voluntary disclosure of criminal records on immigration cards could be reviewed.

New Zealand and Australia will carry out a six-month trial in Queensland to investigate ways of disclosing the records of convicted criminals.

New Zealand Herald 30/1/12

 

The numbers of those jailed at home increases

The numbers of New Zealand criminals being locked up in their homes rather than jailed is increasing rapidly.  There was a 34.5 per cent jump in home detention sentences between 2009 and 2010 and a 52 per cent increase in people sentenced to community detention.

Taranaki Daily News 30/1/12

 

HUMAN RIGHTS

Human rights concerns raised after family barred from flat

A dispute between an apartment owner and a body corporate has led to a complaint being laid with the Human Rights Commission after the owner was denied permission to rent his flat to parents with young children.

The dispute has raised questions about the strengths of body corporates, and the rights of parents and their dependent children.

The apartment owner complained to the commission on the grounds of discrimination against family status, and Human Rights Commission mediator Pele Walker said

"On the face of it, if the prospective tenants are two adults who have responsibility for a child/children, for them to be denied the tenancy because of that responsibility would likely amount to the adults being discriminated against on the grounds of their family status [that of responsible parents].

"While there may be a body corporate rule that no more than two adults can occupy one apartment, that rule, in itself, would not override the unlawful discrimination provisions of the Human Rights Act."

Stuff.co.nz 7/1/12

 

Banned for not being a man

When a woman tried to enter her home brew in a competition at Lake Hayes A&P Show in Queenstown, she was told it was a "blokes only" contest.

A Human Rights Commission representative said: "On the face of it, the competition may be breaching the Human Rights Act, but in the absence of a complaint and full details of the competition, the commission is unable to comment any further."

The lady involved said she had no intention of complaining to the commission.

New Zealand Herald 13/1/12

 

INTERNET

Internet piracy notices lacking details

The Recording Industry Association (Rianz) began asking internet providers to issue infringement notices to people it believed were illegally downloading music through peer-to-peer file sharing sites in November.

The law gives the Copyright Tribunal the power to fine internet pirates up to $15,000 after they have received three written warnings.

However, an infringement notice issued by state-owned internet provider Orcon and was posted online by lobby group Tech Liberty is missing information required by the act.

The legislation stipulates warnings must set out the time each infringement occurred, down to the second, and name the file-sharing application or network used to pirate the work, as well describe the nature of the work and type of breach alleged to have occurred.

None of that information was included in the notice issued by Orcon.

Dominion Post 10/1/12

 

MEDIA

Contents of broadcasts close to an election

In a break from its usual hands-off approach, NZ on Air wants to stop broadcasters screening documentaries on political issues in the lead-up to an election.

The broadcasting funding agency has obtained legal advice on whether it can include a condition for broadcasters “not to screen programmes discussing topics likely to be an election issue” before an election.

The step was prompted by TV3 screening a child poverty documentary four days before the November election, and has been described by commentators as “heavy-handed” and worrying.

Bryan Bruce the programme maker said, “I think we are on very dangerous ground if New Zealand on Air takes the view that some people ought not to be heard because it would be inconvenient or embarrassing or it might actually just make people think in a different way. I think that would be not just sad but quite dangerous, we would be on a slippery slope to a very controlled environment.”

New Zealand Herald 18/1/12

 

New Zealand's media freedom ranking drops

In its annual press freedom index, advocacy group Reporters Without Borders ranked New Zealand 13th in the world for media freedom last year - down five places from eighth in 2010.

The report did not say what was behind the fall, but it comes after a year in which newsrooms were searched by police, the New Zealand Herald was temporarily banned from the parliamentary press gallery, and a proposed new law sought to give police greater powers to enter newsrooms.

Otago Daily Times 26/1/12

 

NEW LEGISLATION

Food bill ‘threatens bake sales’

There has been growing unease over the contents of the Food Bill, which updates the Food Act 1981. Its main purpose is to ensure that the food people buy is safe to eat, but a Facebook petition that says the bill “will seriously impede initiatives like community gardens, food co-ops, heritage seed banks, farmers markets, bake sales, and roadside fruit & vegetable stalls” had attracted more than 27,000 signatures in the past four months.

Aside from the legitimate concerns over ways in which the bill makes it easier for food conglomerates to increase their control over the industry, risks to propagation seeds and, there are concerns around civil liberties.  Specifically the bill empowers food-safety officers to enter any premises without a search warrant and use “any force that is reasonable” if they fear an offence is being committed.  They do have to give oral or written notice, but not if that “would defeat the purpose of the exercise”, a determination that appears to be left to their discretion.

The bill also has an extraordinary clause regarding how the food-safety officer will decide whether food on premises is for sale or for an individual’s own use. The food will presumed to be in the person’s possession for the purpose of sale for human consumption until the contrary is proved.

New Zealand Herald 9/1/12

 

Crimes Amendment Act (No 3)

A law amendment will make it easier for police to lock up online sexual predators.

From March, police can pretend to be a person under the age of 16 in order to arrest older people grooming them.  Previously, if a police officer was impersonating an underage child, it might not have been an offence for someone else to make sexual advances on them.

The Crimes Amendment Act (No 3) was passed last year to strengthen the ability of agencies to “hold individuals to account for harming the most vulnerable in our community”.  As well as making it easier to prosecute people grooming underage girls and boys, it will also allow police to charge everyone in a household with failing to protect a child.

Otago Daily Times 25/1/12

 

POLICING

Police admit shooting could have caused explosion

Police have admitted there was a serious risk of explosion when a man wielding an LPG cylinder leaking flammable gas was pepper-sprayed, Tasered and shot by police.

Guidelines issued by Taser International explicitly warn not to use Tasers when flammable substances are present because of a risk of explosion.

LPG and pepper spray are both flammable.  In British tests, two of seven mannequins that had been sprayed with pepper spray caught fire when Tasered, and in both cases, the flames produced were severe and engulfed the entire top half of the mannequin.

New Zealand Herald 23/1/12

 

Police kept ID secret claim backed by photos

Police officers arresting Occupy protesters in Auckland this were wearing identical badge numbers, leading to claims from protesters that it was a deliberate attempt to ensure they couldn't be identified.

Protesters claimed this morning that up to four officers in Aotea Square were wearing the same badge number - Z557. Photographic evidence backs those claims, with one photograph showing two officers wearing the same number.

Officers must wear identification badges to help be identified by members of the public complaining about or praising police actions.

Police confirmed three officers will be investigated for an alleged breach of a policy which requires each officer to wear their own identification number.

Otago Daily Times  23/1/12

 

PRIVACY

Court published euthanasia campaigner's home address online

A euthanasia campaigner is furious the court published his home detention address online, opening him up to an attack from vigilantes.

Scientist Sean Davison was sentenced to five months' home detention after he had helped his terminally ill mother kill herself by helping her to drink water containing crushed morphine tablets.

Last weekend, a brick with a death threat attached was hurled through his window.

He sought the court's approval to move to another friend's house, but that friend has backed out after probation officers said they couldn't guarantee that her address would be kept private.

Davison said anyone with internet access could have found his address, after a detailed Dunedin High Court judgment containing his address was published online.

New Zealand Council of Civil Liberties spokesman Batch Hales said courts had no right to publish home addresses in general, and not in contentious cases like Davison's.

New Zealand Herald 22/1/12

 

RACE

Teens report ethnic bias in treatment

Hundreds of teenagers, questioned in a recent survey, said they felt they had been unfairly treated by police and health professionals because of their ethnicity.

The questions, part of a nationwide survey of more than 9000 high school pupils, found that more than 400 Maori, Pacific and Asian pupils felt they had been discriminated against by the professionals. Another 900 were unsure whether they had been treated unfairly by either police or health professionals. Europeans of high school age reported very little discrimination by either profession.

The findings were consistent with another survey taken five years earlier.

stuff.co.nz 29/1/12

 

THE RIGHT TO PROTEST

Auckland Council violated bill of rights claim protestors

Auckland Council violated the bill of rights in a bid to side-step the due process of the courts, when they hired contractors to illegally confiscate the possessions of protestors occupying areas of central Auckland, advises legal council for Occupy Auckland. Protestors were being required to sign agreements restricting their future right to assemble before their property will be released to them.

The Bill of Rights guarantees all New Zealand citizens the right to peaceful assembly and the right to protest. Auckland Council and Occupy Auckland protestors were still awaiting a decision from the court regarding Occupy Auckland’s appeal of the initial court decision in late 2011 that the protestors must decamp, but footage posted on Youtube and the Occupy Auckland website appears to show that the police and agents appointed by the Council violated due process on Monday 23 January and again on Thursday 26 January. Protestors were seen being dragged out of the occupation, handcuffed and detained without being read their rights or told why they are being restrained.

scoop.co.nz 26/1/12

 

Liberty Watch - January 2013

Round up of civil liberty news for January 2013.

 

Criminal Justice

Inmates awarded $453,875 compensation

New Zealand prisoners have been awarded more than $450,000 in compensation since 2005, of which about $47,000 has been paid to their victims and $27,000 in other payments, including fines.

To date, just $133,070 has been paid to prisoners, following a claims process for compensation awarded for any act or omission by or on behalf of the Crown.

It also covered out-of-court settlements, most commonly between the Department of Corrections and prisoners, for administrative errors that caused prisoners to be detained beyond their release date.

In total, 38 prisoners were awarded $453,875 in compensation for wrongs that occurred in the corrections and criminal justice systems.

In accordance with the Prisoners' and Victims' Claims Act 2005, $401,691 of that compensation was held in the Victims' Claims Trust Account.

Any victim of a prisoner awarded compensation could make a claim to the money.

Otago Daily Times 5/1/13

 

GPS tracking of criminals to increase

Twenty-five high-risk sex offenders are currently being tracked, with the Corrections Department planning to dramatically expand its GPS monitoring scheme to 200 ex-prisoners this year. 

The offenders were wearing GPS ankle bracelets as the Government stepped up its drive to monitor convicted offenders in the community.  The new technology is part of a series of policy changes designed to reduce reoffending by 25 per cent within five years.

Other changes saw Justice Minister Judith Collins introduce legislation last September that would give authorities power to recall dangerous ex-prisoners to jail indefinitely. The "public protection orders" will be debated in Parliament this year.

Corrections is also developing a register that would allow violent or sexual offenders to be monitored for the rest of their lives.

New Zealand Herald 21/1/13

 

Disabled Rights

Lack of support for refugees with disability needs

In their latest research, ChangeMakers Refugee Forum, a rights-based, community development, research and advocacy organization, found that the lives of refugees with disability needs in Wellington, in terms of their right to participate in society on an equal basis with other New Zealanders is not being realised.

Although all New Zealanders with disability needs have the right to live independently and participate fully in society, ChangeMakers’ research found that in Wellington, disability strategies do not include people from refugee backgrounds, and there is a lack of coordination across refugee agencies, and primary healthcare and disability service providers. People from refugee backgrounds with disability needs have ‘slipped through the cracks’ and are living in protracted isolation and with limited independence. The research launched at a Human Rights Commission roundtable in December 2012, makes a number of recommendations to ensure that people from refugee backgrounds with disability needs can participate fully in New Zealand life.

Scoop.co.nz 24/1/13

 

Freedom of the Press

NZ eighth in world for freedom of the press

New Zealand has been ranked eighth out of 179 countries in an international world press freedom index. Massey University journalism lecturer Cathy Strong says New Zealanders can be blasé about the information the media has access to. She says information gained about mayors, MPs, and what's happening in Parliament is because the media is there covering it all the time.

newszealand.blogspot.co.nz 18/1/13

 

Gender Issues

Collins rejects advice of Human Rights Commissioner

Justice Minister Judith Collins rejected the advice of an independent panel that recommended a woman lawyer for a top state service job and selected her own nominee, despite a plea from the Chief Human Rights Commissioner.

Ms Collins announced experienced Auckland barrister Robert Kee as the new Director of Human Rights Proceedings, an independent role within the Human Rights Commission, in mid-2012 after nominating him for the post.

This was despite a panel telling her its first choice was lawyer Catherine Rodgers and Chief Human Rights Commissioner David Rutherford's writing to the minister to express his concern about how few well-qualified women were being selected for state-sector jobs.

Ms Collins also eliminated another woman candidate during the early selection process.

Ms Collins chose Mr. Kee over the first-choice candidate and recommended his appointment for five years. The position pays $200,000 to $205,000 a year.  A spokeswoman for the minister said she and Mr. Kee were "known to each other" because they studied law at the same time at the University of Auckland and because Ms Collins held high-profile roles at the Auckland District Law Society and New Zealand Law Society.  "This is not unusual, and does not indicate a conflict of interest," the spokeswoman said.

Mr. Rutherford, who said he was writing as the Chief Human Rights Commissioner and not chairman of the independent panel, had said he shared Ms Collins' "desire to see properly qualified women better represented in the senior ranks of public service".

"I want to emphasise the importance of wherever possible appointing properly qualified women to senior public sector roles and taking a strategic approach to that, if at all possible," wrote Mr. Rutherford.

"If ministers treat each of these opportunities as a one-off appointment process, rather than a strategic opportunity to improve the gender balance, I fear we may never get to where we all want to get to."

New Zealand Herald 26/1/13

 

Human Rights

NZ leads way in human freedom index

New Zealand leads the way in human freedom according to an international index that ranks 123 countries.

The Canadian Fraser Institute has released its report evaluating how each country measures in security and safety, movement, expression and relationship freedoms.  New Zealand topped the index as offering the highest level of human freedom worldwide, followed by the Netherlands and Hong Kong.  Australia came in fourth, with the USA ranked seventh.

The index was contained in a new book, Towards a Worldwide Index of Human Freedom. The book's editor, Fred McMahon, said the intention was to measure the degree to which people were free to enjoy classic civil liberties, freedom of speech, religion, individual economic choice, and association and assembly-in each country surveyed.  They also looked at indicators of crime and violence, freedom of movement, legal discrimination against homosexuals, and women's freedoms.

Otago Daily Times 9/1/13

 

Policing

Mental health Taser shock

A disproportionate number of people with mental health issues are being stung by Tasers, figures show.  Since the nationwide rollout of Tasers in March 2010, they have been drawn by police officers 1320 times and discharged 212 times.  Numbers released under the Official Information Act show nearly a third of those hit were considered by police to have mental health issues.

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Judi Clements said they had always feared those with mental health problems would be a target for officers using Tasers and the figures confirmed that.  She was also concerned by the lack of research around the long-term effects of the weapons' use, particularly because those with psychological issues often had physical problems too.

Auckland University's senior lecturer in nursing, Anthony O'Brien, found Tasers were much more likely (27 per cent) to be discharged at mental health emergencies than at criminal arrests (10 per cent) and warned their use would need to be monitored as the weapons were more widely used.

In 2011 there were 621 Tasers used by police but that number ballooned to 908 when more were bought last year.

Taranaki Daily News 6/1/13

 

Gay police officers not allowed to parade in uniform

Police officers who want to march in next month's Auckland Pride Parade will reportedly not be allowed to wear their uniforms.

Openly gay and lesbian officers had sought official support to march as representatives of the police force, however the request has been turned down. 

"Any police who wish to participate in the parade can do so as individuals who pay their own way. Participants will not be in uniform," a police said.

The position contrasts with that of the Defence Force, which is allowing LGBT people serving with the Army, Navy and Air Force to march in the parade in uniform.

Otago Daily Times 18/1/13

 

Welfare

Home Educators Appeal To Human Rights Commission

As the government’s Select Committee considers submissions on the proposed Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill, home educators across New Zealand continue to hope that their concerns over discrimination and other breaches of human rights in the Bill will be heard and addressed. Meanwhile the Home Education Foundation (HEF), which has been advocating parental rights in New Zealand for close to three decades, considers the human rights problems in the Bill serious enough to lay before the Human Rights Commission.

Barbara Smith, National Director of the HEF, says “Our concerns include discrimination against the unemployed, parental rights to choose children’s education and health care, women’s rights to choose domestic work instead of employment, and children’s rights to access the best available education without being deprived of basic income with the proposed halving of benefits of those that do not comply…

We are asking the Human Rights Commission to make strong objections to the human rights violations in the Bill, and to defend the rights of beneficiaries with legal action if necessary.”

The “Social Obligations” contained in the Bill require all beneficiary parents to ensure that their preschool-aged children attend an accredited Early Childhood Education (ECE) provider, register their children with a primary health care provider and ensure that their children attend all the core Well Child checks.  According to the Law Society of New Zealand, these social obligations stigmatise beneficiaries as being unable to care for themselves or their children and will likely result in discrimination on the basis of employment status, which is prohibited by section 19 of the Bill of Rights Act.

The Dunedin Community Law Centre has also highlighted the discrimination involved in the Bill. “These proposals imply that beneficiaries are bad parents who do not know what is best for their children.” This was echoed in many of the submissions. “This Bill creates a category of citizen who has fewer choices and less autonomy simply because they are in receipt of a benefit,” said the Parish Council of St Andrew’s on the Terrace. A private submission stated, “The implication of the bill is that beneficiaries do not see to the necessary health needs of their children…it is a stigma for beneficiaries, rather than a social good for all.”

Many of the organisations making submissions also believed that it is not the role of the state to supplant legitimate parental choices. “Social obligation requirements take away the rights of parents to choose what is best for themselves and their families,” said the Auckland Women’s Centre. “Furthermore, some parents want to have a choice about the educational environment they put their children into. Not all ECE is suitable for all children. Some parents choose to home school their children.”

Scoop.co.nz 22/1/13

 

 

Liberty Watch - July 2011

Round-up of civil liberty news for July 2011.

ADOPTION

56-year-old adoption laws queried

An adoption advocacy group has filed a claim with The Human Rights Review Tribunal stating that New Zealand's adoption law is out of date and discriminatory.

Same-sex and de-facto couples weren't able to adopt, birth mothers weren't fully informed of their rights and people up to the age of 20 could be adopted without their consent under the current law, the group claimed.

Adoption Action said the adoption law, which had not been changed in 56 years, was inconsistent with the anti-discrimination provisions of The Human Rights Act 1993 and The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act in 15 different respects.

stuff.co.nz  28/7/11

 

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Justice system overhaul closer

Eroding the legal principle of the right to silence, narrowing the scope of offences that can go before a jury, and ending celebrity name suppression are all now one-step closer to becoming law.

The recommendations are included in a report from the Justice and Electoral select committee on the controversial Criminal Procedure (Reform and Modernisation) Bill.

Aspects of the Bill have been strongly opposed by all levels of the judiciary - including the Chief Justice Sian Elias and Chief District Court Judge Russell Johnson.

NZ Herald 14/7/11

 

Inmate wins payout for hurt feelings

A PRISONER who took offence when he found a government department had incorrectly listed him as having a domestic violence conviction has won a compensation payout for breach of privacy and hurt feelings.

The man, who has convictions for attacking a police officer, unlawful possession of firearms, aggravated robbery, theft, burglary and trying to escape from custody, complained to the Privacy Commissioner and then to the Human Rights Review Tribunal about a Ministry of Social Development's (MSD) file note,

After hearing evidence the tribunal ruled the inmate's privacy had been breached, he had suffered emotional harm and that he was entitled to NZ$3,500 in compensation.

New Zealand herald 17/7/11

 

EMPLOYMENT

Inmate's wife can't be guard

A woman has been given the go-ahead to sue the corrections department for refusing to employ her as a guard in the prison in which her husband was remanded. It is understood the foundation of the case against the department is that Lydia Butcher should not be discriminated against because of her husband's criminal behaviour.

The employment application form used by the department specifically urges applicants to declare connections to anyone involved in criminal activity.  The form also stated a failure to declare potential conflicts could result in being turned down for a job.

New Zealand Herald 3/7/11

 

Bill to reveal gender pay gap

Male and female colleagues would know each other's salaries under a proposed pay equality bill that would remove an employer's ability to keep them secret.  Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Dr Judy McGregor said that the number of women who did not know if they were receiving equal pay was disturbing.

She has drafted a bill that would mean a woman doing the same work as a man would be entitled to know what he was paid.

New Zealand Herald 2/7/11

 

FREEDOM CAMPING

Freedom camping law could impact on hikers and mountaineers

A law that would restrict freedom camping could threaten hikers and mountaineers who sleep on roadsides before an early morning start parliament has been told.

The Local Government sub-committee heard submissions on the Freedom Camping Bill, which would empower local authorities to declare certain areas off-limits to freedom camping and allow them to issue $200 fines.

Local authorities or the Department of Conservation could also take offenders to court for a maximum fine of $10,000.

The bill's explanatory note says that the bill "does not target back country campers, or motorists who need to pull over to the side of the road to rest", but these activities are all captured by the bill, which defines Freedom Camping as camping within 1km of a road or vehicle accessible area in a tent, caravan, campervan or other vehicle or temporary structure

New Zealand Herald 4/7/11

 

FREEDOM OF SPEECH

Whitcoulls will 'evaluate' Kahui book

Whitcoulls, New Zealand biggest book retailer, says it will make a decision on whether to stock an upcoming book about the deaths of the Kahui twins after it is finished and the company has a chance to read it.

Two major book retailers, Paper Plus and the Warehouse, have already announced they will not stock the book.

The book, Breaking Silence: The Kahui Case, was written by journalist Ian Wishart and the twins' mother Macsyna King.

 New Zealand Herald 1/7/11

 

GANGS

Councils asked for backing on gang-patch ban

Councils are being formally asked if they would support a ban on gang patches at hospitals, schools and local government-controlled buildings.

Under a draft private member's bill, gang insignia would be forbidden in all public service departments and other Crown property, with the exception of Housing New Zealand homes and Department of Conservation land.

But the bill's author, Rotorua MP Todd McClay, is writing to all mayors for their thoughts on extending the ban to all public buildings.

New Zealand Herald 14/7/11

 

MISUSE OF DRUGS

Call to introduce alcohol screening

An alcohol advisory group wants everyone who visits their GP to be screened for harmful alcohol use, following a report by Royal College Psychiatrists in Britain that is calling for everyone over the age of 65 to be screened for abuse of drugs including alcohol.  Research from the College has stated that older people are less able to process alcohol, recommending that the government lower the recommended drinking limit for older people to just 1.5 units per day.

The group’s early intervention manager, Sue Paton, wants that in New Zealand as well, but not just for older people.

"We would take that further, we would say that all of the population should be screened for alcohol abuse," says Ms Paton.

New Zealand Herald 3/7/11

 

Police begin clampdown on legal highs

Nelson's alcohol outlets are being asked to pull all party pills and cannabinoids from their shelves or risk having their licences suspended.

Police Alcohol Harm Reduction Sergeant Mike Fitzsimons said since the synthetic cannabis product Kronic Pineapple Express had been banned, he'd told licensed premises that they shouldn't be selling any similar substances or party pills

It's not illegal for licensed premises to sell such substances but the Liquor Licensing Authority has discretion to decide whether someone is "fit and proper" to hold a liquor licence. Police would argue they weren't if they sold these products, Mr Fitzsimons said.

Nelson Mail 8/7/11

 

POLICING

Police checking residents went too far - lawyer

A civil liberties lawyer says police went too far over the weekend when checking residents in an Auckland street where a Hells Angels gathering was being held. Brentwood Avenue residents say they were photographed and asked for their address, name, date of birth and job.

Mr Bott says police have the power to ask your name and address but to go beyond that and ask about your occupation and the purpose of your visit is disgusting

New Zealand Herald 4/7/11

 

Police ask protesters their World Cup plans

Police are contacting known protesters to ask if they are planning any protest action during the month-long Rugby World Cup.

Veteran protesters Sue Bradford and John Minto have both had visits from police officers.

Police have confirmed they are talking to "a number of people".

Dominion Post 5/7/11

 

Taser Use

A 14-year-old boy and a 70-year-old man are among the New Zealanders stunned by police Tasers since their introduction last year.

Figures show police have "presented" Tasers to offenders 797 times since March 2010 and, of these, they were fired 102 times. However, the police's Tactical Options Research database shows the weapons were ineffective on 36 of those 102 occasions,

More worryingly, the stun guns have been fired more times by accident than in the line of duty, with concerns over officers' ineptitude with the weapons borne out by the statistic that Tasers have been "unintentionally discharged" 108 times.

Sunday Star Times 17/7/11

 

PRIVACY

Wainuiomata High to install toilet cameras

Wainuiomata High School will install cameras in toilets, despite a Privacy Commission warning it could breach pupils' privacy.

The cameras would not be in cubicles but in the main washroom, principal Martin Isberg said. They were to stop vandalism, deter smoking and allow the reintroduction of soap, absent for several years because it was used to plug sinks and flood them.

However, a Privacy Commissioner's Office spokeswoman said schools needed to be very careful with the placement of cameras, and recommended positioning them outside the toilet block entrance.

"Our advice is that there would need to be a fairly extraordinary set of circumstances to justify putting up cameras looking into toilet cubicles or in areas where people might be changing clothes."

Schools needed to have signs up that camera were in use.

Dominion Post 27/7/11

 

Kaikoura 'loo-cams' a big success

The Kaikoura District Council has made huge savings since it installed surveillance cameras in the town's public toilets, asset manager Gallo Saidy says.

The cameras were installed in the West End toilets in Kaikoura in 2007 and have been the subject of much debate since, with one journalist even taking the matter to Parliament over privacy concerns. But the Kaikoura council always maintained there is no breach of privacy, because the cameras do not show people in the cubicles.

Marlborough Express 29/7/11

 

Critics slam device to spy on teenagers

A tracking device that allows parents to monitor their teens' driving habits has been slammed as "a step too far".

The Trackstick Mini GPS keep track of a vehicle's speed and location history when plugged in, including the date and time.

When the device is plugged into a computer it shows where a vehicle has been via a red line across Google Earth satellite photos.

Legally you're not allowed to use a tracking device on anyone unless they know about it or it's in your vehicle,

Stuff.co.nz 21/7/11

 

RACE

Women thrown off bus for wearing veil

The Consulate-General of Saudi Arabia has written to the New Zealand Government to complain after a Saudi Arabian student was told she couldn’t board an Auckland bus because of her Muslim veil.

Two days earlier another driver from the same company, NZ Bus, told another woman to remove her veil.

However, both bus drivers suffer from “maskophobia” and weren’t discriminating on religious or cultural grounds, NZ Bus general manager Jon Calder said, and neither has been dismissed.

Mr Calder said both drivers had been sent on counselling programmes, and NZ Bus has no policy on clothing. Both men have received final warnings and will be monitored.

A Human Rights Commission spokesman said the incidents appeared to amount to discrimination on religious grounds

3 News 5/7/11

 

SECURITY INTELLIGENCE SERVICE

SIS given stronger powers

The Security Intelligence Service (SIS) has been given stronger surveillance powers under legislation passed by Parliament.

Attorney-General Chris Finlayson said the changes would ensure the SIS was equipped to deal with the now widespread use of computers, mobile phones and internet technologies, and take advantage of new surveillance technologies.

"Changes must be made to enable the SIS to regain its full functionality before New Zealand hosts an important event like the Rugby World Cup," he said.

The Green Party MP Keith Locke said it was unnecessary and inappropriate. "We shouldn't be giving more surveillance powers to such an unaccountable government agency with a history of using these powers to spy on critics of the Government," he said.

New Zealand Herald 5/7/11

 

SMOKING

Smokers under attack

One of New Zealand's major employers is looking at refusing to hire smokers, and Auckland Council bosses will consider banning smoking in central-city streets and at bus stops.

The Auckland District Health Board, which employs more than 10,000 people, is developing the controversial but lawful hiring plan. Nursing representatives say it's unfair.

The Human Rights Commission said the DHB would be within its rights not to hire smokers.

"Although this may not be considered fair or reasonable, it is not unlawful," a spokesman said.

This is because smoking is not specified in legislation as a banned reason for discrimination.

The Auckland District Health Board is also considering topermit security guards to take photos of staff who smoke in the grounds and refuse to identify themselves, and building a wall with sharp stones on top to discourage people from smoking near the entrance to Auckland City Hospital.

New Zealand Herald 14/7/11

 

The Waikato District Health Board is seeking the support of Hamilton City Council in imposing a ban on smoking on Selwyn St and Pembroke St.  Hospital staff, patients, and visitors, leaving the hospital grounds for a smoke, frequent the roads.

The DHB has suggested that the council pass a bylaw outlawing smoking on the two streets, which could be enforced by instant fines, as is the practice in Queensland, Australia where security guards can issue infringement notices.

New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties spokesperson Batch Hales said current measures to stop smoking were working and introducing things like street bans would be counter-productive.

Waikato Times 16/7/11

 

Liberty Watch - June 2011

Round-up of civil liberty news for June 2011.

AGE DISCRIMINATION

Jury exemption at 65 'could be ageism'

The Human Rights Commission says allowing people older than 65 to permanently opt out of jury service could be age discrimination.

A bill before Parliament would allow 65-year-olds to apply to exclude themselves from jury selection permanently, based solely on their age.

Human Rights Commissioner Dr Judy McGregor says the legislation supports a view that elderly people are not up to contributing to the wider community.

http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/77327/jury-exemption-at-65-%27cou...

 

CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE

Breathalysers at School Balls

GISBORNE high schools, like other schools across New Zealand, are cracking down on alcohol in the 2011 ball season and have upped their security measures by having alcohol breathalysers at the ready and increasing staff patrol at venues.

Principals of Gisborne Girls’ High, Lytton High and Campion College have confirmed they will have alcohol breathalysers on hand to test anyone they suspect has been drinking before the ball.

Gisborne herald 24/6/11

 

Drug dogs to check St Kent's ball guests

A high school is employing sniffer dogs to check students for drugs

Along with the sniffer dogs, St Kentigern College has also hired security guards to search students at the door and they will be forced to blow into a breathalyser if suspected of drinking.

 

End right to silence, Kahui inquest told

The country's leading authority on child protection has questioned the right to silence for defendants in some child-abuse cases.

Starship hospital's director of child protection, Dr Patrick Kelly, told the inquest into the death of the Kahui twins yesterday that he was disappointed new legislation from the Government did not include some limitations on the right to silence.

Dr Kelly said the Law Commission in Britain had recommended that the right to silence be removed in child-abuse cases where the accused is a caregiver of the child.

NZ Herald 29/6/11

 

Boys can’t date each other – college

A Wellington boys' college has banned a student from bringing his male date to this weekend's school ball.

A St. Patrick's College student wanted to bring his male friend, but said rector Father Paul Martin told him that he had to bring a girl.

The Human Rights Commission said that they receive a few complaints about pupils not being allowed to bring same-sex partners to school balls each year, but said the St Patrick's case had not been brought to its notice.

NZ Herald 15/6/11

 

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Juries legislation raises concerns

The New Zealand Law Society have questioned a proposed law change to disqualify from jury service people who have served sentences of home detention within the preceding five years.

Because people on home detention had all received sentences of imprisonment, they were excluded from jury service for five years. However, since home detention was created as a stand-alone sentencing option, Parliament has failed to address whether home detention was akin to prison (which involves a five-year disqualification from jury service), or to other community sentences (which do not).

scoop.co.nz 15/6/11

 

Truth banned from Auckland Prison

Auckland prisoners have been told they are no longer entitled to read New Zealand's oldest weekly newspaper. NZ Truth, a decision that will now go to the high court.

Corrections bosses notified the Auckland-based publishers of Truth Weekender that their tabloid paper was banned from the maximum security Auckland Prison east division.

The paper has an extensive advertising section for prostitutes with photographs of near-naked females, but this was not what sparked the decision, rather the paper's journalism was what upset authorities.

Corrections' media advisor, Rebecca Powell, defended the ban, saying prisoners' rights to access to news were not affected.

''Prisoners continue to have access to local and world news via all other newspapers, radio stations and free-to-air television.''

Stuff.co.nz 29/6/11

 

EMPLOYMENT

Air NZ told to reinstate sacked man

Air New Zealand has been ordered for the third time to reinstate a flight attendant who was sacked for sitting down during turbulence.

The case of a man who was a flight attendant for 14 years and a former union representative, has gone through the Employment Relations Authority, the Employment Court and finally the Court of Appeal, where a judge has again ruled in his favour.

He was dismissed three years ago for "serious misconduct" after he sat down on a flight to Vancouver during moderate turbulence.

The Employment Court later ruled that Air New Zealand had punished him for views expressed in his union role, and said his dismissal was unfair.

New Zealand Herald 30/6/11

 

Employers' boss slammed for 'sexist' comments

The Council of Trade Unions says the head of the Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) should resign, after he suggested one reason women are paid less than men is because they take "sick days" once a month.

Responding to a Green Party bill seeking to require employers to record the gender of their employees along with pay levels, EMA chief executive Alasdair Thompson today admitted there was a gender pay gap - 12 percent according to figures - but said women took the most sick days.

"Why? Because once a month they have sick problems. Not all women, but some do, they have children they have to take time off to go home and take leave," he told NewstalkZB, therefore their productivity was lower.

"I don't like saying these things because it sounds like I'm sexist, but it's a fact of life."

Otago Daily Times 23/6/11

 

Pilots fight plans to check files for Convictions

The Director of Civil Aviation wants to resume secretly searching for convictions commercial pilots may have.

If a High Court ruling goes in its favour, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) intends to seek any incriminating information from the Ministry of Justice several times a year.

At a judicial review hearing in the High Court at Wellington it emerged that the CAA planned to regularly forward the names of 100 pilots, selected randomly and without their knowledge, for scrutiny.

Otago daily Times 20/6/11

 

Spying on workers made legal

A law change has made it legal to install secret cameras to spy on workers, and companies are employing private detectives to do so.

Recently Wellington International Airport has fallen foul of the Employment Relations Authority for using a private investigator to install cameras to spy on the activities of a manager before the law was changed.

The airport recordings caught the duty manager engaged in "sexual activity" with a woman in an emergency management room and he was dismissed for serious misconduct.

The cameras were installed by private investigator Cedric Hardiman, who also managed the airport's taxi and parking facilities.

At the time, the Private Investigators and Security Guards Act prohibited investigators from making recordings without the consent of the person recorded.  However, a law change that came into effect on April 1 has removed that part of the law and it is now legal for private investigators to make recordings.

Sunday Star Times 26/6/11

 

GANGS

Law aims to ban patches from government property

THE Government is backing a nationwide ban on gang patches at all buildings and property its departments own or rent.

National MP Todd McClay, who is behind the private members' bill, said his legislation had been in written in a way where it could not be the subject of legal challenges, clearly stating which government-run buildings and property, including car parks, it would apply to.

That includes all the country's state-funded schools, hospitals, airports and government departments such as Winz, ACC, Housing New Zealand, Sport and Recreation NZ, the IRD and the Ministry of Maori Development. It would not apply to the 66,000 state houses owned or managed by Housing New Zealand.

Stuff.co.nz 5/6/11

 

HOUSING

Housing New Zealand's eviction move criticized

Housing New Zealand unfairly targeted three Lower Hutt women with eviction to get at their partners, a Human Rights Tribunal has been told.  The three women, who have partners with gang links, are being threatened with eviction from Farmer Crescent in Pomare.

Dominion Post 20/6/11

 

Government makes it tougher to get on waiting list for a state house

The Housing Minister, Phil Heatley has confirmed tighter rules for people seeking a place on waiting lists for state houses. Under the changes, which come into force on 1 July, only the most urgent priority A and B cases will be eligible for state house waiting lists. Those rated a C or D will not qualify, although those already on the list will be allowed to stay there. Also from 1 July, all new tenancies will be reviewable once every three years, with tenants moved out of state housing if their circumstances improve significantly. Mr Heatley says elderly tenants and those with disabilities will undergo an office review only and are unlikely to be moved on. In another change, tenants issued with 90-day notices for destructive or abusive behaviour will face a year-long ban from re-applying for a state house tenancy.

Newszealand.blogspot.com 29/6/11

 

HUMAN RIGHTS

Index Burnishes New Zealand’s Reputation As Least Corrupt

New Zealand was ranked the least-corrupt nation of 66 examined by the World Justice Project. The results are based on about 1,000 assessments from members of the general public in each country, as well as contributions from local legal experts.

New Zealand topped the “absence of corruption” list and placed in the top five in the world in seven of the eight categories of the Index.

http://blogs.wsj.com/corruption-currents/2011/06/13/index-burnishes-new-...

 

INTERNET

Un criticizes New Zealand

The UN has recently come out against Britain, France, and New Zealand’s three strike laws that have been put in place to stop file sharing of copyrighted files. In all three of these countries if you are caught illegally sharing files on three occasions, you can be barred from internet access. The UN deemed this a human right abuse stating that cutting someone off from having internet access for a copyright infringement is “disproportionate and thus a violation of article 19, paragraph 3, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Right.”

While several submissions on the law in New Zealand argued internet access was now a right, Commerce Minister Simon Power yesterday said he hadn't given that a great deal of thought.  "But the legislation that we passed ... was thoroughly consulted over a two-year period. I'm confident that it's been through just about every test and every forum it could have been to get to where it is today."

The Government had no intention of altering it, he added.

New Zealand Herald 8/6/11

 

New Zealand backs UN on internet access

New Zealand has backed a statement made at the United Nations that the termination of an internet account is "generally not a proportionate sanction", despite introducing legislation that will eventually allow such a punishment.

Delivered by Sweden on behalf of New Zealand and 40 other countries at the United Nations' Human Rights Council in Geneva, the statement endorsed a UN report that called the termination of internet access for alleged copyright infringement a violation of human rights.

http://www.3news.co.nz/NZ-backs-statement-opposing-Skynet-law/tabid/412/...

 

MISUSE OF DRUGS

Kronic use to be curtailed

A planned crackdown on "cannabinoid" substances will severely curtail the use of controversial synthetic cannabis product Kronic, Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne has said.

Mr Dunne said an amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act 2005 targeting "Kronic", along with other widely available products such as "Spice" Aroma" and "Dream", was set to be passed by parliament within weeks.

It would restrict where the products could be advertised and sold, along with strengthening laws making them illegal to under-18s.

NZ Herald 17/6/11

 

POLICING

No conviction for officer who punched prisoner

A Judge in New Plymouth District Court discharged a police officer without conviction for assault. 

The officer punched a prisoner, who was in a waist restraint, as two prison officers were forcing him into a police van.

The officer's counsel, Patrick Mooney, argued that a conviction for the police officer would have effects out of all proportion to the lower-grade assault.  He also asked for continued name suppression arguing that it could adversely affect the officer when dealing with the public and criminals in future.

Judge Courtney agreed with Mr. Mooney, discharging the officer without conviction and ordering permanent name suppression.

NZ Herald 16/6/11

 

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS

An international trade agreement that targets intellectual property (IP) rights infringers has been finalized. ACTA was negotiated by, amongst others, Australia, Canada, the US, Japan, Korea, Morocco, New Zealand, Mexico, Singapore and, on behalf of EU countries, the European Commission.

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is a voluntary international treaty that seeks to provide standardised international enforcement of intellectual property rights. ACTA was negotiated in secret by the Governments of a collection of countries over the past three years.

The treaty has been controversial because of this secrecy surrounding its negotiation. The ACTA encourages customs officers to help identify intellectual property right violators and share the details with other countries.

"ACTA has several features that raise significant potential concerns for consumers’ privacy and civil liberties, for innovation and the free flow of information on the Internet, legitimate commerce, and for developing countries’ ability to choose policy options that best suit their domestic priorities and level of economic development," the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital civil liberties campaign group, said.

http://www.out-law.com/page-11970

 

STUDENT LOANS

No escape for student loan expats

Legal action is about to begin against hundreds of New Zealand expats who have not made any effort to repay millions of dollars in outstanding student loans. From today, authorities will start sending letters to Australia-based defaulters warning that legal action is being taken as a result of their ongoing refusal to pay up. The letters will be the first step in what will eventually end in court proceedings - and a possible bad credit rating - if repayments are not made. Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce told the Herald authorities would be targeting expats who are "seen to be deliberately flouting their opportunities to pay back" their loans. People who have "significant sums of money" owing will also be targeted.

Newszealand.blogspot.com 1/6/11

 

Law to make defaulters pay instantly

A new law that could demand immediate repayment of a student loan may be in place before the election. The Student Loan Scheme Bill, which Revenue Minister Peter Dunne says is designed to target the worst loan defaulters, would grant the Inland Revenue commissioner the power to recall entire loan balances, as well as give the courts power to prosecute anyone who did not comply. That would largely apply to those overseas, who were the worst defaulters, he said.

Newszealand.blogspot.com 6/6/11

 

WELFARE

Contraception for ‘solo mums’

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett is "a big fan" of long acting contraception for solo mums but says her Government is "not quite" at the stage of making it compulsory.

NZ Herald 5/6/11

Liberty Watch - June/July 2013

Civil liberties news for June and July 2013.

 

Criminal Justice

Lundy's bid to see appeal blocked

Prominent human rights lawyer Michael Bott has complained after convicted double murderer Mark Lundy was not allowed to watch his appeal to the Privy Council as it unfolded.  Since his conviction Lundy has maintained his innocence and in June the Privy Council in London heard his appeal against his convictions.

The three-day overnight Privy Council hearing was live-streamed on the internet on a publicly available website, and a request was made for Lundy to be able to watch from Rangipo Prison, but this was turned down by the Department of Corrections.

"The prisoner would need approval to be out of his cell after lockup hours, which is only approved in emergency situations and this request is not considered an emergency," Tongariro/Rangipo prison manager Dennis Goodin said in a statement.

Instead Lundy had to rely on a meeting with his sister a few days later to learn details of the hearing, a situation that, Mr. Bott said, was not good enough.

"In New Zealand, inmates have the right to attend their appeals…Fundamentally ‘justice being seen to be done' does not apply just to the public, but also people affected. That’s the accused as well. Really, one would think the Department of Corrections would adopt a more enlightened policy," Mr. Bott said.

Inmates could follow their appeals via video link to New Zealand's higher courts, so Mr. Bott saw no reason why Lundy couldn't watch what was going on in London.

Manawatu Standard 25/6/13

 

Three Strikes Law

Over 2000 criminals have been given warnings under "three strikes" legislation introduced in 2010 to keep violent offenders behind bars longer, but critics say

In total, 2784 people have been given ‘first strike’ warnings, while 20 have received a ‘second strike.’  No-one has yet received a ‘third strike.’

Manawatu Standard 6/7/13

 

Employment

Workers drug test numbers skyrocket

Workplace drug and alcohol testing is skyrocketing as screening expands from traditional safety-sensitive jobs like forestry to sectors including finance and government.

The New Zealand Drug Detection Agency figures show that between 2011 and 2012 its alcohol screening tests rose 32 per cent, with 39,369 tests administered. After doing 29,000 drug tests in 2008 it forecast it would probably do 90,000 this year.

Chief executive Chris Hilson said where once it tested 12 sectors, including construction and transport, it now screened 23. There was a marked uptake among white-collar industries, and many middle and senior level managers were being tested before being appointed.

Drug Testing Services managing director Jo Kirk said More random testing has seen an increase of four per cent to around 17 per cent in the number of non-negative tests.

Duayne Cloke, site services manager for Pro Med, which trains drug testers, says the trend is now so marked most New Zealand workplaces will soon be drug testing.

Any workplace can have a drug-testing policy, but procedures must be clear.  Farry and Co employment lawyer Kirsten Maclean said staff must know the circumstances in which testing will be done, and what the disciplinary procedures are. The conditions should be included in employment contracts.  She said legal issues usually arose when policies weren't clear, or if workers felt they were being unfairly targeted.

Some workers had won compensation after being unjustifiably dismissed because of drug tests.  Last year, a Nelson roofer was awarded $15,000 after being sacked after a random drug test. The ERA found there was no reasonable cause to test him at the time, and it was not the action a fair or reasonable employer would have taken.

Taranaki Daily News 7/7/13

 

Human Rights

Strengthening of human rights protection mechanisms urged

The New Zealand Law Society has advised the United Nations’ Human Rights Council that mechanisms protecting human rights in New Zealand would benefit from further strengthening.

In a submission to the Council for the second Universal Periodic Review of New Zealand’s human rights record, the Law Society identifies a number of legislative measures that it says fail to meet New Zealand’s domestic and international human rights obligations.

Law Society President Chris Moore says that while New Zealand has a generally good record on human rights, its constitutional arrangements mean that protection of human rights depends on rigorous scrutiny of policy and legislation, close adherence to the rule of law, and political restraint where rule of law concerns or inconsistencies with human rights standards are identified.

"Without a supreme bill of rights or entrenched constitution it is crucial that human rights protection mechanisms operate effectively to forestall breaches of human rights. Unfortunately on a number of recent occasions legislation has been passed despite conflicting with the rule of law and human rights.

"There have been twelve pieces of legislation in recent years that have been identified as inconsistent with the rights and freedoms protected in the New Zealand Bill of Rights, and on a number of occasions urgency has been used in Parliament to limit or bypass select committee scrutiny," he says.

voxy.co.nz 20/6/13

 

Government human rights record attacked

The Government's treatment of disabled people has been criticised before the United Nations.

In its submission to the UN Human Rights Council, the New Zealand Human Rights Commission attacked the Government for passing laws under urgency, human rights breaches in post-quake Canterbury, and legislation limiting disabled people's rights, stating that, "The Canterbury experience is symptomatic of a wider trend to move towards centralised governance, progressively removing the voice of those affected from the decision-making process."

The commission also called for parts of the Public Health and Disability Amendment Act to be repealed.  This act blocks carers of disabled family members from seeking redress for unlawful discrimination.

The law passed in May under urgency despite Attorney-General Chris Finlayson admitting it breached the Bill of Rights Act.

Dominion Post 19/6/13

 

Immigration

Mass detention a failure for human rights in New Zealand claims Amnesty

Amnesty International has said that is appalled with the New Zealand Government’s decision to implement a law that breaches the rights of people seeking protection from persecution.  The Immigration Amendment Bill passed its third reading on 13 June, by 63 votes to 53. Use of the new powers of mass detention in this Act could breach New Zealand’s international obligations under the Refugee Convention and human rights law.

“It is extremely disappointing to see that the Government has pushed forward with this law despite strong criticism from both the New Zealand public and the international community,” said Grant Bayldon, Executive Director at Amnesty International. “The NZ Human Rights Commission and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees were among those who raised their concerns with the Bill.”

“Amnesty International is calling on the Government to adopt additional safeguards to ensure that they do not detain already vulnerable people unnecessarily and put New Zealand in breach of its obligations under human rights law,” Bayldon added, and further argued, “detention can fundamentally damage individuals who have already fled torture and situations we can’t even imagine and therefore it is crucially important that detention is used only as a last resort and not on mass in an effort to deter people smugglers.

“Experience in countries like Australia has shown that psychological damage caused by detention can last for years after people are released. Detention will not only further, unnecessarily, burden New Zealand taxpayers but robs individuals of the ability to contribute productively to their new country."

Amnesty also expressed concern about a number of other amendments in the legislation that apply to all asylum seekers, including limits to judicial review and the suspension of claims.

Scoop.co.nz 13/6/13

 

Media Freedom

Journalist Jon Stephenson accuses NZ Defence Force of spying on him

An article by investigative journalist Nicky Hager claims the New Zealand military had received help from US spy agencies in monitoring journalist John Stephenson's phone conversations while he was working in Afghanistan.

According to the article, members of the New Zealand Defence Force had copies of intercepted phone metadata for Stephenson.  The reports, which related to Stephenson's phone conversations in the second half of last year, showed who he had called and who those people had called.  At the time, Stephenson was working as a Kabul correspondent for the US McClatchy news service and for various New Zealand organisations.  Calls of Stephenson's associates were also monitored.

The monitoring was believed to have been co-ordinated from the main US intelligence centre at Bagram, north of Kabul. According to the article, GCSB staff have been posted at this unit since early in the Afghanistan war.

An internal Defence Force manual, which refers to "certain investigative journalists", as "subversion" threats was also referenced by Hager's article.  The manual, which was leaked, was issued as an order by the head of the Defence Force, and said some journalists may be classed as hostile individuals as they pose a threat of subversion.

"Counter intelligence" methods, which are "activities concerned with identifying and counteracting the threat to security" by such individuals or organisation can be sanctioned by the by the Defence Force chief in New Zealand.

The Human Rights Foundation says Defence Force involvement in monitoring a journalist is an abuse of fundamental human rights.  Spokesman Tim McBride said, "Independent journalism is especially important in a controversial war zone where the public has a right to know what really happens and not just get military public relations.”

New Zealand Herald 28/7/13 & Dominion Post 28/7/13

 

Release of journalist’s phone records condemned

Prime Minister John Key says he is "very disappointed" that three months worth of phone records for Fairfax journalist Andrea Vance have been handed over to a ministerial inquiry.  Speaker David Carter has confirmed the records were given to the inquiry. He apologised to Vance and Fairfax group executive editor Paul Thompson and acknowledged answers given last week denying Vance's phone records had been handed over were wrong.

 

Key said Parliamentary Service "got it wrong…they made a mistake and they should never have released that information." But he reiterated that at no stage did the Henry inquiry make use of the information.

 

"The Henry inquiry fully understood the breadth of their mandate; they didn't access the information, they didn't look at the information, frankly they didn't want the information. Parliamentary Service got it wrong and let itself down."

 

Key said he had "enormous respect" for the media and believed in the freedom of information.  "We don't think they should be subject to surveillance and they're not."

 

The union that represents journalists, the EPMU, also attacked the act saying, “protection of sources is a key ethical consideration for journalists. When sources know they can provide information to journalists without fear of retribution, they are able to hold authorities to account…If government agencies are able to delve into journalists’ communications, it will seriously impede the flow of information to journalists and have a chilling effect on media freedom.”

Scoop 31/7/13 & Dominion Post 30/7/13

 

Schools

Concern at search and seizure law change

A University of Otago law lecturer has said the Government's Education Amendment Act 2012 has provided a ''potential playground for lawyers''.

 

The legislation was passed in Parliament this month, amending the Education Act 1989, and now gives appropriate school staff the power to search pupils and their bags, and seize property.

Otago University’s Paul Roth has expressed concern at what he calls ''weasel words'', such as 'reasonable grounds', 'detriment to the learning environment', 'reasonable period', 'as appropriate', and 'items that are reasonably believed to pose an immediate threat to a person's emotional safety', all of which could be used by lawyers to argue their cases.

He also noted that that conferring the legislation's intrusive discretionary powers on all school seemed risky and could result in unfairness if there is a disparity in the treatment of pupils by different staff members.  'I would prefer the concentration of such powers among a small number of senior staff,” he said.

However, on the positive side, the legislation gave schools more protection from potential lawsuits in relation to search and seizure, which previously were not spelled out.  Previously, schools either had to take the risk they might be acting in breach of the New Zealand Bill of Rights' provision on search and seizure, or call in the police, who had more experience with such matters.

Otago Daily Times 23/6/13

 

Spying

MP's express fears over GCSB legislation

MPs want the Government's GCSB legislation amended to ensure the spy agency doesn't overstep the mark if it eavesdrops on them.

Under an existing agreement, the SIS can collect and retain information about MPs under limited circumstances if it shows the Speaker of the House there are good grounds to do so.

However that agreement doesn't cover the GCSB which, under the Government's new legislation, will be expressly allowed to spy on New Zealanders when it is helping the police and SIS, and The Clerk of the House has raised concerns that there is no framework for dealing with complaints about surveillance of MPs by the GCSB when it is working on behalf of the SIS and Police.

Parliament's Privileges Committee has recommended that the GCSB and Related Legislation Amendment Bill is amended so that the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security can receive and act on complaints made on behalf of a class of people rather than just individuals.  That would allow the Speaker to raise issues around any GCSB or SIS surveillance of MPs.

The committee has also recommended the Inspector General can initiate an inquiry into actions of the spy agencies without the approval of the responsible minister.

New Zealand Herald 12/6/13

 

Facebook seeks spying exemption

Facebook has asked the Government for an exemption from a new spying law that could see its two million New Zealand users' messages subject to interception by the GCSB.

The company’s request was in its submission on the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Bill.  The bill gives the Government the power to force internet companies such as Facebook, Google and Twitter to provide electronic spy agency the GCSB with access to New Zealanders' messages and other communications carried over their systems. At present that obligation rests only with telecommunications companies such as Telecom, Chorus and Vodafone.  Google and Microsoft have also come out against the bill.

In Facebook's submission, the company's Australasian head of policy, Mia Garlick, said the bill "needed to be clarified to ensure that it is beyond doubt that services such as Facebook that provide stored messaging services are not subject to this legislation."

Ms Garlick indicated Facebook regarded the bill's interception provisions as "blunt tools, which have the potential to infringe on civil liberties and constrain economic growth".

She said Facebook, which has more than two million Kiwi users, already co-operated with New Zealand law enforcement authorities, "making sure that we prioritise any cases where there is an imminent risk of death or bodily harm".

 

Otago Daily Times 11/7/13

 

GCSB legislation 'inadequate' according to the Human Rights Commission

The Human Rights Commission has added its voice to those calling for a full and independent inquiry into New Zealand's intelligence services.

The commission released a report to Prime Minister John Key on the Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill, the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Bill and broader human rights matters regarding surveillance.

"The Commission is concerned that the proposed bills are wide-reaching without sufficient safeguards against abuse of power. There is inadequate oversight and inadequate provision for ensuring transparency and accountability," chief commissioner David Rutherford said.

The commission recognised that some level of surveillance was inevitable and justifiable from a human rights perspective in a democratic society.  "However, surveillance can be subject to human rights principles, protecting human rights and limiting them only when proportionate and justified and in accordance with the law," Mr. Rutherford said.

"The right to privacy is fundamental in a democracy and reinforces other fundamental rights, such as rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. The proposed restrictions on the right to privacy are too general to be proportionate to the bills' objectives."

Otago Daily Times 12/7/13

 

Liberty Watch - March 2011

Round-up of civil liberty news for March 2011 (final version updated on 3/4/2011).

Law Societies Concerns over Alcohol Reform bill

The Law Society’s concerns include the powers to arrest for an infringement offence and to demand information from individuals in an alcohol ban area. The Bill’s reverse onus provisions, which require people to prove their innocence if charged with a number of alcohol-related offences, are also a concern.

The Convenor of the Society’s Human Rights and Privacy Committee, Dr Andrew Butler, said the Bill proposed to make the breach of an alcohol ban an infringement offence with the power of arrest. This would make it the first infringement offence to carry a power of arrest. “The power of arrest should not lightly be used to detain people whose behaviour merely has the potential to escalate,” he said.  The Law Society believes that setting such a precedent deserves more consideration, and agreed with the Law Commission’s conclusion that there were already ample powers of arrest where behaviour is objectionable.

Giving police officers the power to demand the name and address of people in an alcohol ban area also appeared to be inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act rights to silence, to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, and also of freedom of expression.

Dr Butler said the Law Society also objected to provisions that did not appear to be compatible with the presumption of innocence protected by the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. Both provisions required the accused to prove that an element of the alleged offence did not exist. The Law Society recommended that these provisions be removed from the Bill.

Link: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1103/S00025/changes-needed-to-make-alcohol-reform-bill-more-consistent.htm

Race Relations in 2010

The Human Rights Commission's annual Review of Race Relations in New Zealand - Tūi Tūi Tuituiā highlights some crucial priorities for race relations.

  • AUMR Research Ltd survey in November found that Asians continue to be viewed as the group most discriminated against. The media reported sporadic incidents of racial violence and abuse, mainly in the South Island and mostly against Asians.
  • The Christchurch report-It website continued to receive complaints from international students about racial harassment.
  • More than 500 complaints and enquiries were made to the Human Rights Commission about racial discrimination in 2010.  This was an increase on the previous year and was mainly due to 21 complaints about sports personality Andy Haden’s comments in May about rugby players of Pacific island origin and 83 complaints about broadcaster Paul Henry’s comments about the Governor-General.

The media continue to report sporadic incidents of racially motivated violence, ranging from verbal abuse to severe physical assault. There is no way to establish the actual extent of racially motivated crime, because the Government has not yet honoured its commitment to the United Nations Human Rights council to introduce a system of data collection to capture this information.

Positives in New Zealand's race relations include the growth of te reo Māori and the Māori economy; Parliament reflecting the cultural diversity of the country; and the settling of historical claims for breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi.  However, the report notes that last year's 'three strikes' legislation and the removal of prisoners' right to vote are in breach of human rights and will impact disproportionately on Māori.

Link: http://www.hrc.co.nz/race-relations/annual-review-of-race-relations/


Human rights case update

Smith v Air New Zealand Ltd [2011] NZCA 20

In a decision released in February the Court of Appeal has found that Air New Zealand had discriminated against a disabled passenger but it wasn’t unlawful as it fell within the exception provided by Section 52 of the Human Rights.  S52 states that providers must accommodate the needs of the disabled unless it would impose an “undue burden or hardship” on the provider. After considering the costs involved to Air New Zealand in providing extra oxygen for disabled passengers such as Smith, the Court held at that the airline couldn’t “reasonably be expected to provide supplementary oxygen without the imposition of a charge”.

In 2002 Valerie Smith complained to the Commission that Air New Zealand charged her extra for oxygen when she flew and she regarded this as discriminatory.

Link: http://www.hrc.co.nz/news-and-issues/disability/human-rights-case-update/

Gang Patch Ban Ruled Illegal

Justice Clifford ruled the Wanganui District Council exceeded its powers when it created the bylaw in 2009. A special act of Parliament allowed the council to control gang insignia, but not to ban it completely.

The judge ruled that was what the council effectively did by applying the restrictions to such a large area. The judge also ruled the council had not fully considered the effect such a wide-ranging ban would have on freedoms of expression guaranteed under the Bill of Rights.

Manawatu Standard 9/03/11

Banning patches will do nothing to affect Wanganui's gang membership, according to an expert in crime prevention.

Kim Workman believes that a ban could instead make the situation worse, by driving gang activity underground and creating a stand-off with police that cuts off information flow.

"All the evidence would suggest that suppression actually produces crime, because you are setting up a challenge, which is what the mob thrive on," he said.

Mr Workman is the director of Rethinking Crime and Punishment, a group that aims to inform the public about crime and get people talking about solutions.

Wanganui Chronicle 15/3/11

Patch ban ‘not the answer’

GISBORNE District Council will not follow in the footsteps of Wanganui by banning gang patches in the CBD.  The matter came up at a Community Development Committee meeting yesterday, as councillors discussed a report on the council’s role in relation to gangs.

In her report, community development team leader Judy Livingston presented two possible responses to gang concerns — zero tolerance or prevention. The zero tolerance policy would mean banning gang patches in the CDB and seeing that gang members were sent to prison for a long time.

“The flipside is prevention. If we can reduce the number of young people joining gangs, it will benefit all of us. Young people who would have joined gangs can become productive members of society. It’s a win-win situation,” she said.

Gisborne Herald 17/3/11

Judge gives Mongrel Mob patch back

A gang member has successfully overturned a landmark court order to have his gang patch destroyed.

Mongrel Mob member Rawiri Mana Tehau, 30, a patched member of the Central Hawke's Bay chapter, said he was still celebrating after the decision last month.

"The patch is my life, I'm pretty happy," Mr. Tehau said.

Mr. Tehau's patch was ordered to be destroyed on January 14 after his conviction in Hastings District Court on a charge of disorderly behaviour.
"The defendant's patch was not seized pursuant to a search warrant, it was seized at the time of his arrest," the judge wrote.  He vacated the order and asked the patch be returned to Mr. Tehau.

Hawkes Bay Today 18/3/11

Spymaster not good choice as Governor General

Prime Minister John Key yesterday announced the appointment yesterday of Lieutenant General Mateparae as Governor-General.  He will take over Sir Anand Satyanand in August.

Lt Gen Mateparae was chief of the Defence Force until he retired in January and took over as head of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) the country's top spy agency. He will step down from this post when he becomes Governor-General.

Although Lieutenant General Jerry Mateparae has only recently taken the reins of the spy agency GCSB (Government Communications Security Bureau) he is currently involved in overseeing two controversial pieces of legislation he Search and Surveillance Bill and the SIS Amendment Bill.,  which it is alleged will seriously encroach on the civil liberties and freedoms of New Zealanders.

Global Peace And Justice Auckland spokesperson, John Minto claims that   Mateparae's political views and instinctive interests lie outside what many New Zealanders feel is appropriate for this country.

Source: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1103/S00061/spymaster-not-good-choice-as-governor-general.htm

Calls to Crimestoppers Increasing

Awareness of Crimestoppers is growing with the past two months producing the highest call rates since the service was set up in New Zealand, chief executive Lou Gardiner said today.

Crimestoppers is an independent organisation that allowed people to phone in anonymously to provide information on crime.

In January, it took 982 calls, an average of 32 a day. In February, it received 840, an average of 30 a day. Mr Gardiner said those monthly figures were the two highest since Crimestoppers was launched in October 2009. The target of 10,000 calls for this year, an increase off 30 percent on the first 12 months of operation, was looking likely to be achieved, he said.

Drugs remained the crime that attracted calls and accounted for 60 percent of information received.

The next biggest categories were dishonesty (12 percent) and wanted persons (7 percent).
Otago Daily Times 15/3/11

Criminal Procedure (Reform and Modernisation) Bill
Changes to name suppression

Restrictions on the media’s right to be heard in respect of court name suppression orders under the Criminal Procedure (Reform and Modernisation) Bill appear arbitrary and should be changed, the New Zealand Law Society said

Speaking about the Society’s submission on the Bill to Parliament’s Justice and Electoral committee, the convenor of its criminal law committee, Jonathan Krebs, says the Bill currently restricts the right to be heard to official members of the media who are subject to the jurisdiction of either the Press Council or the Broadcasting Standards Authority.

“This seems an arbitrary basis on which to deny a right to be heard in respect of a suppression order,” Mr Krebs says. “Media who are not subject to the jurisdiction of one of the two complaints bodies may still have a proper interest in being heard.”

The Law Society’s submission states that the test of “extreme” hardship proposed for name suppression was pitched too high.
“We believe this is particularly so where the defendant still enjoys a presumption of innocence or has been acquitted, or where the hardship would be suffered by a person connected with the defendant,” Mr. Krebs says.

The Law Society’s submission also argues against raising the age at which victims can apply for publication to be permitted of identifying information about the person who has offended against them or about themselves, from the current 16 to 18.

“Because the Judge must be satisfied that the victim knows the nature and effect of the decision to apply for such an order, there seems to be no basis for increasing the age at which victims can apply for publication to be permitted,” Mr Krebs says.

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1103/S00083/changes-to-proposed-name-suppression-rules-urged.htm

The Law Society’s written submission to the committee also highlighted its concern that measures in the Bill may threaten some of the long-established rights at the heart of this country’s justice system.  It said the select committee should consider whether changes proposed by the Bill were a proportionate response to the drive for greater efficiencies in the criminal trial process.

“Efficiency gains should not be at the expense of rights such as the right to a fair trial, the Bill is proposing to amend the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 to restrict the right to trial by jury contained in clause 24(e). This is the first time ever that there has been an amendment to such a right as contained in that Act.”

The Law Society’s submission stated that there was no clear evidence of significant cost savings from raising the threshold for the right to trial by jury from offences carrying a maximum penalty of more than three months’ imprisonment, to more than three years.

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1103/S00082/debate-needed-on-criminal-justice-system-goals.htm

Criminal barrister Patrick Winkler appeared before Parliament's justice and electoral committee today to make a submission on the Criminal Procedure (Reform and Modernisation) Bill.

The Bill required a criminal defendant disclose their case to the prosecution before trial, a move that would take away an extremely important right of silence, Mr Winkler said.

Barrister Roderick Mulgan appeared with Mr Winkler and said the Bill failed to identify any significant benefit from the proposed change.

Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias has also criticised the reform. In a written submission she said the "provisions are contrary to long-standing principle, being inconsistent with a defendant's right to have the prosecution prove its case beyond reasonable doubt, not being obliged to assist the prosecution by volunteering information".

Otago Daily Times 20/3/11


Study: NZ best Commonwealth country for girls

New Zealand is the best country in the Commonwealth to be born a girl, research released today has found.  The study used eight indicators including life expectancy at birth, pay equality, expected number of years in school, political participation and the number of teen pregnancies.

New Zealand received an "A" in five out of eight indicators and was the "star performer" in terms of pay equality, with women earning 72 per cent of what men earn.

However, the study was not all-good news for New Zealand. New Zealand's Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner, Judy McGregor, said the research results were "wonderful" news for the country but added there was still room for improvement. "We are leaders in gender equality but we can't sit on our laurels," Dr McGregor said.  “There was still a lot to be done in areas such as women's income compared to men's and the number of women in Parliament.”

New Zealand Herald 14/3/11

Group slams government for slow moving civil human rights advances

Rainbow Wellington says there are a number of areas where civil and human rights advances are stalling, whilst homophobic bullying in schools continues to happen unhindered.

Rainbow Wellington also rounded off 2010 with an open letter to Prime Minister John Key, where the organisation expressed its disappointment at the record of the National-led government regarding civil and human rights in this country.

Among these concerns was the lack of any progress on the issue of the extension of rights of adoption by same sex couples, or any indication that the current government has an interest in pursuing this issue at all, let alone giving it any priority.

Rainbow Wellington chair Tony Simpson says the same applies for same sex marriage, which he says is a necessity for New Zealand. “Only a few scant years ago we could be said to be leading the world in the introduction of civil unions, we are now being surpassed in this regard by many other developed countries who have taken the further step in the direction of same sex marriage.”

http://www.gayexpress.co.nz/index.php/2011/01/group-slams-govt-for-slow-moving-civil-human-rights-advances/

Prisoners give up smoking ahead of ban

Almost 2000 prisoners nationwide have taken steps to quit smoking in the lead up to this year's prison smoking ban, the Corrections Department says. Free nicotine replacement therapy patches (NRT) and lozenges are being provided to prisoners in the lead-up to the smoking ban, which will begin on July 1. "Since the ban was announced, NRT uptake has increased steadily over the last seven months," assistant general manager of Prison Services Brendan Anstiss said. "This is a good sign that prisoners are aware of the ban and are taking a proactive step to give up smoking." Corrections is also working with The Quit Group and the Ministry of Health. Other support initiatives include distribution of fact sheets, posters and pamphlets about the ban.

Source: http://newszealand.blogspot.com/2011/03/prisoners-give-up-smoking-ahead-of-ban.html

Drivers Killed In Police Pursuits

Police Minister Judith Collins is taking a firm stand on police pursuits, saying those who flee are usually dangerous and have something to hide.

More fleeing drivers were killed in police pursuits last year than the previous four years combined.  Collins said police policies were "absolutely in accordance with international best practice" and every time someone was killed the Independent Police Conduct Authority held an inquiry.

Ms Collins' office provided NZPA further statistics showing that in 2010 there were 2211 fleeing driver incidents with 354 crashes (16 percent), in 2009 it was 2349 with 388 crashes (16.5 percent), 2155 with 505 crashes in 2008 (23.4 percent), 2435 and 584 crashes in 2007 (24 percent) and 2234 and 546 crashes in 2006 (24.4 percent).

Ms Collins office said analysis of the licence status of fleeing drivers showed 50.6 percent were disqualified, suspended, unlicensed or otherwise prohibited from driving. Research showed they were a high crash risk regardless of whether they try to flee from Police.

Around 30 percent of cars involved in fleeing driver incidents had been stolen.

Otago Daily Times 20/3/11

Overnight protest in Timaru over cannabis charges

Pro-cannabis activists staged a protest outside Timaru Courthouse to support a cancer sufferer facing jail time for cannabis charges.

Peter John Frances Davy, 51, is threatening to go on a hunger strike if he is jailed for possession of cannabis, cultivating cannabis, and importing cannabis seed.

Dakta Green, who founded The Daktory, which promotes the medical use of cannabis, said NORML (National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Law) supporters left Auckland last Friday and arrived in Timaru to stage a peaceful protest on Tuesday night, The Timaru Herald reported.

Davy admitted the charges in February and was due to be sentenced yesterday in Timaru District Court but the case was adjourned to April 20 so that new counsel could receive disclosure.

Otago Daily Times 17/3/11

Offender levy costs more than raised

A levy on convicted offenders is budgeted to cost taxpayers almost half a million dollars more than it would raise in its first year.

The $50 levy on every offender, which came into effect last July, was expected to raise $2 million in its first year - less than the $2.4m it would cost to set up and administer.

A total of $1.3m was spent on setting up the scheme while $1.1m would be spent on collecting payments in the first year.

Otago Daily Times 16/3/11

New regulations bill introduced to Parliament

A Bill that aims to provide greater transparency and accountability for the quality of laws and regulations has been introduced to Parliament.

Regulatory Reform Minister Rodney Hide said today his Regulatory Standards Bill would require all proposed new laws and regulations to be assessed against a set of accepted principles.

"The bill forces ministers and MPs to be more honest and clear about how their laws and rules will affect New Zealanders," Mr Hide said.
"It will make law-making transparent and our lawmakers accountable."

However, the Bill could significantly change the relationship between Parliament and the courts. It would give unelected judges the sorts of powers that courts are not well equipped to exercise, and that should instead belong to democratically elected MPs," says Alex Penk, Policy and Research Manager at Maxim Institute. The Bill would allow courts to issue declarations that a particular law does not meet the Bill's principles of good law-making if they think the inconsistency can't be justified. But this means asking courts to get involved in political value judgements. The courts would also be empowered to reinterpret provisions in other laws to make them more consistent with the Bill's principles. A re-interpreted provision could end up looking quite different to what Parliament originally intended."

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1103/S00151/regulatory-standards-bill-a-wolf-in-sheeps-clothing.htm

 

 

Government to look at forced marriage laws

Efforts to get a legal crackdown on forced marriages appear to have made an impact on Parliament. The Government is responding favourably to a petition opposing the forced marriage of underage women. The petitioners are calling for new laws to allow intervention and prevention of what they see as a major human rights abuse. Forced marriage is illegal and the Government considers further legislation would be unlikely to have a significant impact on it. However it says it takes the petitioners' concerns very seriously and will review existing law to see if it can be strengthened to introduce extra protections for those at risk.

http://newszealand.blogspot.com/2011/03/

 

Lawyers question legal-aid change

Lawyers are expressing concern about changes to the system of allocating legal-aid lawyers, which they say are causing disruptions and delays for clients, lawyers and courts. Since November 29, legal-aid lawyers have been allocated on a roster basis to clients facing lower level charges. Neither clients nor lawyers have any choice of assignment and there is a waiting period while lawyers are assigned.

Previously, people could choose their own lawyer and potentially get their case under way immediately.

Lawyers have said the new system was resulting in legal-aid clients appearing in court unrepresented, being assigned multiple lawyers, being remanded in custody unnecessarily and not getting the best representation because the lawyer they were assigned might not know their history.

The New Zealand Law Society says it agrees with some of those concerns and had raised several issues with the LSA.

It was particularly concerned that some legal-aid clients who should get bail straight away had, since the new system started, been remanded in custody three or four times before a lawyer was assigned, identified and then became available.

Otago Daily Times 21/3/11

 

New Zealand government warns about storing data in the cloud.

New Zealand has joined the ranks of an increasing number of governments that have issued warnings for businesses thinking about cloud computing.

The NZ Inland Revenue Department, which is responsible for taxation, issued an alert earlier this week reminding businesses that by law, the agency must keep tax records in the country. With cloud computing, however, the data might be stored just about anywhere on the planet.  There's no issue with keeping backups of records overseas, the alert continued; yet the law says primary copies of accounts need to be kept in New Zealand, seemingly so they are instantly accessible to tax inspectors.

http://www.computerworlduk.com/in-depth/public-sector/3253750/government-warnings-could-kill-the-cloud/?intcmp=rel_articles;pblc-sctr;link_5

 

Court battle over Pacific language books in New Zealand

In New Zealand, a group of Pacific Islands’ parents are taking the Ministry of Education to court over its decision to suspend the production of Pacific language books indefinitely.  They say that losing Pacific language educational material breaches human rights of their children.

The Ministry of Education says it has paused production while it researches the best way to meet Pacific students' needs.

Shirley Maihi, the principal of Finlayson Park Primary School in Auckland, where many of the students are of Pacific Island origin, stated, “many of our students are now being born in New Zealand, so they don't have the elders of their home country to tutor them in their own language. A lot of our parents have been born in New Zealand, so it won't be very long, in a couple of generations that their language will be lost, unless in schools like ours we support them to continue their learning in their own language. So without that, yes they will lose their own identity, their cultural background and so on.

We want to be noticed, the outcome we want probably most of all would be that it is the right of these children to be educated in their own language, as well as in English. This is a bilingual situation, but we want all rights of all of these ethnicities to be recognised.”

http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/pacbeat/stories/201103/s3172197.htm

Alarm at high school security cameras

The trend of installing security cameras in Waikato schools has civil libertarians worried, despite claims that the cameras are in the war against vandals and thieves.

Most cameras in Waikato schools have been installed during the past three or four years and the principals using them are enthusiastic about the benefits.

Cambridge High School principal Phil McCreery said the 26 cameras around the school, which were installed in 2009, had cut theft by more than 50 per cent and recently helped police identify and arrest a weekend trespasser.

But that security came at a significant cost.

Kitting out the new technology block cost about $10,000 and upgrading a couple of other areas will cost the school $15,000 to $20,000, which will come from the annual operations grant.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/waikato-times/news/4809342/Alarm-at-high-school-security-cameras

 

Mobile phone snooping software now available for parents

New software is now available for New Zealand parents so they can monitor their children's mobile phone use and location.

The developers of Myfone say it is aimed at helping parents protect their children from sexual predators and bullies.

The software requires the permission of the mobile phone user once it is downloaded.

http://www.3news.co.nz/Mobile-phone-snooping-software-now-available-for-parents/tabid/412/articleID/204016/Default.aspx

 

Kapiti police to take hard line on behaviour on nudist beach

Police plan to start targeting nudists at a Kapiti Coast beach after repeated complaints from residents.

Sergeant Noel Bigwood, of Otaki, met about 16 residents of Te Hapua Rd, Te Horo, last week after hearing complaints about blatantly offensive sexual behaviour. He urged them to report such behaviour and write down descriptions and car registration numbers.

"One or two people need to be made an example of so the sunlovers can get on with their discreet sunloving, the gay community can get on with being a discreet gay community and other beach users can use the beach without anything being shoved in their face," he said.

"If we make an example of one or two, the rest will fall off the line and people will be able to go about their lawful business undisturbed," Mr Bigwood said.

Dominion post 29/3/11

 

Crackdown on legal highs

Legal products that mimic cannabis won't be able to be sold to children in future, but adults will still be able to buy them.

The Government is to limit sales of synthetic cannabinoid substances (synthetic substances producing similar effects to cannabis) to those under 18 under the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Act 2005 , Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne said.

Matt Bowden, co-founder of Stargate International, a company promoting thedevelopment of safer, legal alternatives to addictive and dangerous drugs, was delighted by the announcement. “Minister Dunne has made the right call by moving to prevent the sale of cannabinomimetics to those under 18. I am also pleased to see that the advertisement, packaging and sale of cannabinomimetics will be regulated to protect the public…This is a move away from prohibition, and towards an evidence-based drug policy.”

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1103/S00305/dunne-makes-right-decision-on-synthetic-cannabis.htm

 

Changes to the Holidays Act 2003 and the Employment Relations Act 2000 come into effect on April1

New laws that allow employers to sack any worker in their first 90 days in a job, without any reason and without the right of appeal, and limit union access to worksites come into force on April 1st. The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) and Service and Food Workers Union: Ngā Ringa Tota (SFWU) urge employers to follow the example of aged care providers Oceania, BUPA and Metlifecare who will not use the new provisions.

NZNO Industrial adviser, Rob Haultain says an important reason these three employers have agreed to maintain existing rights is because they are run by practical people who understand and accept the role unions play in the employment relationship.

The Out@Work Council says that the new workplace laws will make it easier for employers to discriminate against workers based on their gender identity or sexuality. The extension of the 90-day fire at will legislation means that an employer can sack any worker in the first 90 days of their employment without having to give a reason. Sacked workers will have no right of appeal.

Also, from April 1, employers will be able to request staff provide a medical certificate after only one day off work. Previously a worker had to have had three days off work before employees could be requested to prove they were sick.

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1103/S00317/work-is-less-fair-from-tomorrow.htm

 

Union denied access

Before the employment law changes come into effect on April 1st, PSA union officials were already being denied access to union members working at the Affco Imlay meat plant in Wanganui.

Under a collective agreement between the public sector union and the meat inspectors’ employer AsureQuality, the PSA must give reasonable notice of any meetings with its members. Despite doing so, PSA union organiser Mike Farrell was denied access when he gave timely notice of his intention to meet with meat inspector union members working at the Affco Imlay plant.

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1103/S00227/a-taste-of-things-to-come-union-denied-access.htm

Liberty Watch - March 2012

Round up of civil liberty news for March 2012.

AGE DISCRIMINATION

39-year-old banned from bar for being 'too old'

A 39-year-old company director said he is shocked and insulted after being turned away from a bar for being "too old".  When the age issue has arisen in the past, including at a hen party in Hamilton two years ago and a Wellington student bar in 2008, the Human Rights Commission said bars could not exclude people on the basis of age, gender, sexual orientation, political or religious beliefs.

Bay of Plenty Times 19/3/12

 

CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE

Court fight looms over rights of disabled children

Human Rights Commission lawyers have agreed to take up a complaint alleging that state schools are discriminating against thousands of disabled pupils.

IHC claims the state education system is failing pupils with special needs and illegally denying them the right to an education at their local schools.  Discrimination included conditions limiting the hours disabled children could attend class, or pupils being sent home when teacher aides were sick: access to extracurricular activities such as school plays or camps denied because of disabilities; parents asked to contribute financially to keep their disabled children in mainstream classrooms; and suspension for disability-related behaviour, not misconduct.

Stuff.co.nz 12/3/12

 

CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS

Constitutional Concerns On Family Court Judge Not Resigning

“The failure of Principal Family Court Judge Peter Boshier to stand down at the end of his eight-year term has raised constitutional issues according to Bruce Tichbon, spokesperson for Families Apart Require Equality (FARE).

“The Family Courts Act states that Principle Family Court Judges can only serve for eight years without reappointment. Judge Boshier was appointed on 12 March 2004. Claims that he is exempt because he was appointed before the Act came into force simply do not wash...At very least, the public are entitled to an explanation of this constitutional state of affairs, and some indication of when Judge Boshiers term will actually expire now that the law restricting him to an eight-year term is to be ignored”, said Tichbon

scoop.co.nz 12/3/12

 

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Prison health care flaws exposed

Flaws in prison health systems are revealed in a report entitled Investigation of the Department of Corrections in relation to the Provision, Access and Availability of Prisoner Health Services.  Areas of concern highlighted by Chief Ombudsman Beverley Wakem and David McGee include unused medication wasting taxpayer money; a lack of resources to provide adequate dental services; poor management of mentally unwell prisoners; prisoners being denied prescribed medication; and paracetamol being "dished out like lollies".

The ombudsman's investigation found there was only one medical officer at a prison with 666 inmates who was contracted to work four hours a week.  Another officer worked three hours at a different prison with 112 inmates, while a third officer worked 20 hours a week at another prison with 280 inmates.

New Zealand Herald 4/3/12

 

Law to limit inmate water consumption 'ludicrous'

The Corrections Amendment Bill aims to reform prison management systems, and includes a provision to stop prisoners from deliberately watering down urine samples for drug tests.  Under the proposed change, it would be an offence for a prisoner to consume "any substance with intent to dilute or contaminate the sample''.

Mr Brooking, who is the clinical manager for Alcohol and Drug Assessment and Counselling, said, "Prisoners are now facing a kind of double jeopardy whereby they can be charged if they don't produce a sample, and if they drink water to help them produce a sample, which is not an unreasonable thing to do, they can get charged for that as well''.

Otago Daily Times 26/3/12

 

NZ Prison system derided by international study

According to an international report undertaken by the British Audit Office New Zealand has the second highest imprisonment rate among comparable countries.   Jarrod Gilbert, Howard League advocate, said that international comparisons showed that New Zealand’s prison population was growing at the fastest rate – 17 percent over four years.  He further highlighted that Māori imprisonment rates are enormous – 700 per 100,000 of the population compared with199 overall.

Scoop.co.nz  25/3/12

 

Lawyers fight cuts to legal aid

Criminal lawyers are suing to have the Government's new legal aid payment scheme declared unlawful.  

The Criminal Bar Association (CBA) have sought interim relief and a judicial review of the decision to establish fixed fees for criminal legal aid.  Lawyers will now be paid a set fee based on the seriousness of their client's charges, not how much work they actually do on it. They were previously paid an hourly rate.

The change was made to satisfy a Government directive of making a 10 per cent cut to the legal aid scheme, the CBA says.

Stuff.co.nz 6/3/12

 

Complaint case exposes judicial watchdog's woes

The Office of the Judicial Conduct Commissioner which investigates claims of improper behaviour by judges is floundering under a rising tide of complaints.  Commissioner Sir David Gascoigne said, "The present level of resources - especially people, but also premises and equipment - is increasingly inadequate for the task in hand. This is a serious issue, detrimentally affecting the effectiveness of the office."

High Court's Justice Tim Brewer said it was clear the legislation that established the commission was not working as intended, as "The purpose of the act is, in part, to enhance public confidence in the judicial system”, Justice Brewer said.

New Zealand Herald 13/3/12

 

EMPLOYMENT

Worker drug tests increase

Figures released by the New Zealand Drug Detection Agency (NZDDA) showed 52,124 tests were carried out last year – a 77 per cent increase from 2010.  New Zealand Drug Detection Agency (NZDDA) Gisborne general manager Steven Trafford said, “Last year we drug-tested new industries such as seasonal staff, which has never really happened before. The whole process is ‘becoming the norm’”.

Gisborne Herald 17/3/12

 

GENDER ISSUES

Rule change to boost female boardroom presence beyond 9.3%

Despite making up half of the population, as of last year women occupied just 9.3% of the board seats on the NZX's 100 biggest companies.

Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, Port of Tauranga, Cavalier Corporation, New Zealand Oil and Gas, Infratil and GPG are some of the listed firms that have never had so much as a single female director.

The NZX aim to launch requirements this year to force companies to disclose exactly how diverse boards and management teams are.  NZX chief executive Mark Weldon said a consultation document that included its proposed rules on diversity disclosure would be sent to listed firms on March 29.

Some European countries have taken aggressive steps to tackle the issue, for example, in 2003, Norway introduced a 40% quota for women on corporate boards.  Listed companies not complying were threatened with exclusion from the stock exchange.  France and Spain introduced similar laws and the European Union has been moving towards an EU-wide quota.

Shareholders' Association Spokesperson Des Hunt said, “there is a lot of information that suggests if you can get more women on boards, with the right skill level, then companies perform better".

Otago Daily Times 13/3/12

 

NEW LEGISLATION

Search and Surveillance Bill passes

Parliament has passed the Government's controversial Search and Surveillance Bill by 61 votes to 57.

Justice Minister Judith Collins said the new law brought "order, certainty, clarity and consistency" to "messy, unclear and outdated" laws, adding that there were a number of safeguards in the legislation to balance law enforcement and investigation powers with human rights values.

Critics of the Bill have claimed that it fundamentally alters the balance of powers between the State and individuals in this country at the cost of some core concepts of justice.  Some of its clauses include the removal of both the right to silence, and the right not to incriminate oneself (right not to participate in one's own prosecution).  The Bill also allows warrant-less surveillance, it equates 24-hour surveillance with a one-off search, it allows computers to be remote-accessed and gives police, Customs and Internal Affairs the right to break into homes to bug and film people.  It also allows judges to decide whether journalists can protect their sources or not.

Thomas Beagle from the New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties told TV ONE's Breakfast the changes represent a dangerous invasion of privacy.  The full interview can be seen here:http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/fears-new-surveillance-law-too-powerful-4793546/videostuff.co.nz

 

OPERATION 8

Tuhoe want inquiry on police tactics

A Tuhoe leader Tamati Kruger says a commission of inquiry is needed on police tactics during Operation 8.  The tribe gathered affidavits from Ruatoki residents immediately after the 2007 raids when armed, balaclava-wearing police sealed off the settlement at checkpoints.  Those affidavits describe experiences where police detained people for hours without food or water, without formally arresting them; subjected women to intimate body searches; herded people into sheds while property searches were under way; and photographed residents at the roadblock at the valley entrance.

Police Minister Anne Tolley rejected the call stating, "While it isn't appropriate for me to talk about something that is before the courts, I can say I don't believe there should be an inquiry".

New Zealand Herald 22/3/12

 

PARLIAMENT

Deaf MP granted funding

Deaf MP Mojo Mathers has been granted funding for support in the House to be paid by Parliamentary Services.  She said the decision was a "very positive result" for the disability community and for herself as an MP.  She added that, “This decision provides genuine equity for treatment for people with disability who get elected in to Parliament."

The move to introduce captioning on Parliament TV was particularly welcome, she said. It would greatly increase access to the political debate and Parliament to the 700,000 New Zealanders with a hearing impairment.

Dominion Post 9/3/12

POLICING

Lights-off entrapment police probe

Nelson Bays area commander Inspector Steve Greally has admitted some of his officers have violated traffic laws and operating procedures while on patrol in Takaka.  He has opened an investigation into charges that police were entrapping motorists by driving without headlights.

The Press 9/3/12

Double-shot Tasers safer than alternatives claim police

Plans have been confirmed about the phasing in of an updated taser model that fires two high-powered charges.  The existing Taser X26s will be replaced with Taser X2, that can fire a back-up shot removing the need to reload after the first shot.

Campaign Against the Taser representative Marie Dyhrberg said there needed to be more publication and debate before introducing the new technology, adding that "If police were working at improving de-escalation skills then that would bring more confidence that the instances of any abuse would be greatly minimised.''

New Zealand Herald 28/3/12

 

PRIVACY

Privacy breach on 9000 ACC claims

Private details of more than 9000 ACC claims – some featuring well-known people – have been emailed to a person who should not have received them, in what has been described as one of the worst privacy breaches in New Zealand history.

The details included personal information on nearly 250 clients from ACC's most secure unit – the sensitive claims unit. The sensitive claims unit is a special unit containing ACC's most sensitive claimants, including sexual abuse and rape victims.  Full names, the nature of each claim and dispute, and individual claim numbers were among the information revealed.

Senior management at ACC were told three months ago but made no effort to investigate or contain the breach with the recipient.

Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff said New Zealand laws are behind other jurisdictions in not providing for mandatory reporting of data privacy breaches and her office is developing a view on the need for there to be consequences for data breaches.

Waikato Times 13/3/12

 

RACE

Racial prejudice, inequality 'still entrenched in NZ'

New Zealand has made "solid progress" in improving race relations in the past five years but still suffers from continuing racial prejudice and inequality, the race relations commissioner says.

The Human Rights Commission's annual review of race relations notes several achievements, including the introduction of a new school curriculum emphasising the importance of the Treaty of Waitangi, and a wider appreciation for the increasing religious diversity in New Zealand, but it also highlights problems such as the continuing discrimination and harassment experienced by Asian New Zealanders and the continuing disadvantage experienced by Maori and Pacific people.

Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres said barriers continuing to undermine positive race relations included racial prejudice, and entrenched views and negative attitudes towards migrants, refugees, the Treaty and indigenous rights.

Dominion Post 8/3/12

 

SURVEILLANCE

Auckland Council's Occupy bill lists spy firm payout

Documents obtained under the Official Information Act show some of the council's $126,673 security costs at Aotea Square and other sites included a payment to private investigators and security firm Thompson & Clark. The company was one of three security firms the council hired to manage and evict the protest.

In 2007, investigative journalist Nicky Hager found that the Auckland company had paid a student to infiltrate environmental group Save Happy Valley for state-owned enterprise Solid Energy. Last year it was caught out attaching a tracking device to an animal rights campaigner's car.

New Zealand Herald 1/3/12

 

Liberty Watch - March 2013

Round-up of civil liberty news for March 2013.

Criminal Justice

Breath testing amendment bill breaches Bill of Rights

The Law society has spoken against that the Land Transport (Admissibility of Evidential Breath Tests) Amendment Bill which proposes to amend section 77 of the Land Transport Act so that when a person fails an evidential breath test, but elects to take a blood test, the result of the breath test will be admissible against them in a prosecution if a blood specimen cannot be taken “for any reason”.

Jonathan Krebs, convenor of the Law Society’s Criminal Law Committee, says the bill is unnecessary, breaches the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, and should not proceed.  He told Parliament’s Transport and Industrial Relations Committee that an evidential breath test cannot always be relied on as people and machines are not infallible.

In some circumstances a breath test result may not be an accurate indication of a person’s blood alcohol level, and only a blood test will provide an accurate result. Relying solely on breath test results is inconsistent with the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, under the Bill of Rights Act, said Mr. Krebs, adding “If the bill becomes law there will be no safeguard for those motorists from whom a blood test cannot be taken, not through their own fault, but for unrelated reasons.  These motorists will have no ability to challenge the result or accuracy of the evidential breath test.  The law change proposed could only be reasonable if the presumption that the results of breath tests are accurate was a rebuttal presumption, rather than a conclusive one.”

Sections in the Land Transport Act 1998 already make a breath test admissible, where a blood sample is unable to be taken because a motorist has obstructed the process.

Scoop.co.nz 14/3/12

 

Government to reconsider roadside drug testing

In a significant u-turn, the Government is now pursuing plans to introduce random roadside drug-testing.

The Government released its Safer Journeys Action Plan 2013-15, which said it would carry out research on drug testing techniques.

"Our aim is to move New Zealand towards a robust, cost-effective approach to random roadside drug screening and testing as soon as practicable and justified," the report said.

At present, police test drivers' blood for drugs only if they believe they are under the influence, following an impairment test.

New Zealand Herald 28/3/13

 

Sensible Sentencing Trust online database claimed to be hugely successful

Ross Crosby, the creator of the online Sentencing Tracker that is operated by the Sensible Sentencing Trust, says that while the list of offenders in New Zealand in the database is not complete the list of offenders has grown considerably over the years.

Mr. Crosby is a long-time advocate for the New Zealand government to make online registries for violent and sex offenders to be made (freely) publicly available.  "For me none of this is about naming and shaming offenders but is to promote public safety and an open and honest criminal justice system. I’ve always believed the public should know what goes on in our courts and who offenders are and the types of sentences they get particularly serious violent offenders as well as paedophiles and sex offenders," Mr. Crosby said.

The information on the online Sentencing Tracker is mainly sourced from media articles and sentencing judgments/notes.

Scoop.co.nz 11/3/13

 

Disabled Rights

Disabled man refused access to public transport

A disabled Papamoa man twice denied access on local buses is taking his case to the Human Rights Commission.

The man who relies on a four-wheel drive wheelchair to get around tried to board a bus but was told they were not allowed.  All Tauranga urban buses are wheelchair accessible with low floors and ramps.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council's transport policy manager Garry Maloney said the incident was "disappointing and concerning" and awareness of the council's wheelchair-friendly policy was something it would look into with the bus operator.

The Human Rights Commission said the company could be breaching the Human Rights Act but without a complaint she could not comment further.

Bay of Plenty Times 8/3/13

 

Employment

Workplace drug tests on rise

Nationally last year the NZ Drug Detection Agency conducted 68,551 on-site drug-screening tests, up 31 per cent from 52,124 tests in 2011, and 29,513 in 2010.

Of the 68, 561 drug tests carried out, 6.4 per cent tested "non-negative" indicating the presence of drugs.

Bay of Plenty Times 11/3/13

 

Maternity leave breaches alleged

Many pregnant women and mothers returning to work from maternity leave are seemingly facing illegal discrimination and losing their jobs.  In the past two years the Human Rights Commission (HRC) has received 102 complaints on pregnancy and employment, with 37 about redundancy, parental leave, and being declined a job because of pregnancy.  A further 36 of the complaints related to changed working conditions both before and after parental leave.

The commission published the Employers' Guidelines for the Prevention of Pregnancy Discrimination in 2002 because of the increasing number of complaints and inquiries from women and employers.

In the foreword, then Chief Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan said the HRC had been receiving complaints for almost 15 years from workers claiming they had been unfairly treated because of their pregnancies.

The law states that an employee returning from leave is entitled to the same role she had before; an employer must ensure returning workers are not given less substantial conditions; and employees cannot be dismissed because they take parental leave, unless there is good reason.

Otago Daily Times 16/3/03

 

Government

University report highlights ‘democracy deficit’ in New Zealand

A report into constraints on democratic public debate authored by Victoria University academics Dr Sandra Grey and Dr Charles Sedgwick which is based on a 2009 survey which was responded to by 153 non-government organisations highlights shortcomings of both National and Labour governments.

One in three respondents indicated that public debate had been stifled under both Labour-led and National-led governments over the decade 1999-2009. Indicators given by respondents included:

• Governments that ignore referenda, 


• Negative behavior of elected representatives and public servants alike that has a silencing effect on the voice of civil society (from a punitive and blaming political culture through to interventions to block information that isn’t aligned to the government of the day), 


• A contractual environment that creates a climate of fear, as well as active gagging, around biting that hand that provides funding.

Overall the report reveals a gradual, negative erosion of the independence of the community and voluntary sector to the point where the sector, due to a variety of reasons, is struggling to critique the nation’s political leaders and their policies.

Scoop.co.nz 27/3/13

 

Police

Police use drones to catch criminals

Detectives have used an aerial drone in a criminal investigation leading to charges being laid and a person before the courts.

The case was one of two uses of drones by police last year which has led to the purchase of a helicopter-style drone to see how it would best fit with police work.   It has also been revealed that the air force's secret surveillance and electronic warfare plane is also used by police for tracking and monitoring offenders.

Writer and former press secretary David Beatson discovered the practice through an Official Information Act request that showed the officers had already used drones on two occasions.

Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff said drones were becoming cheaper and easier to buy and have the potential to be seriously intrusive for people.  She stressed that organisations using drones needed “to think through the privacy implications and then consult with us about their proposals. It's possible to use drones lawfully, but only if you have good privacy policies and safeguards or other authority such as a warrant."  She added there were legal constraints on what drones could be used for.

 

New Zealand Herald 2/3/13

No independent inquiry into 'foolish' police officers

There will be no independent inquiry into the actions of three police officers who wore matching identification badges while at an operation to remove Occupy protesters in Auckland last year.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) has confirmed it will not investigate the officers as their actions did not meet the most serious, or Category One, complaint. An IPCA spokeswoman said the authority usually investigated only incidents involving death and serious bodily harm and serious misconduct.

An internal police investigation was conducted into whether they had breached the policy that required each officer wear their own identification number.

Police said the officers' actions were foolish but they have been dealt with appropriately.  Two of the officers were found to be guilty of misconduct and a performance issue was identified with the third, a national police headquarters spokeswoman said. 

Of the three officers, two were still working on the force and the third has since left police for reasons unrelated to the matter. The spokesperson said details of sanctions applied against the officers were an employment matter and remained confidential between police and the employees.

Police Commissioner Peter Marshall said he was satisfied the staff were dealt with appropriately under the police code of conduct and appropriate sanctions were applied.

One of the organisers of the Occupy protest, John Minto, said it was "appalling" the authority was not investigating the officers' actions, stating, "The IPCA should be there to rigorously investigate and thereby provide assurances to the public that the police are being held to account when there are egregious practices like this."

He said the officers had committed serious misconduct.

"If the police deliberately collude together to avoid the consequences of their actions, and clearly their actions are either a breach of police regulations or a breach of the law, then that's extremely serious."

New Zealand Herald 10/3/13

 

Community rally against extended police powers

Allegations of unnecessary, and excessive force used by police empowered by recently introduced legislation were heatedly discussed at a Paparoa public meeting following claims that a 64-year-old local woman had excessive force used against her during a drug recovery operation.

It is understood a police helicopter spotted a cannabis plant on a rural property and staff on the ground went to the woman's address, where she stated the plant was not on her property, but on a neighbouring plot.  The officers invoked Section 20 of the Search and Surveillance Act 2012 which gives "emergency power" to search the property without a search warrant - although in this case no search was made and no charges were laid.

Many at the meeting raised concerns other innocent people could be caught up in further "botched up" operations.  Meeting organiser and Paparoa resident James Lyon said, "We need to feel protected by police, not threatened by them in our own homes.

Northern Advocate 14/3/13

 

Privacy

Super camera spies on crowds at Eden Park

New technology that was trialed for the first time at Eden Park enabled a single camera to record an entire grandstand and monitor its thousands of faces.  Signs of trouble can be picked out and individual spectators zeroed in on, gathering detailed and full resolution video footage for evidence.

Recent advances in CCTV technology have brought warnings from overseas privacy advocates.  In the United Kingdom, new 16-megapixel HD cameras can pick out a face more than 800m away and match it against wanted people.  Such technology scans faces and "maps" their points out into a series of algorithms. Comparisons can then be made using facial recognition software to verify people's identity.

The UK's first surveillance commissioner, Andrew Rennison, last October warned such technology risked turning Britain into a "Big Brother" society.

New Zealand Herald 2/3/13

 

Race

UN recommendations on racial discrimination welcomed

The New Zealand Federation of Multicultural Councils President, Tayo Agunlejika, has welcomed a UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’s 15 recommendations that cover some of the most important race relations’ issues facing New Zealand.  They range from Treaty issues, racial inequalities and structural discrimination to languages, racism on the internet and asylum seekers.

Mr. Agunlejika said, “We support all the recommendations but are particularly pleased that the Committee has taken up two issues raised by the Federation: discrimination against migrants in employment and the proposed abolition of the designation of Race Relations Commissioner in the Human Rights Commission.

The UN Committee also urged NZ to intensify efforts to reduce structural discrimination in the criminal justice system.  “This is encouraging news,” said Kim Workman, spokesperson for the Robson Hanan Trust and Rethinking Crime and Punishment.   “We recommended to the UN Committee that it ask the New Zealand government to research the extent to which the over-representation of Māori in the criminal justice system is due to racial bias in arrests, prosecutions and sentences and develop a strategy to address the issue.”

In its concluding observations, released on 2 March, the Committee reported that it remained concerned at the disproportionately high rates of incarceration and the over-representation of members of the Maori and Pasifika communities at every stage of the criminal justice system, and urged the government to intensify its efforts to address this.  It also asked the NZ Government to provide comprehensive data in its next periodic report on progress made to address this phenomenon. In doing so, it referred to earlier recommendations in 2005 and 2007 that had gone unheeded.

The full report can be viewed here.

Scoop.co.nz 4/3/13

 

Welfare

Discrimination against beneficiaries

Child Poverty Action Group says the government has perpetuated damaging myths about beneficiaries to support its welfare changes, and has released a report that challenges common myths about beneficiaries, particularly sole parents on the Domestic Purposes Benefit.

A 2013 Human Rights Commission survey found discrimination against beneficiaries was greater than for any other group.

The report can be read here

Scoop.co.nz 28/3/13

Liberty Watch - May 2013

Round-up of civil liberty news from May 2013.

Criminal Justice

Government to look at law on revealing criminal backgrounds

Justice Minister Judith Collins and the Justice Ministry are considering a law change to allow police to flag criminal backgrounds to family members and others.

Ms Collins said she would like to ensure police can provide information to people who might be concerned about the behaviour of someone they're in a close relationship with.

"For example, if you're living with someone, or going out with someone and you start to see some behaviour that made you concerned, you should be able to go to police and get the full details.

"I don't understand the idea that one day a matter is in court and it's public and public information, and it seems like a week later it's suddenly private,” Collins said. 

Otago Daily Times 7/5/13

 

Tracking proposed for high-risk violent criminals

Corrections Minister Anne Tolley wants to keep a 24-hour watch on serious domestic violence offenders - the same way high-risk and sex offenders are tracked.

Twenty-four hour GPS monitoring, announced last June, means Corrections are alerted to intervene if a tracked offender strays into a designated exclusion zone.

It must be imposed by the Parole Board or sentencing judge, and currently applies only to high-risk and child sex offenders.  However, Tolley said she had instructed officials to investigate how this could be extended under current legislation to cover domestic violence offenders.

"We want to do everything that we can to prevent and deter any would-be perpetrators…if this can stop one potential victim from being harmed, then it will be worth it."

Tolley said there were currently 40 offenders in the community under GPS tracking, and the system had already proved valuable.

The Press 16/5/13

 

Courts stick with legal aid despite Court of Appeal ruling

The courts will continue to operate with the current legal aid system for the time being despite the Court of Appeal ruling it unlawful.

The Criminal Bar Association (CBA) launched court proceedings after the Government's cost-saving shake-up of the legal aid system, which resulted in legal aid lawyers getting a 10 per cent pay cut.

Auckland District Law Society vice president Brian Keene QC said the judgement was a victory for defendants and their counsel.  "The right to a proper defence is a right of all New Zealanders. It must deliver access to justice regardless of financial circumstances. We believe that limiting legal aid payments would have limited the way criminal barristers defend their clients, and so result in unsafe convictions," he said.

The changes to legal aid came after a report by Dame Margaret Bazley resulted in a fixed fees programme for criminal legal aid, which standardised the cost of all cases, regardless of how much time they involved.  Previously, lawyers had been paid at an hourly rate, and the shake-up meant legal aid lawyers were being paid an average of about 10 per cent less.

New Zealand Herald 24/5/13

 

Disabled Rights

Human Rights Commission concerned new legislation 'will compromise disability rights'

The Human Rights Commission (HRC) is concerned that new legislation will make it more difficult for disabled people and their families to access their rights. The New Zealand Public Health and Disability Amendment Bill (No 2), passed under urgency, will mean that family carers who are assessed as meeting the eligibility criteria will receive the minimum wage of $13.75 an hour. The measures come in response to last year’s Court of Appeal decision that the Government’s current policy of not paying family carers to provide disability support services to disabled family members constituted unjustifiable discrimination on the basis of family status.

However, under the new Bill, people will no longer be able to bring unlawful discrimination complaints about the legislation or any family care policy to the HRC. The Bill also states that no proceedings may be commenced or continued in any court.  "This sends a chilling message to anyone seeing litigation as a road to solving issues relating to the protection of their economic and social rights,’ said Chief Human Rights Commissioner David Rutherford.

"This legislation clearly prioritises the reduction of ongoing litigation risks over providing a better support system to make sure disabled people and their families have good lives,’ said Disability Rights Commissioner Paul Gibson. "New Zealand is now lagging behind in fulfilling our obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities," he said. "Given the restrictions in the use of litigation that have been rushed through Parliament under urgency, we expect to see substantive movement by the Government to realise the rights of rights of disabled people and their families."

Voxy.co.nz 17/5/13

 

Gangs

Gang insignia Bill passes first reading

The Government is one step closer to banning gang patches in schools, police stations and Work and Income offices, as the Prohibition of Gang Insignia in Government Premises Bill has passed its second reading.

Rotorua MP Todd McClay's bill makes it a criminal offence to wear gang insignia in government-owned premises, including local government.

However, the bill related could include coloured clothing associated with gangs, and the Law and Order committee were told last year that would be too broad and would accidentally capture people who are innocently wearing gang colours.

Law Society human rights and privacy spokesman Robert Hesketh told the select committee that insignia was too widely defined in the legislation and would capture clothing that was not intended to be intimidating.  The society felt the bill should not progress beyond the select committee stage but, if it did, it needed to be amended to tighten the definition.

Mr. Hesketh also noted the bill clashed with the Bill of Rights Act because it was inconsistent with the right to freedom of expression.

"One is reminded of that time-honoured mantra that one may not agree with what another person expresses, but certainly the right to have and convey that expression is guaranteed by our Bill of Rights Act," he said.

Otago Daily Times 15/513

 

Gay Rights

Homosexual rejected for training as a priest heads to tribunal

A homosexual man has taken the Anglican Bishop of Auckland to the Human Rights Tribunal after being rejected for training as a priest.

It is understood the man, who is in a sexual relationship with his partner, has wanted to enter the church's training programme for priests for years, but after applying to enter after years of study, he was rejected by the Bishop Ross Bay, who approves entrants.

Bishop Bay has stated that he was simply following the church's doctrines, and that the man was rejected "by reason of the defendant not being chaste in terms of canons of the Anglican Church.”

His lawyer David Ryken told the Tribunal that that excluding someone from a training programme because of his or her sexuality breached Section 38 of the Human Rights Act.

New Zealand Herald 6/5/13 & 8/5/13

 

B&B owner refuses lesbian couple

A lesbian couple were told to sleep in separate beds or move on to other accommodation by a bed and breakfast owner. 

“I’m totally happy if people want to be homosexual or whatever, but not in my home,” The accommodation owner said.  “We are entitled under current legislation to discriminate on the basis of sex in shared accommodation... It’s my own personal integrity to say I don’t want same-sex sex in my house…the Government can legislate for same-sex marriage but it can’t legislate that I allow them to have their honeymoon in my home,” he added.

Green MP Kevin Hague responded that the law does not allow for cases of discrimination in commercial accommodation.

Pinknews.co.uk 11/5/13

 

Human Rights

Amnesty Report criticises New Zealand

Amnesty International's annual reports into The State of the World's Human Rights has criticised New Zealand.  The latest report, which documents the state of human rights during 2012, hits out at New Zealand for undermining children's rights, because of high levels of child poverty which ''disproportionately affect Maori and Pacific Island peoples''; women's rights, due to ''persistently high and increasing levels of violence against women''; and the rights of asylum-seekers, with the introduction of the Immigration Amendment (Mass Arrivals) Bill into Parliament, which would give authorities new powers of detention among others.

Last year's report made the same findings on child poverty, questioned the rights of workers on foreign-chartered fishing vessels, scrutinised ''indigenous people's rights'' in some areas of the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011, and examined New Zealand’s role in ''counter-terror and security'' given the admission by Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman that ''he could not guarantee that detainees captured during joint operations in Afghanistan had not been tortured''.

Otago Daily Times 31/5/13

 

Immigration

Call for investigation into alleged human rights abuses

Gisborne District Councillor Manu Caddie has called for an investigation into alleged human rights abuses by Immigration New Zealand in Gisborne. Mr. Caddie was concerned about reports that two Tongan men being held at Gisborne Police Station have been denied access to lawyers and interpreters.  He said, "Apparently the men are accused of being in New Zealand unlawfully and their lawyer says immigrants in Gisborne are being ‘actively discouraged’ from accessing legal counsel and interpreters…these are serious accusations of human rights violations in our community by a government agency, we need an urgent and full investigation of the situation before anything happens to the men who should not be languishing in Police cells any longer than is necessary."

Voxy.co.nz 10/5/13

 

Policing

Police unmoved by buzz around anti-crime tool

A senior police inspector has expressed concern over the ethics of an anti-loitering device being used to deter young people from gathering at problem areas north of Auckland.

The Mosquito is a small box that emits an irritating buzzing sound.  Six devices have been installed at strategic trouble points including near Whangaparaoa Primary School and college, Stanmore Bay Beach and skate park and the Hibiscus Coast Association Football Club.

Police say is it hoped the signals will help to reduce tagging, liquor ban breaches, vandalism, minor assaults and drug dealing in the area.

North Shore area police commander, Inspector Les Paterson has stated though that there are no plans to introduce the Mosquito to the North Shore.

"I would have to seek legal advice and evidence to prove it doesn't cause any long term harm to people before I was to endorse it," he says, "But I would not support it being used in a public space when it's sole purpose is to drive away young people.”

New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties spokesman Kevin McCormack said that while the organisation supports any actions that lead to the reduction in crime, the device might be in breach of the Bill of Rights Act.

Sections relating to freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of association and freedom of movement could be affected by the use of the Mosquito, Mr. McCormack says.

North Harbour News 3/5/13

 

Police trialling new scanner

Southern District Police have taken possession of an automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) unit, which can scan up to 3000 plates an hour.

''ANPR is a tool that helps police get dangerous drivers, unsafe vehicles and criminals off the road,'' Southern District acting road policing manager Senior Sergeant Steve Larking said.

The unit, which costs between $40,000 and $50,000, provides police with already available information, but without the need to call a dispatcher to check a number plate.

The system scans number plates and notifies police of ''vehicles of interest'', including those that are unsafe, used by unsafe drivers, or have been involved in crime.

A Police National Headquarters spokesman said the system was vehicle-focused and did not store any form of facial recognition.

The system has been successfully implemented by law and order agencies around the world, and five vehicles in New Zealand have already been fitted with the technology.

In a three months trial in South Auckland, the automatic number-plate recognition technology helped police to seize 15 stolen vehicles, take 180 disqualified drivers off the road and recover other stolen goods from a number of offenders.

But lawyers fear innocent people, such as a driver stopped on a Waikato road last week on an incorrect indication her car was unwarranted after a mechanic had not updated records, may be caught in widespread surveillance that could expand to tracking movements to build profiles of "people of interest".  That is denied by police, who say their use of the technology is governed by a manual containing strict guidelines and that "law-abiding motorists have nothing to fear".

Auckland Council for Civil Liberties president Barry Wilson, also a lawyer, said: "The potential for tracking people's movements, spying on people, is just enormous," and the Privacy Commission have previously warned such technology has to be used "carefully."

New Zealand Herald 15/5/13 & Otago Daily Times 14/5/13

 

Union asks if police "bias" on picket is result of 50% discount at MacDonald’s


Unite Union has charged the police of bias against them during recent pickets outside McDonald's stores and asks if this is because they get at least a 50% discount off all meals there.

Unite National Director Mike Treen said that he has written to the police to complain about their aggressive and biased policing tactics during recent pickets in Auckland, and that, "It seems reasonable to ask if this police behavior is not at least in part the result of the special treatment and favors they receive from the company."

The official police code of conduct states, "No member of police shall solicit for personal gain, or accept a discount on any goods or services where that discount is offered because that person is a member of police," and police have been banned from accepting such discounts overseas.

The accusation drew an angry response from Police Assistant Commissioner Grant Nicholls who said, ‘‘to suggest that the police would trade off their integrity for half a hamburger is nothing short of ludicrous, and that is what this union is suggesting.''  However, Police Commissioner Peter Marshall has sent a stern message to his officers, saying they can't be seen as 'McCops' by accepting discounted meals at fast food outlets, saying police reputation was too important to be compromised by such perks.  Officers accepting discounted food could be subject to code of conduct investigations, he said.

Scoop.co.nz 14/5/13 & Otago Daily Times 16/5/13 & 17/5/13

 

Urewera police raids report calls police actions ''unlawful, unjustified and unreasonable''.

An independent review of the Urewera raids has labelled police actions ''unlawful, unjustified and unreasonable''.

The raids in the Ruatoki Valley and elsewhere on October 15, 2007, resulted in 17 people facing a total of 291 charges under the Arms Act, including the illegal possession of an AK47-style rifle, a double-barrel sawn-off shot gun, a military-style semi-automatic firearm and Molotov cocktails.

Most defendants had their charges dropped when evidence was ruled inadmissible in court but the ''Urewera Four,'' - Tame Iti, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, Urs Signer and Emily Bailey - were convicted last year.

Iti and Kemara were sentenced to two and a half years' jail, while Bailey and Signer were sentenced to nine months' home detention.

While the decision by then-Commissioner Howard Broad to undertake ''Operation Eight'' in 2007 was described by the report as justified and reasonable, some of the subsequent actions were not, the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) has revealed, with an overall conclusion that police actions in stopping and searching vehicles, were not in accordance with the law, and were unjustified and unreasonable.

IPCA chairman Sir David Carruthers said that Police also undertook insufficient planning and preparation for the road blocks, that having armed police on the scene was intimidating and no-one had considered the likely impact on the community of the roadblocks.

''All vehicles leaving Ruatoki were searched by armed offenders squad members, not just those vehicles believed to be transporting an offensive weapon," Carruthers said, ''This impacted on people going to work, taking their children to school and otherwise going about their daily business.”

Photographs of 66 drivers and 15 passengers were taken at the road blocks, in some instances including children. The IPCA found the photography was not part of operation planning and had not been discussed, stating that ''Police had no legal basis or justification for this action, which left some people feeling degraded and intimidated.''

Searches carried out at 11 properties were also deemed unlawful and unjustified, as were the detentions of occupants at five properties who were wrongly led to believe that police could detain them while the search was made.   ''While police have the power to restrict the movement of people to prevent a search being interfered with, they cannot lead people to unreasonably believe they are being detained. In a number of cases here they did so,'' Sir David said.

The IPCA recommended that police institute a number of policy and practice changes relating to their use of road blocks, and has further recommended police ''re-engage with Tuhoe and take appropriate steps to build bridges with the Ruatoki community''.

Police say they have already changed their methods so that armed offenders squad operations will generally include an assessment of the potential of their actions to adversely affect communities.

Police say they have also changed policy about dealing with children and vulnerable people while conducting searches.

Taranaki Daily News 22/5/13

 

PM’s dismissal of compensation shows cavalier disregard for human rights, says Christchurch lawyer

A Christchurch lawyer and academic who won $20,000 compensation in a court case against the Police for an unlawful search of his home has criticized John Key’s dismissal of calls for compensation for those subjected to unlawful Police search and detention in the Urewera raids.

David Small contrasted the Prime Minister’s “cavalier disregard for New Zealanders’ basic human rights” with the approach of the courts which take seriously the rights of New Zealanders guaranteed by the Bill of Rights Act to be free from unreasonable search (section 21) and arbitrary detention (section 22), said David Small. The most common and proper way that courts remedy violations of these rights is by paying compensation.

In determining compensation, it is the courts and not the Prime Minister who are in the best position to take into account all the circumstances of the breach, said Dr Small.

Scoop.co.nz 23/5/13

 

Civil Liberties Council worried about weapons policy

The National Council for Civil Liberties is concerned about the police using the shooting of a man in Wellington as a success story following a new weapons policy.

The man was shot and tasered by two officers during an incident in Porirua.

Police say the officers arrived at a Penguin Grove address at about 5.30am on Thursday to find a distressed woman with a large cut to her arm.

Hearing a commotion in another room, they forcibly entered it to find a man holding a knife over another woman.

Police say their new policy of having guns stored in lockboxes in police cars saved the woman's life.

The Council for Civil Liberties says the acceptance of weapons may encourage the public to arm themselves too.

www.radionz.co.nz 3/5/13

                       

Prisons

Prisons and police cells to face UN scrutiny

A United Nations torture-prevention delegation is visiting New Zealand and inspecting prisons and police cells for an international appraisal, the first time the UN sub-committee has visited New Zealand.

New Zealand is a signatory to the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture. The Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (SPT) comprises 25 independent experts, including High Court Justice Lowell Goddard although she is not part of the delegation.

The protocol, which New Zealand signed in 2007, is designed to ensure the country meets its obligations under international law to prevent torture or ill treatment of people detained by the state.  Sub-committee members visit participating countries to see institutions where people are detained including police stations, immigration centres, prisons and mental health facilities.

Chief Human Rights Commissioner David Rutherford said the visit provided a valuable opportunity to get some independent, expert advice on how well New Zealand protected the rights of those in detention and whether improvements could be made.

Southland Times 7/5/13

 

RACE

Rise In Workplace Racism Is Unacceptable

The chief executive of the Equal Employment Opportunities Trust says figures from the Human Rights Commission over the last five years show that discrimination and harassment on the grounds of race or colour occurs most commonly in the work place and is on the rise.

Bev Cassidy-Mackenzie says in 2010 there were 59 complaints of racial harassment and 44 of them stemmed from employment, and last year, of the 71 complaints, 44 came from the workplace.

“Racism surrounding employment comes in many different forms – some job seekers were not given work due to their ethnicity, others suffered racist comments and abuse at work while others were treated badly because of their accent,” said Ms. Cassidy-Mackenzie, further adding that it is not acceptable to advertise a job specifying that applicants must have English as their first language.

“I hear of racist slurs such as a staff member being told to ‘go back home where you came from’. This is ridiculous as New Zealand has an increasingly diverse population and Auckland, for example, has nearly 200 different ethnicities in its workforce,” she also noted and warned that companies need to make the most of people from different countries and cultures as there’s an ageing population and a looming skills shortage.

Scoop.co.nz 15/5/13

 

Maori tattoo not allowed by Air New Zealand

An applicant for an air hostess position was turned down by Air New Zealand because of her ta moko on her lower arm.

Claire Nathan said she was told tattoos that could not be covered by the uniform were unacceptable and added that she never thought her ta moko - depicting her heritage and her two children - would limit her career choices.

Air New Zealand said that tattoos were seen as "frightening or intimidating" in many cultures, but The Human Rights Commission says "a person of Maori descent may not be denied employment, entry to premises, or declined service because they wear moko visibly".

New Zealand Herald 28/5/13

 

Spying

Surveillance law changes criticised

Under new changes in the Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) will be able to assist the Security Intelligence Service (SIS), Police or Defence Force where they were acting within their own laws.

It will also be able to help public and private organisations but where that required spying on New Zealanders, it would need signoff from the minister responsible - usually the prime minister - and the commissioner of security warrants.

"I think it's important to understand that it would be legal for them to carry out the activities they previously carried out that they believed to be legal," Prime Minister Key said in justifying the changes, however the changes will move New Zealand towards a ''national security state'', two University of Otago professors say.

Prof Kevin Clements and Prof Richard Jackson, of the university's National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, warned that the changes have ''worrying implications for individual privacy, civil liberties and national security,'' and that the Bill “provides expanded powers of surveillance without evidence of real necessity or effectiveness, or corresponding safeguards of individual liberty and privacy.''

They say that the law change would effectively merge the GCSB and the SIS plus the intelligence wings of the military and the police, and that this was moving New Zealand towards what was known as a ''national security state,'' with intrusive surveillance capacity, challenges to freedom of speech, control of citizens and potential civil rights abuses.

''We do not think this critical law should be changed without more extensive public discussion about its potential costs and benefits,” they said.'

Otago Daily Times 8/5/13

 

Activist may take spy agency to court

A political activist is considering legal action against the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) for refusing to reveal if she has been under surveillance.

Valerie Morse, one of the 17 people arrested in the Urewera raids, is requesting details from the Privacy Commissioner about whether she was spied on by the GCSB and what information is held about her.

The GCSB had refused to tell her whether she had been spied on, she said.

"Those people who have been illegally spied on by the GCSB at the very minimum deserve to know whether they have been the subject of surveillance…At the very least these people have been subject to criminal offending by the state, they've had their human rights violated and they deserve to be able to seek some sort of remedy for that," she said.

GCSB director Ian Fletcher said that to confirm who or what the agency might have been investigating or not would potentially identify law enforcement or national security priorities.

Otago Daily Times 15/5/13

 

GCSB cleared of illegal spying

Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Paul Neazor has cleared the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) of illegal spying on New Zealanders.

Mr. Neazor was asked to conduct an inquiry into potential breaches of the GCSB Act after Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Kitteridge's report on the bureau's compliance with legislation raised concerns about 88 instances where the GCSB had spied on New Zealanders.

"The Inspector-General formed a view that there have been no breaches, although the law is unclear and the Inspector-General recommends amending it", GCSB Director, Ian Fletcher said in a statement.

New Zealand Herald 21/5/13

 

GCSB refuses to comment on claims communications were intercepted

A high-tech United States surveillance tool that sweeps up all communications without a warrant was sent to New Zealand for testing on the public, according to an espionage expert.

The tool was called ThinThread and it worked by automatically intercepting phone, email and internet information.  The tool could handle massive amounts of intercepted information that it uses to automatically build a detailed picture of targets, their contacts and their habits for the spy organisation using it.

Those organisations were likely to include the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) after the author Tim Shorrock revealed ThinThread was sent to New Zealand for testing in 2000-2001.

A spokesperson for the GCSB said the bureau would not be making comment on the ThinThread test. He said the intelligence agency "won't confirm or deny" the claim because it was an "operational" matter.

A spokeswoman for Prime Minister John Key also refused to comment saying it was an operational matter.

New Zealand Herald 25/5/13

 

Liberty Watch - Nov/Dec 2011

Round-up of civil liberty news for November and December 2011. There is also our yearly review.

CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE

Unicef launches book to champion Kiwi kids' rights

UNICEF NZ is launching a new children's picture book, 'For Each and Every Child'/ He Taonga Tonu te Tamariki', to celebrate and champion the rights of children in New Zealand. The book's launch coincides with the anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC).

The book will be launched at libraries, schools and early childhood centres across New Zealand. The 'Read & Rights' events will introduce the book to children in their local communities so that children can learn about and discover the relevance of their own set of human rights. The book features Maori text alongside the English, with a foreword written by Chief Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft.

voxy.co.nz 9/11/11

 

Catch-all charge will end family 'code of silence'

Child advocates are hailing new laws giving wide-sweeping power to prosecute all those turning a blind eye to assaults on the very young.

The Crimes Amendment Act (No3) becomes law on March 19 and will allow police to charge everyone in a household with failing to protect a child.

Waikato Times 7/12/11

 

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Interpreter problems highlighted by Supreme Court

An Ethiopian man who appealed against his conviction for a Wellington rape, claiming the quality of interpreting provided during his trial was inadequate, has failed to have the conviction overturned.  However, the Supreme Court recognised that the trial "did not at times reflect best practice''.

In it’s ruling, the Supreme Court said Abdula's appeal raised an issue that was central to fairness in the administration of criminal justice, which concerned the right of accused people who did not speak English to hear and understand the case being presented against them.

Defendants were dependant on effective interpretation of what was said in court if they were to understand proceedings and have a real opportunity to present a full defence to the criminal charges they faced, the judgement reads.

In future cases, the judgment said, interpretation should not become simultaneous with the giving of evidence. This would give accused time to react appropriately and would avoid the risk of the interpreter missing passages of evidence.

The interpreter should also speak in a voice loud enough for all in the courtroom to hear, plus an audio recording should be made of all criminal trials in which interpretation was required.

While the standard of interpreters in court proceedings was high, "it is not one of perfection'', the Supreme Court said.

Otago Daily Times 1/11/11

 

Addicts to be tested in new drug courts

Two new drug courts planned for Auckland will follow the American model and feature random compulsory drug and alcohol tests for offenders enrolled in the programme.  Courts currently relied on offenders self-reporting about their drug and alcohol use.

The Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) Courts would be targeted at the highest-risk offenders and addicts and rely on abstinence that would be regularly checked, and have been funded for a two court pilot that will probably begin in about July next year.

Offenders who are identified as having offended due to their addiction would have to plead guilty early on but would enter the AOD court system before sentencing.  They would have regular appearances before the same judge, undergo rehabilitation, do community work and pay reparation on average for 15 to 18 months.

Stuff.co.nz 3/11/11

 

Prisoner compensation bill breaches rights, says Attorney-General

A bill that would deny prisoners compensation for ill-treatment breaches the Bill of Rights Act, Attorney-General Chris Finlayson has said.  Former justice minister Simon Power introduced the bill in October.

Under current law victims can claim compensation awarded to prisoners and Mr. Power wants to make sure anything left over goes to the victim support fund he set up which pays for counselling and support services.

Mr. Finlayson said "Prisoners are especially vulnerable to misuse of state power...denying them an effective remedy is inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act."  If the bill is passed, it would be likely to "draw negative attention" from the UN Human Rights Committee.

An adverse report from Mr Finlayson doesn't prevent Parliament passing a bill.

Yahoo.nz news 23/12/11

 

High-risk criminals to stay behind bars

Prime Minister, John Key, has proposed keeping criminals at high risk of re-offending behind bars even after they've finished their sentences.  Offenders would remain at a secure facility under a new "civil detention order" until the Parole Board was convinced they were safe for release.

Law and order spokeswoman Judith Collins said applications would be made to the High Court for offenders to be held in custody after finishing their jail sentence.

The new proposals were expected to apply to between five and 12 offenders over a 10-year period.

New Zealand Herald 7/11/11

 

EMPLOYMENT

No 90-day trial once job has started

The Employment Court has found an employer can't introduce a 90-day trial period into an employment contract after an employment contract has already begun.  The court also found that if a 90-day trial period is to be included in an employment contract, it must be bargained for fairly.

In his decision, Judge Graeme Colgan said the 90-day trial period must be in writing in the employment agreement and the employee must be given time to seek independent advice on the employment contract before agreeing to it.

Waikato Times 6/12/11

 

FREEDOM OF SPEECH & PROTEST

Ejecting Octagon protesters 'not straightforward': police

Dunedin police have said removing the Occupy Dunedin protesters from the Octagon "is not a straightforward matter' and any action must be both reasonable and lawful.  In a statement released this afternoon, Dunedin/Clutha Area Commander, Inspector Greg Sparrow, said the power to trespass people protesting in a public space "must be exercised reasonably and balance rights and freedoms…This is a public space and legally, it is not simply a straightforward matter of police visiting the site and removing people from it".  The police claimed that they had no reason to believe that the activities of the protestors could justify intervention.

Otago Daily Times 2/11/11

 

John Minto's anti-Israeli tennis protest 'not disorderly

Veteran protester John Minto won a High Court victory with a judge ruling that his megaphone protest against an Israeli tennis player was not disorderly behaviour.  "It goes without saying that a verbalised protest may offend or disturb a member of the public who either disagrees with what is said or takes umbrage at the disruption of his or her own legitimate activities," the judgment says. "But disruption to an individual's enjoyment of a sporting event is not the same thing as disruption of public order."

Stuff.co.nz 12/11/11

 

Banned book seized from Wellington shop

Government officials seized an “indecent” book, Bloody Mama by Robert Thom, which was banned in 1971, from a Wellington bookstore. The book was deemed indecent and banned by the now defunct Indecent Publications Tribunal 40 years ago, however the ruling still stands.

A person can be fined up to $50,000 or sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison if they possess a banned book under the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993.

An organisation can be fined up to $200,000 for distributing a banned book and an individual can be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in prison.

There are 1319 books banned in New Zealand and a further 728 restricted in some way.

Decisions on more than two-thirds of the restricted or banned books were made before 1987.

Dominion Post 23/11/11

 

GANGS

Ban on patches to home in on specific areas

A new version of Whanganui's gang patch ban will have insignia outlawed at parks, sports grounds and shopping centres, rather than the entire city.

Mayor Annette Main said it would home in on specific points in the city where large groups of people gathered or there was a history of "incidents" taking place.  "It's mostly our parks, sports grounds and shopping centres, both urban and central. It's quite similar to our liquor ban areas.

Waikato Times 28/11/11

 

HUMAN RIGHTS

Disabled man's caregiver to face human rights hearing

A caregiver who left a severely disabled man alone in a hot van until he wet himself has been ordered to face a Human Rights Tribunal hearing.

The tribunal has the power to award compensation or order exemplary damages payments.

New Zealand Herald 12/12/11

 

IMMIGRATION

'Slave' wife may be forced to leave NZ

Nazima Khatun left her South Taranaki home earlier this year to escape what she says was a decade of being treating like a domestic slave.  However, when she finally plucked the courage to leave her husband, who had been convicted and discharged for common assault against her, she effectively became an illegal immigrant, as she and her three children are tied to her estranged husband's work visa.

Hawera Rape Crisis manager Pam Bassett said that women who leave their partners were potentially deporting themselves while the men, in most cases, continued to live and work in the country.

Immigration New Zealand Visa Services general manager Nicola Hogg acknowledged the "difficult" situation and said support could be provided under a "victims of domestic violence" category.  Under that category, applicants who met set requirements could be granted a work visa and later apply for residence in New Zealand.  However, Ms Khatun does not qualify for this because her husband was not a New Zealand citizen or resident.

Stuff.co.nz 17/12/11

 

MEDIA

“Tea pot” tape police action condemned

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has condemned actions by the New Zealand police against news organisations over the “tea pot” tapes, whereby a journalist inadvertently recorded the prime ministers conversation while having tea in a publicity stunt with ACT member John Banks. 

Jacqueline Park, Asia-Pacific director of the IFJ, said police demands on media outlets were  "alarming'', warning it could be interpreted as an attempt to suppress media freedom.

New Zealand Herald 18/11/11

 

Tea tapes costs part of 'dangerous' attack on media

The Attorney General is seeking almost $14,000 in costs from Bradley Ambrose, who made the recording and had sought a declaration from the High Court at Auckland over the recording's legality.  The court declined his request.

The decision to seek court costs has been slammed as part of a dangerous government attack on the media.  Otago University politics lecturer Bryce Edwards in expressing concern that the decision signalled a warning to the media from the Government, said,

“You have to be careful, you have to not challenge the powers that be, not take too strong a role in keeping the Government of the day and other politicians held to account.

"That's just incredibly dangerous. This is the kind of thing we expect in more authoritarian countries than New Zealand.''

Dr Edwards noted other freelance journalists had been singled out by the Government, including Jon Stephenson and Nicky Hager, who came under fire this year for their reporting on New Zealand's involvement in Afghanistan.

Mainstream media outlets had also been subjected to the Government's "extraordinarily aggressive and hostile'' approach, he said citing Speaker Lockwood Smith's decision to ban the New Zealand Herald from the parliamentary press gallery for 10 days after a reporter took a photo of a protester in the public gallery in the House.

Otago Daily Times 28/12/11

 

Election comments banned online

Facebook and Twitter users were warned to be careful what they posted online on the day of the General Election or they could face hefty fines for breaching election rules.

On Election Day it is an offence to publish anything intended or likely to influence people before they vote. Political parties must remove all billboards, and media must not publish anything about the election before 7pm.  Fines for breaching the rules are up to $20,000..

Stuff.co.nz 25/11/11

 

POLICING

Police decline protest request

Police have declined to reveal further information about how they thwarted Greenpeace plans to protest at Port Taranaki.

Greenpeace raised concerns at the level of police scrutiny waiting for activists as they arrived in New Plymouth to demonstrate over the arrival of the seismic survey ship Polarcus Alima in October.

Five police cars and 10 officers met the group just south of New Plymouth and a police launch had been brought in with the expectation of a protest on the water.

At the time Simon Boxer, of Auckland, said the level of police presence and readiness raised questions about how they got their information.

The Taranaki Daily News requested further details about the police operation, under the Official Information Act, including where the police launch came from, when it arrived at Port Taranaki, how police were aware of the plans to protest at the ship's arrival, whether Greenpeace members were under surveillance, what surveillance methods were used and whether other government agencies were involved in the operation.

Inspector David White, of Central District police headquarters, turned down the request.

"Police are withholding this information ... in that to release that information would be likely to prejudice the maintenance of law, including the prevention, investigation and detection of offences," Mr White said.

The only information Mr White would provide was that New Plymouth police were in charge of the operation run by area commander Inspector Blair Telford.

Taranaki Daily News 10/11/11

 

Police in gun over snooping

Almost 40 police officers have been investigated for using the police national database to spy on New Zealanders for no valid reason during the last four years.

Since February 2008, police have investigated 38 staff for accessing the police National Intelligence Application (NIA) for non-work related purposes, according to figures released under the Official Information Act.

Earlier this year it was revealed that North Shore Senior Constable Terry Beatson accessed the NIA more than a dozen times over a four year period to leak information to his wife to help her in a custody battle with her ex-husband.

The ex-husband reportedly uncovered the leak when he noticed private information about him was contained in an affidavit his wife filed with the Family Court.

It's understood Beatson was disciplined but not fired over the incident.

Police refused to release details on the investigations to ''protect the privacy'' of those involved.

Stuff.co.nz 23/11/11

 

Police want heads-up about parties

Palmerston North residents are being urged to consult police before holding parties after 13 people were arrested at a drunken gathering in the city.

People organising parties in the Christmas and New Year period were advised to register any upcoming festivities with police.

The police party register, located at the Palmerston North police station, provides police with information about parties, and allows them to offer hosts safety tips.

Manawatu Standard 20/12/11

 

Man charged for 'loving the police'

A Pakistani man has been charged after he rang police communications and told them he "loves the New Zealand police".

The police charged him with using a telecommunications device to knowingly give a fictitious message.

The man is due to reappear in court on January 13.

Stuff.co.nz 20/12/11

 

RACE

Writing cheques in Maori

Gisborne Lawyer Allan Hall has pointed out that Maori, as an official language of New Zealand, and because of the Maori Language Act, banks accept cheques written in Maori, and so too should a cheque recipient.

He spoke up after a cheque written in Maori, at the Gisborne McDonald’s Restaurant, was questioned because it was written in Maori.

Gisborne Herald 10/12/11

Liberty Watch - November 2012

Round up of civil liberty news for November 2012.

CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE

Drugs detection in schools

Ensuring drug sniffer dogs continue to detect illegal drugs in schools is essential in dealing with young people's addiction and keeping them in education, a leading Northland youth counsellor says.

Jenny Rooney-Gibbs of Rubicon, a youth alcohol and drug support service based in Whangarei, backed the continued use of dogs and drug testing in schools, saying it was beneficial to children dealing with such issues.

The Education Amendment Bill, which was introduced to Parliament last month, states teachers and contractors cannot use sniffer dogs to search a student or bag under a student's control. Schools cannot use physical force, or require a student to provide a bodily sample, and cannot do random or blanket searches of a student or a bag under a student's control. Dogs can be used only to search school buildings when there are no students present.

The bill clarified the powers of schools and teachers, in particular the situations in which drug detection dogs could be used.

The bill is currently open for submissions before Parliament's education and science select committee. The deadline for submissions is January 24, 2013.

New Zealand Herald 6/11/2

 

CERA

Suspension of elections breaches constitutional values

Proposed legislation that would extend the suspension of local body elections in Canterbury until 2016 is not justified and is a disturbing breach of the rule of law, the New Zealand Law Society says.

Legislation introduced and passed under urgency in 2010, without public consultation, suspended Environment Canterbury elections until 2013. The Environment Canterbury (Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management) Amendment Bill proposes to continue the suspension of elections for a further three and a half years, to 2016.

The convenor of the Law Society’s Rule of Law Committee, Austin Forbes QC Forbes said, “Democratic decision-making in local government is a very important and legitimate expectation of citizens. The proposed further suspension of local body democracy runs counter to core constitutional values, most importantly that of a free and democratic society.”

Scoop.co.nz 15/11/12

 

Government signals beginning of compulsory purchases

The owners of more than 100 Christchurch properties have received the first clear signal of the Government's plans to force through the acquisition of their land.

The Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) yesterday sent notices to the 47 owners of 104 properties tagged for projects in the central-city blueprint, outlining its plans to take land.

CCDU director Warwick Isaacs said the notices were the first step in the compulsory acquisition process, adding "If we get to a point where we can't conclude a willing buyer, willing seller negotiation, we will then revert to the compulsory process."

The Press 20/11/12

 

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Judge questions jury trials

A judge has questioned whether lengthy drug trials should be heard by jurors after one expected to take eight weeks was aborted.

The call from Judge David Wilson, QC, came as a methamphetamine trial was dropped as it entered its third week in the Auckland District Court after two jurors had already been excused and a third produced a medical certificate saying they would not be able to sit on the jury for two weeks.  This took the jury panel to below the minimum of 10 needed.  The three accused could have chosen to have their case heard by the nine remaining jurors, but lawyers for the trio exercised their right to have the trial aborted.

Judge Wilson said authorities should examine the possibility of having judges decide on complex drugs cases without a jury because of the investment in court time and lawyers.

Defence lawyer Graham Newell said that rather than remove a defendant's right to choose trial by jury, it would be better to thoroughly screen jurors for their availability and suitability.

University of Auckland associate professor of law Bill Hodge said Judge Wilson's idea had merits and a public debate was needed on the issue, adding that while he was in favour of jury trials, some cases were so complex that they required a judge alone to decide them, adding, "sometimes it's too much to expect a jury to give two to three months of their life."

A spokeswoman for Justice Minister Judith Collins said the minister could not comment on individual cases, but a defendant's right to choose a jury trial was a fundamental principle in the justice system.  However, changes to the Criminal Procedure Act next year would allow judge-alone trials for offences with a maximum term of imprisonment of less than two years.

Otago Daily Times 3/11/12

 

Prison sentence 'inhumane'

Sending an intellectually impaired convicted murderer to prison was inhumane, and he should serve the remainder of his sentence in a care facility, the Court of Appeal was told by human rights lawyer Tony Ellis.

Jason Mark Ferguson, aged 30, was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 10 years when he was found guilty of murdering caregiver John Sorrenson near Rotorua in June 2002.

When the crime was committed and the trial and sentencing took place, Ferguson was 19-years-old with an IQ of only 57.  Mr. Ellis said.  "His intellectual state was not taken into account at the time of sentence....A humane sentence for someone with an intellectual disability of this level would be...in secure care."

Mr. Ellis said the public would still be safe from Fergusson if he was moved to a care facility, and he would have the benefit of effective treatment at the facility.

Otago Daily Times 6/11/12

 

Criminals face lifetime monitoring

Dangerous repeat violent offenders and sex offenders could be monitored for the rest of their lives after release from prison, says Police and Corrections Minister Anne Tolley.

She wants to develop a comprehensive management scheme similar to one run in Britain and says a law allowing it could be passed by the 2014 election.

The Government also has a measure before Parliament that would allow ex-prisoners to be sent back to jail indefinitely if the High Court deemed them dangerous enough.  At present, the maximum time a former prisoner can be supervised after release is 10 years.

Asked about civil liberties concerns, Tolley said most offenders found it helpful to have that sort of structure in their lives "and know if something goes wrong, there is someone keeping track of them and they are not on their own out in the community".

Otago Daily Times 12/11/12

 

Courts softer on criminals white-collar criminals

White-collar criminals evading the taxman are far less likely to go to jail than blue-collar fraudsters, new research shows.

In a pilot study examining three years of tax evasion compared to welfare fraud in New Zealand, Dr Lisa Marriott of Victoria University found that welfare fraud was significantly more likely to be prosecuted than tax crime.  This was despite huge differences in scale.

In 2010 alone, tax evaders cheated the country of between $1 billion and $6b, while welfare fraud cost $39 million.  The average offending for welfare fraudsters was $70,000, and those found guilty had a 60 per cent chance of being jailed.  For tax evaders the average was $270,000, but those found guilty had only a 22 per cent chance of being jailed.

The cases were barely comparable. For example, a welfare fraudster who stole $148,000, at the upper end of the scale, received 18 months in prison. Meanwhile, a tax cheat who failed to pay $222,000 in tax - at the lower end of the prosecution scale - got eight months' home detention and 250 hours' community service.

Stuff.co.nz 18/11/12

 

DISABLED RIGHTS

Disabled face public transport barriers

Difficulties accessing public transport and finding employment pose the biggest problems for disabled Rotorua residents, a disability support worker says.

IDEA Services Rotorua area manager Lianne Bryers said no Rotorua buses were accessible for people in wheelchairs, hindering their ability to travel independently.  "It's about people accepting that everybody needs to be accessing their community," said Bryers, adding that problems with transport and employment often isolated people with disabilities.

This fits in with the findings of the 2012 monitoring report on disability rights in New Zealand, which was released last month.  Findings were based on feedback from 156 disabled people and focused on six main areas - health, employment, access to services and support, awareness around disability, social inclusion and barriers to making complaints.  The report found a major lack of disability services and awareness.

In each of the six focus areas, disabled people said their human rights were not being met, creating barriers to their inclusion in the community.

The Daily Post 7/11/12

 

GANGS

Prohibition of Gang Insignia in Government Premises Bill

The Prohibition of Gang Insignia in Government Premises Bill, which aims to prohibit the display of gang insignia in government premises, is inconsistent with the right to freedom of expression protected by the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, the New Zealand Law Society says.  It would limit a range of free speech, including culturally or politically significant expression that may not be intimidatory or confrontational.

The Law Society also believes the Bill is drafted too widely as was the case with similar measures enacted in 2009 to prohibit the wearing of gang insignia in the Whanganui District.  “Gang insignia” is widely defined in the Bill and does not differentiate between displays of insignia that are intended to intimidate or confront, and displays that are not

Robert Hesketh of the Law Society further said the Bill is unnecessary. There were already a variety of existing laws covering the actual behaviours the prohibition of gang insignia was designed to address.

scoop.co.nz 7/11/12

 

GAY RIGHTS

Gay marriage a human right says MP

Denying homosexuals the right to marry is denying them basic human rights, Labour MP Louisa Wall has stated.

Ms Wall gave the opening submission on her Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill that would clear the way for gay marriage in New Zealand.  Ms Wall told the government administration select committee marriage was a birthright that should be available to all New Zealanders.

"Your sexual determination should not limit your citizenship rights," she said.

The bill passed its first reading in a parliamentary conscience vote with a two-to-one majority in August.

The bill was understood to have already attracted more than 20,000 submissions and was expected to face stiff opposition from conservative and religious groups.

Submissions for the bill closed on October 26 and a report is due from the committee on February 28.

Dominion Post 7/11/11

 

GENDER

Widening gender pay gap disheartening, says professor

Statistics New Zealand’s report on an increase in the gender pay-gap was extremely disappointing to read and disheartening for young women a University of Canterbury professor has said.

The gender pay gap has increased from 12.85 percent to 14.18 percent in the year to September according to Statistics NZ’s quarterly report.

Research, including some conducted by Professor Johnston, has shown that women were evaluated less positively than men with identical qualifications and experience when applying for jobs typically filled by men, such as management positions. Women are more likely to be successful in such applications if they dress and talk in a more masculine way – wearing a suit rather than a dress and having a deeper voice, she said.

“Diversity - in terms of sex, ethnicity, age and other factors - in the workplace enhances success and decision making; employers need to recognise this in the recruitment and retention (through pay parity and promotion) of women,’’ Professor Johnston said.

Scoop.co.nz 13/11/12

 

Human Rights Commission releases Census of Women’s Participation 2012

The Human Rights Commission has released the New Zealand Census of Women’s Participation 2012, the fifth report on how women fare in many areas of professional and public life.  Although there were areas of improvement the report still found areas of concern including,

• Two companies in the top ten, Sky Network Television and TrustPower, have no women on their boards

• The New Zealand Police and the New Zealand Defence Force have stalled in terms of women’s progress at the top

• Twenty-two government departments have gender pay gaps bigger than the average pay gap in the labour market

• Nine government departments have more than a 20 per cent gender pay gap including Treasury and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet

• Women are still less than 30 per cent of judges, less than 25 per cent of senior academic staff, and less than 20 per cent of top legal partnerships

http://www.hrc.co.nz/2012/commission-releases-census-of-women%E2%80%99s-participation-2012

 

MISCELLANEOUS

Owners of nuisance cats face restriction

The Invercargill City Council has drafted a bylaw that, if introduced, will restrict the number of cats to three in each house where felines are causing a nuisance in the neighbourhood. 

The draft Keeping of Animals Bylaw was approved for the initial consultation with key stakeholders when it was discussed at yesterday's council regulatory committee meeting.

The public will now be asked for comments on the bylaw before the council makes a final decision next year.

Southland Times 14/11/12

 

POLICING

Crimestoppers has record call volume

Anonymous tip-off line Crimestoppers recorded its highest call volume last month.

Figures show the national call centre received 1528 calls nationally in October, the highest number of monthly calls since it started in October 2009.  There was an increase of 61 calls on the previous month, the next highest on record.

The service had fielded 31,483 calls since its launch, and around 1800 online messages.  Around one third of the calls had given police enough information to act, "from starting the intelligence process to carrying out search warrants and making arrests", Spokesperson Lou Gardiner said.

Otago Daily Time 8/11/12

 

Wrong man held in cells

A Blenheim man spent two nights in police cells at the weekend after another man falsely gave police his name.

Defence lawyer Rennie Gould said that the man had told police when he was arrested on Saturday they had the wrong man, and if they checked their file photos of the suspect they would see it wasn't him.

The arrested man had also contacted Blenheim lawyer Rob Harrison, who had also asked police to check they had the right man, she said.

Marlborough Express 13/11/12

 

Police back more security cameras

Invercargill police have applauded moves by the city council to consider expanding its security camera network.  However, community development manager Mary Napper stressed that CCTV cameras did not necessarily make people under the influence of alcohol or drugs more reluctant to commit crime.

Southland Times 13/11/12

 

PRISONS

Prisons crack down on storage space

Prisoners will no longer be able to store large amounts of personal belongings while imprisoned due to a corrections department clampdown.

The department has traditionally stored items like large carvings and paintings, but they have said they no longer have the space and the resources to continue.

Corrections Minister Anne Tolley said the storage of inmates' property was a problem and the department was not in the storage business.

Under the new restrictions, inmates will now be allowed only belongings that fit into a plastic container measuring 50cm by 40cm by 30cm.

New Zealand Herald 14/11/12

 

Preventing suicides “not worth benefits” says Corrections Department

The Coroner’s inquest into the suicide of an inmate at Rimutaka Prison in May last year strongly criticised the Corrections Department for failing to update its IT systems so that staff can tell whether an inmate is a suicide risk.

The Department has refused to act on the Coroner’s advice saying, “improving our current information systems is regarded as not worth the benefits it would bring because of cost, complexity and the proportionately few incidents it would benefit.”

Howard League spokesperson Madeleine Rose said, “coroners have repeatedly said this is an issue that needs to be addressed, and the Department’s attitude that human lives are ‘not worth the benefits’ is simply shocking”.

Inmates are eleven times more likely to commit suicide than the national average.

Scoop.co.nz 14/11/12

 

PRIVACY

Consent details can be passed around

Council building consent information containing personal details is being collated and sold to businesses targeting new homeowners or renovators.

The issue came to light when a homeowner said he started receiving offers for goods and services through his mail after he lodged a resource consent with the New Plymouth District Council.  The homeowner said he should have been told his information would be passed on.

For decades all councils have given building consent information to the What's On report, which collates it and sells it to businesses throughout New Zealand.   "It's something that the council would prefer not to do but is required to do under the law," said council consent manager Ralph Broad. "The reality is we have to release the information if we are asked. It's the same all around New Zealand."

The ombudsman, the government watchdog who investigates and mediates complaints by the public against state agencies, in February 2011 noted that the decision that councils must hand the information over was at odds with the privacy commissioner's thoughts that no public interest considerations favouring release outweighed the privacy interest.

The Privacy Commissioner has said "If the practice of collecting personal information for building and consent purposes continues to be diverted to entities for commercial gain, the Privacy Act would at least expect a statement of this intention and perhaps a disclosure of likely recipients."

Taranaki Daily News 7/11/12

 

SPYING

Dotcom investigation

Police investigating illegal spying on Kim Dotcom by the GCSB have received security clearances to conduct their inquiries from the other spy agency.  The investigation was begun after a complaint from Green co-leader Russel Norman. It followed an admission of illegal spying on Mr. Dotcom from Prime Minister John Key, who then apologised to the internet tycoon.

The GCSB and the SIS both report to Mr. Key. The bureau is focused on electronic intelligence gathering and is banned from spying on New Zealanders. The intelligence service has more domestic freedom and a focus on human intelligence gathering.

Mr. Norman said the ability for the SIS to "veto" investigating officers undermined the equal position each person was meant to have under the law. "The problem is they are the sister organisation of the organisation being investigated."

Otago Daily Times 8/11/12

 

Liberty Watch - October 2011

Round-up of civil liberty news for October 2011.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Police ‘Smart on Crime’, not “Tough on Crime”

“Claims that the drop in reported offending is the result of ‘tough on crime’ policies, including increased Police powers, tazers, three strikes and increased policing numbers, are not borne out by the facts” says Kim Workman, of Rethinking Crime and Punishment, adding that 
“we should start talking about the Police being ‘smart on crime’ rather than ‘tough on crime’.”

Crime has been dropping in New Zealand since the mid –1990’s, but recent dramatic drops in the reporting of low-level offending, is due in part to the intelligent use of Police diversion and alternative action, argues Workman.

 “If the Police can continue to defer the prosecution of low level offenders, it reduces the likelihood that they will eventually be imprisoned. It is low-level offenders who if imprisoned, are the most likely to reoffend on leaving. Alternative disposition is therefore likely to have a positive effect in reducing the imprisonment rate.”

scoop.co.nz 10/4/11

 

Prisoners' compensation bill introduced

A bill that re-directs to victims of crime all compensation paid to prisoners was introduced to Parliament Justice Minister Simon Power.

The Prisoners' and Victims' Claims (Redirecting Prisoner Compensation) Amendment Bill provides that any compensation awarded to a prisoner and not paid to the direct victims must be used to fund general services for victims of crime.

Otago daily Times 13/10/11

 

Three Strikes Law

The Sentencing and Parole Reform Act, which established the system of ‘three strikes’ for repeat offenders, came into effect last June.  Since then only one prisoner, a recidivist robber, has earned a second “strike” to, but 574 others have earned a first strike.

New Zealand Herald 16/10/11

 

EDUCATION

Website to name, shame convicted teachers

The Sensible Sentencing Trust is setting up a website listing teachers, including ones still at schools, who have convictions.

The Trust had recently completed a dossier of convicted teachers, who had not received name suppression. Several were still teaching.

The Teacher’s Council already has an online database where parents or prospective employers can check on the status of a teacher, but it does not stipulate if they have criminal convictions. Council director Peter Lind has said that the processes for dealing with teachers with criminal convictions are very robust.

Stuff.co.nz 15/10/11

 

MISUSE OF DRUGS

Schools search for drugs without police

Manawatu schools will continue to use sniffer dogs despite a move by police to stop random drug-dog searches in schools.

After changes to the Education Ministry’s search and seizure of drugs and weapons guidelines in August, police have been legally advised to stop carrying out random sniffer-dog drug searches in schools.

A police spokeswoman said the advice from lawyers was that a “generalised search for the purposes of gathering evidence for prosecution is unlawful”, which meant unless police had sufficient evidence to gain a search warrant from the courts they would not take sniffer-dogs into schools for random searches.

Palmerston North Boys’ High School rector Tim O’Connor said it would not be an issue for his school because a drug-testing company was used each year to conduct random searches. “We would only use the police to search the premises here if we had a serious cause for concern.”

Manawatu Standard 1/10/11

 

PARLIAMENT

Speaker bans Herald for 10 days

In a move believed to be without precedent, Speaker Lockwood Smith imposed a 10-day ban on the New Zealand Herald from covering politics from its press gallery office within the parliamentary complex.

The Speaker handed down the punishment after the Herald published a photograph on its website on Wednesday of guards and members of the public restraining a man who was trying to jump from the public gallery into the debating chamber.

Dr Smith said the photograph was a breach of Standing Orders that prohibit any filming of protests and other disruptions in the public gallery.

New Zealand Herald 6/10/11

 

POLICING

High-tech gear snares CBD looters

Police in Christchurch are using high-tech lasers and army night-vision gear to hunt nighttime intruders inside the city centre’s red zone.  Over 100 people have been arrested for illegally entering the red zone at night since cordons were erected after the February earthquake.

During daylight hours, the CBD red zone is only open for authorised demolition work and official Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) business, but during the night the CBD is “effectively in lockdown”,

All those arrested for breaching the cordon, which is an offence under the CERA Act, face a maximum penalty of a fine of $5000 and/or up to three months’ imprisonment.

Otago Daily Times 20/10/11

 

Alleged police surveillance

Police Minister Judith Collins disputed suggestions by Greenpeace activists in New Plymouth this week that authorities tracked their movements.

Auckland-based Greenpeace activist Simon Boxer raised questions about a large police presence and their high-level readiness when a group of Greenpeace supporters descended on Port Taranaki in protest against the survey ship Polarcus Alima, and were stopped by a large police contingent near New Plymouth.

Taranaki Daily News 24/10/11

 

Police and use of powerful camera

Police are using a new camera with a powerful lens to covertly photograph drivers up to 400 metres away.  Western Bay officers started using the Canon camera to catch motorists breaking the law and committing offences such as cutting corners or following too closely.

Sergeant Lester Polglase “If it saves one life then it’s worth it. If people don’t like this covert activity then too bad”

The camera is one of several issued to police districts around New Zealand New Zealand Council of Civil Liberties secretary Kevin McCormack said he had a number of reservations about the camera, including how much consultation with the public, if any, had been carried out prior to its implementation.

Bay of Plenty Times 29/10/11

 

PRISONERS’ RIGHTS

Human rights values key to prisoner rehabilitation

A new review of human rights and prisons for the Human Rights Commission reveals that human rights values have a key role in the rehabilitation of prisoners.  The review points to a number of improvements relating to human rights in prisons since 2004, such as an expansion of drug and alcohol programmes, and increased access to education and employment opportunities.  This has resulted in increased numbers of prisoners involved in employment activities, vocational training and literacy or educational courses. According to Department of Correction figures, more than 70 per cent of sentenced prisoners are now engaged in some form of employment or training.

The same report however identified a number of concerns about long lock-down periods, prisoner health and access to mental health services.

scoop.co.nz 4/10/11

 

Prisoners to have income deducted for board

Prisoners who earn income while behind bars may have their pay deducted to pay for their board and other bills such as child support, under a new Government bill.  Currently Corrections can take 30 per cent of a paycheck from a prisoner’s work-to-release programme, up to $269 a week.

The Corrections Amendment Bill is a response to convicted murderer Phillip John Smith, who has been operating a company selling electronics since 2008 from inside Auckland’s Paremoremo Prison.

Under the Bill the Inland Revenue Department will also be able to deduct money from prisoners’ wages for child support bills.

Corrections Minister Judith Collins said Ms Collins said she was not against prisoners working because it helped rehabilitation.

New Zealand Herald 14/10/11

 

PRIVACY

Credit checking and fines payment

People with overdue court fines may find it harder to get loans under credit-checking changes from next year.

Courts Minister Georgina te Heuheu announced that the Government had approved an initiative allowing information about overdue fines and reparation to be released to credit agencies such as banks and hire purchase providers.

New Zealand Herald 31/10/11

 

RACE

Bar will keep facial tattoo ban

A Christchurch bar says it will keep its policy to refuse entry to people with facial tattoos. Tunahau Kohu was drinking at The Turf in Parklands on Saturday when staff asked him to leave because of a tribal tattoo covering his entire face.  He said the policy was unfair as a staff member had a tattoo on her neck.

The Turf owner Louis Vieceli said the tattoo policy was about improving standards, and was still in place although the bar signage has been altered to say the bar reserves the right of admission.

“The premises will ensure that its staff are properly trained and hoped not to have a repeat of the matter.  Whilst the tavern does have standards, these are not intended to be discriminatory in any way,” he said.

Otago Daily Times 4/10/11

 

Racism claims rife within Ports of Auckland

Angst amongst older Ports of Auckland workers about the employment of Tuvaluan workers has seen the Employment Court recommend the group seeks help from the Human Rights Commission to deal with racism in its workforce.

Two dockworkers have been fired from the port for alleged racism after one wrote a column in a union magazine about the employment of workers from ”one of the island nations”.

The other former employee slipped an anonymous note under the door of an administrator saying he wanted to apply for a job and ”if it helps I can do a month or two on the sun beds”.

Stuff.co.nz 29/10/11

 

Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

TPP papers will remain secret for four years after deal

The parties have apparently agreed that all documents except the final text will be kept secret for four years after the agreement comes into force or the negotiations collapse. This reverses the trend in many recent negotiations to release draft texts and related documents. The existence of agreement was only discovered through a cover note to the leaked text of the intellectual property chapter. “The secrecy that shrouds the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations just got even more outrageous”, said Professor Jane Kelsey, who monitors the negotiations.

Helen Kelly, President of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions stated “We want to see the terms that the government agreed to that stop us from seeing what they have done in our name until it is too late to hold them accountable”.

Scoop.co.nz  16/10/11

 

Liberty Watch - October 2012

CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE

Adults who pose risk to kids face bans

Adults who have never been convicted of any crime may soon be banned from living or associating with children on the "balance of probabilities" that they may pose a threat.

A White Paper on Vulnerable Children says this will be one of "a range of tough new measures targeting people who present a high risk of continuing to hurt children."  A background document says courts will be given powers to impose new "child abuse prevention orders" regulating a wide range of associations with children.

There might also be a condition available to the court to apply a presumption that any future children of the person be removed, if the court is satisfied that the risk posed by the person justifies such a presumption."

The order may last for up to 10 years with rights to apply for a review.

New Zealand Herald 11/10/12

 

Social Security Bill Coerces Parents

The Home Education Foundation (HEF) of New Zealand is calling on politicians to reject the coercive new Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill. The Bill, sponsored by Minister for Social Development Paula Bennett, passed the First Reading and has been sent to a Government Select Committee.

HEF National Director Barbara Smith says, “I, along with many other Kiwis, have huge concerns about this bill.” If the Bill passes, “social obligations” will compel beneficiaries to send children aged 3-5 to an approved Early Childhood Education provider for at least 15 hours per week,

Under the Human Rights Act 1993, parents have a right to choose what kind of education they will give their children. “Over the years there has been a lot of research that children do much better at home than in Early Childhood centres,” Mrs. Smith added, citing research available on the HEF website. Mrs Smith says many concerned Kiwis have contacted her about the new legislation. “They want to continue learning at home with their 3-5-year-old children.”

Scoop.co.nz 9/10/12

 

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Shoplifters banned from entire city

Two Marton women have been banned from Palmerston North after being accused of stealing more than $2000 worth of goods in a spate of shoplifting.

The two were remanded on bail for two weeks and Judge Gregory Ross banned them from the city until then, stating that "Neither of you can enter Palmerston North except to attend court or attend an appointment with an assigned [lawyer] only."

They were also told not to go to Marton's New World supermarket.

Manawatu Standard 4/10/12

 

DRUGS

Government cracks down on legal highs

Legal highs will undergo a costly and lengthy testing process involving human clinical trials under a strict new regime that could see manufacturers jailed for up to eight years.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne has announced new regulations for psychoactive substances that would become law by next August.  It would replace a temporary ban on 16 substances contained in more than 50 products that have already been removed from shelves.

Under the new regime, manufacturers would have to pay an application fee of about $180,000 plus testing costs of up to $2 million before any new product was deemed safe for sale, a process that could take up to two years.

The Ministry of Health would regulate the new testing regime, which was likely to include clinical trials on human subjects in New Zealand.  Regulators would look at toxicity, adverse effects and mental health impacts before any new products were approved.

The regime would also introduce tough new penalties, including up to eight years in prison for importing, manufacturing or supplying analogues of illegal drugs, and up to two years in prison for importing, manufacturing or supplying unapproved substances.  People caught with unapproved products could be fined $300, but it would not be a criminal offence so young people would not be penalised.

The rules would introduce a minimum purchase age of 18 and would restrict which outlets could sell the products, including a ban on dairy sales.  Products would face labelling and packaging restrictions and advertising would be banned except for at point of sale.  He expected there would be a drop in the number of products available, but denied it was a "back-door way" to ban all products.

Mr. Dunne denied the rules would encourage a black market or push users towards illegal drugs like cannabis, and said that the new rules would ensure products were safe for the people who wanted to use and enjoy them. 

New Zealand Herald 10/10/12

 

EMPLOYMENT

Greens make human rights complaint over youth pay

The Green Party have lodged a complaint with the Human Rights Commission over new legislation which will allow employers to pay 80 per cent of the minimum wage to those aged 19 and under.

The Minimum Wage (Starting-Out Wage) Amendment Bill has had its first reading in Parliament and passed by 61 votes to 59.  It was supported by National, Act and United Future and opposed by Labour, the Greens, New Zealand First, the Maori Party and Mana.

The Bill will allow employers to pay staff aged under 20 a "starting out" wage of $10.80 an hour for the first six months of their employment.

Three groups will come under the new rules:

- 16 and 17-year-olds in their first six months of work with a new employer,

- 18 and 19-year-olds entering the workforce after more than six months on the benefit,

- 16 to 19 year-old workers in a recognised industry training course involving at least 40 credits a year.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said under the legislation, young people who had been on a benefit for more than six months would be able to be discriminated against, adding that it was illegal under the Human Rights Act to discriminate on the basis of young worker's employment status.

New Zealand Herald 16/10/12

 

GENDER

Targeting gender imbalance in NZ sport

Sport New Zealand and the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) have announced the creation of Development Scholarships to help get more women onto the boards of sports organisations.  The joint initiative is the first in a programme to encourage suitably qualified women to put themselves forward for sports governance roles.

NZOC Secretary General, Kereyn Smith said while real progress is being seen on the field of play, in terms of participation and achievement by women, this is not the case off the field.

"The London 2012 Olympic Games provided another example of women achieving at the highest level in the sporting arena, but the representation and value of women is less evident in sports board rooms," she said.

At present women comprise around 27 per cent of sports board membership (being 142 women out of 521 positions among 71 targeted organisations). Targets have been set for women to comprise 33 per cent of sports board membership by 2015 and 40 per cent by 2020. The ultimate target is for 50 per cent representation.

New Zealand Herald 8/10/12

 

Transgender woman pleads to avoid male jail

A transgender woman who struck a man over the head with a bottle of sparkling wine has pleaded with a judge not to send her to a men's prison.

The accused's lawyer has asked for a reduced sentence to allow her client to serve her sentence at home because she faces great risk of abuse if jailed alongside male inmates.

Lawyer Kelly Ellis said transgender is a recognised medical condition, which can require a variety of treatment options.  A transgender woman is a person born male who has gone through, or is in the process of, transition or gender change, said Ms Ellis.  Both her lawyer and the judge referred to the accused as a woman during last week's hearing.

The accused is currently on remand in the all-male Ngawha Prison. She has been in custody for several months.  Judge Harvey said that by the time she was sentenced she would have been in remand for about 11 months adding that if those 11 months were taken into account, the final sentence might enable home detention to be imposed.

"Under normal circumstances I would not take this approach but it recognises the difficulties of this person in a male prison," the judge said.

"It would be unjust not to hold out hope of home detention."

New Zealand Herald 10/10/12

 

Business NZ's views on parental leave labelled sexist

Extending paid parental leave to six months may lead to employers discriminating against women of child-bearing age, Business NZ says.

Business NZ employment relations manager Paul Mackay yesterday presented the group's submission on Ms Moroney's Parental Leave and Employment Protection (Six Months' Paid Leave) Amendment Bill. The submission said it was difficult for employers to find suitable temporary staff to fill parental leave vacancies.

"Employers who have been forced to bear considerable replacement costs, or to find those amongst their other employees willing to provide cover, may well think hard before again employing a woman of child-bearing age."

Business NZ accepted that attitude could be seen as discriminatory and Ms Moroney said it was "from a bygone era" and echoed the views of Mr. Thompson, who resigned last year after his suggestion that menstruation could be a factor in women being paid less than men.

New Zealand Herald 25/10/12

 

Breastfeeding mum asked to leave court

A Wanaka mother asked to leave the Queenstown District Court by Judge Kevin Phillips for breast-feeding her 18-week-old daughter.

Senior judicial communications adviser Neil Billington, of Wellington, told the Otago Daily Times yesterday that judges had a "legal authority" to run their courtrooms "in a manner that they consider appropriate to the administration of justice", adding  "It's based on a legal power that each and every judge has ... each judge is independent in terms of how they exercise that authority."

Mr. Billington said, "Although courtrooms are open to the public, they're not 'public places' in the usual sense ... where members of the public are free to do whatever they like", and Judge Phillips would not comment on his decision "and that's the usual situation."

A Ministry of Health website reports that "under the Human Rights Act, it's illegal for someone to stop you breast-feeding in public."

New Zealand Herald 25/10/12

 

Legal Aid

Legal aid law changes watered down

Justice Minister Judith Collins has watered down legal aid reforms that aimed to save money by charging for family and civil disputes.

The minister announced this afternoon that charges for family and civil cases would drop from $100 to $50.  Interest would no longer be charged immediately, but would instead be imposed from six months after the final amount of legal aid debt was finalised.

A proposal to make it harder to get legal aid for less serious crimes such as theft, assault or careless driving, has also been dropped by the minister. However, people who were not meeting their legal aid debt repayments would be prevented from getting further legal aid until they began clearing their debt.

New Zealand Herald 9/10/12

 

POLICING

New Zealand crime rate lowest on record

Crime statistics show recorded crime is continuing to drop, with a 5.2% decrease on the previous year.

There were 394,522 recorded offences in the 2011-2012 fiscal year, compared with 416,324 the previous year. This represents a decrease of 5.2% or 21,802 offences.  New Zealand’s resident population increased by 0.7% during that period, resulting in a 5.9% decrease in the number of offences recorded per 10,000 of population.

This is the lowest number of offences in any fiscal year since 1988-1989, and the lowest crime rate per head of population since before electronic records have been maintained.

Deputy Police Commissioner Viv Rickard says "Although movements in crime statistics can be due to several factors, I believe we are seeing some traction from our Prevention First approach, particularly against prolific drug offenders, people who deface our public spaces with graffiti and those who create public disorder."

Scoop.co.nz 1/10/12

 

Hutt teens targeted by police & strip-searched

Two Upper Hutt teenagers have told of their humiliating and traumatising ordeal at the hands of police, who arrested and strip-searched the pair before locking them up for 36 hours.

Apart from making shocking allegations about the incident itself – one of the girls having to express breast milk into a sink after being separated from her baby, not getting toilet paper for the weekend and being denied contact with their parents and lawyers – their experience has also triggered longer-term effects, their families say.

The 16-year-old girl and her 14-year-old cousin were arrested on Saturday, January 7, after police received a complaint about an attack on two other teenage girls.  The pair were taken to Upper Hutt police station, strip-searched and placed in individual cells until their court appearance on the Monday.

Earlier this week Youth Court judge Mary O’Dwyer gave permission to report her findings, in which she ruled the arrests unlawful and dismissed the charges.  She criticised the police’s decision not to free the girls on bail, to keep them in custody for more than 24 hours and to not consult a senior social worker before doing so, which is required by law.

Judge O’Dwyer noted that the descriptions taken of the alleged offenders did not match the 16-year-old, while the evidence in respect to the 14-year-old was weak.

Civil liberties lawyer Michael Bott said “They have an absolute right once they’ve been arrested to have contact [with a lawyer] . . . that would be a bare minimum standard....It appeared there were multiple breaches, including those of police protocol and the Bill of Rights Act.”

The Police Commissioner has publicly reprimanded staff involved in the detainment of the two teenagers.

Dominion Post 4/10/12

 

Crimestoppers hotline is giving police serious information

After a public campaign in August to raise awareness about the hotline, particularly as a way to pass on information about stolen property, Palmerston North people are warming to the idea of providing tips to police through the anonymous Crimestoppers hotline.  Acting Senior Sergeant Phil Ward said tips coming in rose from about four a month, six months ago, to 15, although the amount of information received still fell short of expectations.

Crimestoppers is an independent organisation providing an anonymous way for people to give information about crimes.  Any information is then passed on to police. No details about the source are taken, and calls are not recorded or traced.

Mr. Ward said information received through Crimestoppers in September had resulted in the seizure of drugs, and firearms.  Two separate pieces of information led to the identification of a recidivist female drink-driver who, although was not caught in the act by police, was spoken to and later referred to Immigration when an issue with her visa was discovered.

In another case a firearm was seized when information about a man suspected of growing drugs was called in.  Police did not find any drugs, but the man living with him had an illegal firearm.

Manawatu Standard 11/10/12

 

Trust in police hits new low survey shows

Public trust in the police has fallen, with overwhelming support for a beefed-up Independent Police Conduct Authority, a survey has found.

The police performance survey of 756 adults, surveyed in emails by Horizon Research during the weekend, found 80.7 per cent of respondents wanted complaints about police to be investigated independently.

Support for added powers for the IPCA was also strong, with 76.3 per cent believing the authority should have the power to initiate a prosecution against police officers. At present, the authority can make recommendations to the police only after an investigation.

The survey also found that, overall, net trust in the police had fallen 11.5 per cent to 59.9 per cent during the past five years.

Police Minister Anne Tolley has questioned the methodology of the survey, and Acting Commissioner Viv Rickard said Police took the matter seriously and had commissioned an independent research organisation to review the Horizon survey. The feedback from this confirmed concerns that the methodology was flawed and the sample produced a biased result, which varied considerably from other robust surveys.  Horizon however strongly defended the quality of their research.

Taranaki Daily News 16/10/12

 

Speed cameras improved

Drivers of heavy and towing vehicles will be closely monitored when police begin using better speed camera technology.

Police have updated speed cameras throughout New Zealand to enable the differentiation between general traffic and heavy or towing vehicles.  The open road speed limit for motor vehicles weighing more than 3500kg is 90kmh, and for school buses, 80kmh.  Vehicles towing trailers must also adhere to a 90kmh speed limit on the open road.

Changes mean heavy or towing vehicles previously not detected by speed cameras unless travelling at more than 110kmh will be identified as speeding if doing more than 95kmh.  Cameras will continue to detect general traffic travelling more than 110kmh.

Otago Daily Times 17/10/12

 

Case thrown out over false arrest

A judge has thrown out a Crown case against 21 accused because police fooled a court into prosecuting an undercover officer.

Justice France has ordered a stay of proceedings in prosecutions of those arrested as part of the police's Operation Explorer, which was a crackdown on motorcycle gang members.

During the investigation, a fake search warrant was prepared, and Justice France said a search warrant could be issued only by a judicial officer.

''This fake warrant, unappealingly described to me by the officers involved as "a prop", purported to be signed by a judicial officer,'' he said.

''The police scrawled an apparent signature ... asserting the warrant has been issued by a deputy registrar, name indecipherable.''

An undercover officer using the name Michael Wiremu Wilson infiltrated the Red Devils in Nelson and police orchestrated a false arrest to boost his criminal credentials.

"However one looks at it, a fraud is being committed on the courts," Justice France said about the false arrest, and ''the court's processes can truly be said to have been abused, first by the use of the warrant, and second, by the laying of a false charge.''

He said judges had been treated ''in a disrespectful way.''

A prosecutor and the defence lawyer were also misled.

He concluded it was ''a fundamental and serious abuse of the court's processes''.

Justice France said: ''The courts are not part of police investigation. There is and can be no suggestion of collaboration. The court is independent and sworn to treat all who come before it equally and without favour.''

Operation Explorer was headed by Detective Inspector Grant Wormald, who also supervised the joint FBI-police raid on Kim Dotcom's Coatesville home for the Organised and Financial Crime Agency.

The Press 24/10/12

 

Police on to anti-royals

Police have started keeping tabs on anti-royals who might disrupt Prince Charles' visit here next month

Lewis Holden, chairman of the Republican Movement of New Zealand, received a visit from a detective from the threat-assessment unit to ask what plans he had for Charles' visit.

Security expert Dr Paul G. Buchanan said it was normal for police to plan ahead and "tell some of the loudmouths to shut up."

New Zealand Herald 28/10/12

 

Dodgy taxi drivers can block video

Taxi companies can say no to police requests for security camera footage from cabs if their drivers are the ones misbehaving.

Since last August, video cameras have been compulsory in all taxis as part of new laws aimed at making the industry safer for drivers and passengers.

The Taxi Federation says the move has "dramatically" improved the behaviour of drunk passengers and reduced taxi crime, including serious assaults and robberies of drivers, but it recently reminded its members they have no legal obligation to hand over footage that could incriminate those behind the wheel.

The issue arose after a Dunedin driver was accused of overloading by another taxi driver this year. Police accessed the security footage and the driver was fined as a result.

That prompted the federation to challenge the Transport Agency, which is now drafting new operational policy guidelines to let its staff know that not all taxi video is unrestricted.

Federation executive director Tim Reddish said it was important drivers had that level of protection to stop rival taxi drivers making "frivolous" competition-generated complaints, as was the case in Dunedin.  If that culture continued it could see drivers commit a criminal offence by moving their cameras or covering the lens to avoid detection, hindering the ultimate goal of deterring crime, he said.

"The taxi industry will always co-operate with the police . . . and there are many, many instances since cameras have come in where we have . . . 99 times out of 100, we supply the footage.

"We got cameras in there for the protection of taxi drivers and passengers from serious incidents. Not for tit-for-tat complaints where one driver is against another."

Mr. Reddish did not think the legislation was handing taxi drivers a licence to misbehave, as the company would decide whether to hand over the footage. "The drivers have no access to it."

Police could also seek a search warrant if a complaint was serious enough.

New Zealand Herald 6/10/12

 

PRIVACY

'Staggering' security breach at Winz

Thousands of files on the Ministry of Social Development's computer servers, including the personal details of at-risk children, have been accessed through a Wellington Work and Income jobseeker kiosk.

Journalist and blogger Keith Ng described how he went into a Work and Income (WINZ) office and used a self-service kiosk, normally used to look at job vacancies, to access up to 3500 files on the agency's server, "just using the Open File dialogue in Microsoft Office."

Mr. Ng said the files were PDF copies of ministry files and he has posted screen shots of what he found online.  He said he had managed to view an invoice to a community group who had supported a family after their family member attempted suicide, including the person's name, invoices relating to children in Child Youth and Family (CYF) care, including addresses, sensitive client case notes, the names of candidates for adoption and passwords in plain text.

Ministry Deputy Chief Executive Marc Warner said the ministry was concerned about the breach and an urgent investigation would be carried out.  "We have closed all kiosks in all sites across the country to ensure no further information can be accessed. They will not be reopened unless, and until we can guarantee they are completely secure and we have obtained independent assurance from security experts”, he said.

Otago Daily Times 15/10/12

 

Bars' use of ID scanners raises concern

A new technology that scans and records photo IDs, as well as taking additional photos of bar customers, is being trialled throughout the lower North Island.

There are three ID scanning machines in the country, with two in Auckland and the third being moved around from Wellington to Hawke's Bay.  So far the security system has been used on patrons at Trinity Group bars Cambridge Hotel in Wellington, the Empire Hotel in Palmerston North, and Turks Bar in Havelock North.  ID Scanner director Thomas Rawson said another two machines had been ordered from overseas.

The ID-checking systems have the support of the bars, but the Office of the Privacy Commissioner has questioned their credentials.

Jeremy Smith, managing director of Trinity Group, said the scanner would not work for every bar because of its "large and cumbersome" size.  It includes a monitor, which can blow up ID images; a camera, to take additional photos for comparison; and a scanner.

The scanner is used to identify fraudulent IDs, and to record who has entered a bar and how many times a single ID card is used.  Mr. Smith said if all the bars in Wellington used the scanners, troublesome revellers could be banned from town.

Wellington area tactical co-ordinator Senior Sergeant Hamish Milne said the scanners could be useful for police wanting to track down witnesses.

However, a spokeswoman for the privacy commissioner said the scanners raised a number of concerns.

"You have to play by the rules. If these bars are collecting the information through scanning, they have to be clear and upfront as to exactly why they're doing so.

"Are people given an option? People who are concerned about the collection of their personal information may have justifiable reasons - does the bar make allowances for this?"

Bars must ensure no-one could access the stored data for any reason other than security on the premises, she said.

Dominion Post 18/10/12

 

 

Privacy fears block police smart-phone ID bid

Police want to be able to use smart-phones to access driver licence photographs on the roadside, to stop people they pull over without identification from using false names.  However, Police Minister Anne Tolley says it is not possible because it would breach privacy rules.

Tolley said such a move would require going back to every driver in New Zealand to ask them to explicitly agree to waive their rights under the Privacy Act.

"It's a serious privacy issue and it would be an enormous step for New Zealanders to take. It would be almost moving towards a police state."

Privacy expert and barrister John Edwards said "The licence is there to demonstrate your authority to drive a vehicle on New Zealand roads. It shouldn't migrate into being a de-facto national ID card.”

Otago Daily Times 21/10/12

 

Police got Dotcom's bank details

Police got personal banking details of Kim Dotcom and his staff without getting a search warrant in a move that has implications for bank customers.

Banks, including the ANZ, BNZ and Westpac, turned the information over after deciding there was no Privacy Act reason not to.

The police request referred the banks to a Privacy Act principle that allowed them to release information to "avoid prejudice to the maintenance of the law by any public sector agency including the prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution, and punishment of offences."

The mechanism led to banks releasing, without a legal warrant, the name of the account holder, the account number and home address.

Assistant Privacy Commissioner Katrine Evans said it was up to agencies asked for information to form a "reasonable belief...They need to make their own judgment calls but simply because the request comes from the police isn't necessarily enough."

New Zealand Herald 27/10/12

 

Numberplate tracker may be illegal

Police software that automatically collects numberplates to catch offenders could be illegal, the privacy commissioner says.

The tracking technology, known as automatic numberplate recognition, has already been condemned overseas, where critics have likened it to Big Brother-style surveillance.  The New York Police Department used it to spy on mosques and track worshippers through their numberplates.

In New Zealand, it is still being tested by police, but the Office of the Privacy Commissioner has questioned whether even a trial is legal.

There are particular concerns about police gathering information without people's knowledge, which could then be retained and possibly used for other purposes.

Police have been testing the technology for the past two years, driving unmarked vans through Wellington to capture random numberplates.  The police manual on the technology prohibits gathering information on anyone not suspected of "unlawful activity."  The trial has been used to identify disqualified drivers, stolen vehicles and other "vehicles of interest." Police can also use it to check alibis and track the movement of vehicles used in a crime.

Dominion Post 31/10/12

 

SPYING

The Dotcom case (1)

Police are to investigate illegal spying on Kim Dotcom and his co-accused Bram van der Kolk, after it emerged Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) agents illegally snooped on Dotcom and van der Kolk in the run-up to the raid on his home.  They are both New Zealand residents, which protects them from spying.

 Independent QC Kristy McDonald will review the inquiry and advise whether       charges should be laid.

The Dotcom case (2)

Telecom engineers investigated irregularities in Kim Dotcom's internet connection weeks before GCSB has said it started spying on him, and found that it was being diverted inside New Zealand. Government Communications Security Bureau says it started spying on him.

Asked about the possibility of earlier spying, a spokeswoman said the Prime Minister had sought and received "a fresh assurance" the GCSB and Security Intelligence Service had not carried out any surveillance before December 16.

A Telecom spokeswoman said the company would not give information to the police of "any other government agency" unless legally forced to do so.

Stuff.co.nz 2/10/12; NZ Herald 5/10/12

 

 

Liberty Watch - October/November 2013

Civil liberties news for October/November 2013.

Censorship

Forbidden book furore

The only book ever to be banned from Auckland Libraries is being reviewed for reinstatement into the collection. The Central City Library held a copy of the controversial graphic novel Lost Girls in 2008 and quickly pulled it off the shelves following counsel from the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC).  “Their advice at the time was that if we had the book and it was later banned then we might be liable for prosecution," Collections manager Louise LaHatte explained.

Auckland Libraries purchases more than 500,000 books each year and never sends them to the censor.  Unlike films, books get classified only if someone thinks they are offensive and demands they be checked.  Lost Girls has never been submitted to the OFLC for classification.

Auckland-based comic artist Dylan Horrocks was among those who requested the book be bought back into the library's collection.  "It is a challenging work. But part of the role of libraries is to make work that is challenging available to people that wouldn't otherwise be able to access," he said.

Stuff.co.nz 25/10/13

 

Census

100 face prosecution for dodging census

Statistics New Zealand (SNZ) has announced about 100 people will be prosecuted for not completing their census form.  Everyone in New Zealand on census night is legally required to complete their form or have it completed for them.

However, it was not too late to hand the form in, "While it has been over seven months since census night, we will continue to accept completed forms throughout the prosecutions process," SNZ said.

When deciding if to prosecute, SNZ take into consideration the type of offence, the personal circumstances of the person and the likelihood of success. 

In 2006, after the last census, SNZ prosecuted 72 people, resulting in 41 convictions.

The Press 25/10/13

 

Criminal Justice

Ageing sex offenders may die in prison

New Zealand's ageing sex offenders could wind up dying in prison because of a lack of suitable community support facilities, even if they present little or no risk to the public.

Corrections Department figures show more than 200 pensioner-aged offenders are behind bars, including 97 prisoners aged 70 years and older and 13 prisoners aged 80 years and older.  Thirty-three elderly prisoners are serving sentences of preventive detention.

Rethinking Crime and Punishment executive director Phil McCarthy said the Parole Board considered the level of community support available to elderly inmates when deciding parole applications. "The board has to be confident that they can release these aged people and they will get the level of support they need to be risk-free in the community," he said. 

"The board often finds these inmates are being well cared for in a low-security environment and conclude this is the best environment for them because there aren't really any options for them in the community.”

Mr. McCarthy said it was "hard to imagine" a bed-ridden inmate presenting a risk to the community, "but the Parole Board has to consider, case by case, what the alternative care proposals are for the inmate and I suspect increasingly they're saying, ‘well there isn't one’.

"I think to some extent you can say it's a pretty dreadful indictment on our society that the best option for these inmates is for them to remain in prison.”

Sensible Sentencing Trust member Paula Hastings said a prisoner's age should have no bearing on whether or when they were released back into the community.  She said offenders sentenced to preventive detention had a history of serious offending.

"Unless there are suitable community care facilities for these inmates they should be kept locked up. The majority are proven sex offenders who deserve to be where they are."

Waikato Times 1/10/13

 

Transgender Prisoner Rights Issues

The equal Justice project has raised concerns that transgender people are especially vulnerable in prisons due to the disconnect between their state-recognised gender and their personal, inherent gender identity. 

The group argues that the identity crisis that many transgender people face is a classified mental illness (Gender Identity Disorder) and being a transgender person is a recognised medical condition. Still, transgender prisoners are not allowed to ‘commence’ treatment for issues related to their transgender identity while in prison under current corrections policy.

The other issue transgender prisoners faced was in their accommodation.  Under previous corrections policy, only those who have completed gender reassignment surgery have the option of being placed in the prison of their identified gender.  This can create a real danger of harm for these individuals.

Scoop.co.nz 3/10/13

 

Change to legal aid a concern

Legal aid spending is down as measures to tighten the government-funded scheme take effect.  Since March last year, legal aid for criminal cases has been paid on a "fixed-fee" basis rather than at an hourly rate.

Palmerston North lawyer Peter Coles expressed concerns about the fixed-fee model saying it provided financial incentives for early guilty pleas, as opposed to taking less serious matters to a defended hearing when required.

Guilty-plea payments range from $300 to $390, while a lawyer who takes on a defended matter could get as little as $100 to $200 extra, covering up to 90 minutes of hearing time, preparation and initial court appearances.

A not-guilty plea could mean three or four trips to court, an "apple box full of documents" to wade through and long "stream of consciousness" police interviews to watch, Mr. Coles said, "I don't think fixed-fees are the answer, because there is a disincentive if people aren't doing their job properly…There's no doubt that fixed-fees, along with a lot of other changes in the criminal justice system, have the potential to deliver expedient results rather than just results.”

Manawatu Standard 7/10/13

 

Convict's human rights breached

A convict who was sentenced to solitary confinement for an unlawfully long three-week period had his human rights beached, the Court of Appeal has found, but rejected his bid for $50,000 in compensation, finding it could not award damages because he did not use all the complaints mechanisms available to him.

The prisoner, John Vogel, had asked the visiting District Court judge to sentence him to 21 days of confinement so he could deal with his drug habit.  The judge agreed, even though the sentence was longer than the legal limit of 15 days in confinement.

Vogel was confined to his cell for 23 hours a day, with only one hour to shower and exercise, and no access to visitors, a telephone, radio or television.

In the High Court, Vogel argued his confinement was in breach of the Bill of Rights Act, which holds that prisoners should be treated with humanity and respect for their inherent dignity.  He also argued he was not regularly visited by doctors and the prison's superintendent, and instead received daily visits from prison guards and nurses, which breached the Penal Institutions Act.

Vogel gave evidence that his mental health had suffered, describing his confinement as stressful and “maddening".

The High Court rejected his claim, finding that while his confinement was excessive, it was not disproportionately severe, particularly considering the circumstances in which the sentence was imposed.  Vogel appealed to the Court of Appeal, which found his confinement was in breach of the Bill of Rights Act and the Penal Institutions Act.

New Zealand Herald 7/11/13

 

Equal Marriage

Over 100 same-sex marriages already

Statistics New Zealand figures have shown that there were 117 same-sex marriages in the September quarter, the first since the same-sex exchanging of marriage vows was legalised in April.

The first same-sex couple married on August 19, and since then the newlyweds have comprised 56 male and 61 female couples. Only 77 of the couples were Kiwis, with the rest making a special trip to New Zealand from overseas to legally exchange vows.

The Press 5/11/13

 

Equal pay

Statistics show Government action needed on gender pay gap

The income figures from the New Zealand Income Survey show that there has been no progress in reducing the gender pay gap, says spokesperson for the Pay Equity Challenge Coalition, Angela McLeod, noting that, “Using average hourly earnings there remains a 13% gap between what men and women are earning”.

The Pay Equity Challenge Coalition uses average hourly ordinary time earnings for the gender pay gap.  It is the indicator that the New Zealand Income Survey has used since 1974 to monitor the impact of the Equal Pay Act 1972.

The Government continues to cite median hourly earnings to indicate the gender pay gap, which makes the earnings gap appear narrower. But a far bigger proportion of men than women are at the really high end of the distribution and the median takes much less account of this than the average.  But there is no narrowing of the gap even with the median. In fact there is an increase from last year from 9.3% to 10.1% for part timers and full timers combined.

Scoop.co.nz 4/10/13

 

Freedom of Speech

Fine for burqa remarks questioned

Farm worker Yuet Rappard should not have been fined for telling a foreign student to remove her burqa, Otago University religious freedom professor Rex Ahdar has said, and free speech professor Andrew Geddis added that Rappard's view was valid and pointed out that a Supreme Court ruling allowed people to cause offence, and upset others, to maintain the freedom of speech.

Rappard was found guilty of offensive behaviour and fined $500 for telling a student on May 17 in a Dunedin supermarket to remove her burqa or leave New Zealand.

Prof Ahdar said, “Only in the most exceptional circumstances would I have criminal liability for speech and this isn't one of them…The inciting of a riot, or threatening to kill, was worthy of criminal liability but insulting somebody was not.”

Prof Geddis said Rappard was fined because if a person behaved in an offensive way in public they had committed an offence, if a “reasonable person'' would find the behaviour offensive.

However, Geddis pointed out that the Supreme Court had ruled that people could cause an offence and upset other people so free speech meant something,''Because if you can't offend people with your speech, well then you don't really have a right to free speech at all, you can only say things that everyone agrees with and there is not much point to that.’'

For something to be deemed offensive, it had to create a risk to public order, he said. “It's not enough to cause people to be upset inside themselves; you have to have some impact on the public sphere.’'

The law then needed to decide if the public should have been offended by, or tolerated, the behaviour.  However, he believed Rappard had stepped over the line of respect and civility in the Dunedin supermarket, “in the way she treated the student, not in what she thought, what she thought was a quite valid view. A lot of people think the burqa is a bad symbol. It is how [Rappard] went about it, particularly if she used the words ‘dirty Muslim’.''

Otago Daily Times 26/10/13

 

Immigration

Immigration bars ex-Nazi

Former Australian Nazi and convicted felon Jim Saleam has been blocked from entering New Zealand to speak at a National Front rally in Wellington.

Saleam, who is leader of the right-wing Australia First political party, was stopped from boarding a flight from Sydney to Christchurch on Wednesday.  An Immigration New Zealand spokesman said Saleam's criminal convictions made him an "excluded person,” who was not eligible for a visa or entry permission without special exemption.

He spent 3 years in jail during the 1990s for organising a shotgun attack on the home of an African National Congress representative. He also spent two years in jail for insurance fraud.  In the 1970s, he was involved with the Nationalist Socialist Party of Australia and has been photographed wearing swastika armbands. 

Immigration NZ said Saleam was allowed into the country in March after declaring his convictions. But new information had since come to light that meant he was now required to apply for a Special Direction to visit.

The Dominion Post 6/10/13

 

Policing

Police criticised for excessive force at party close-down

The Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) released its report into 10 complaints against police conduct at a Khandallah party on September 5, 2009. IPCA chairman Sir David Carruthers said on the balance of probabilities, one party-goer, Mr. Christie, suffered a broken neck when he was hit with a baton by a member of the Tactical Policing Unit. 

"This force was excessive and contrary to the law," Sir David said.  The report was not able to identify the responsible officer.

Police also failed to conduct a timely, thorough and robust report which was "unjustified, unreasonable and unfair" to the complainants and police officers involved, Sir David said, "Such a delay is inexcusable.”

Police accepted the two specific recommendations made by the IPCA in relation to dealing with disorder situations on private property.  Police said they also accepted the IPCA's conclusion that the Tactical Policing Unit's decision to enter the property against the wishes of the occupants was contrary to law in this instance.

"In addition we accept the possibility that the neck injury suffered could have been caused by a police baton while the party was being shut down, however, the police investigation into this specific allegation was unable to identify sufficient evidence that met the threshold for initiating criminal proceedings," police said in a statement.  Even if Mr. Christie was struck, it was probably an accident and officers had acted in "good faith,” the statement also said. "The fact that force was used is regrettable . . . but it was done with the best of intentions."

Police also regretted that several weeks after the party, a police employee leaked information to the media in relation to their investigation into the allegations.

Police also accepted that extensive delays occurred during their internal investigation into the incident and it was regrettable it had taken four years for this matter to reach this point.

"We acknowledge that not enough resources were initially allocated to the case to ensure a robust and timely investigation was conducted.”

The authority's report reveals a police internal investigation eventually found that officers had broken the law by forcing entry into the party, but the complainants were never told of that conclusion. Instead, police wrote to them, claiming the officers had been cleared of wrongdoing. "The authority considers this omission to be misleading and unfair."

The authority says police did not investigate complaints in a "thorough and unbiased" way, and interviewed only four of the 11 officers.  Police had refused to provide pictures of the officers at the scene so that Mr. Christie could identify the one who hit him.

Iain Morrison, who represented some of the partygoers, said there was a "culture of corruption'' in the police force, and that it was outrageous that the officer who struck Mr. Christie had not been identified. "You really have to ask yourself, there's up to a dozen police officers at the property and none of them knows who struck Jakob [Christie]. I find it absolutely incredible.”

New Zealand Herald 17/10/13 & The Dominion Post 18/10/13

 

Evaluation of new pepper spray underway

New Zealand Police is currently evaluating the potential use of a more concentrated form of OC (Oleoresin Capsicum) pepper spray.  National Manager Operational Services, Inspector Jason Ross, said the evaluation, which follows a recent trial in the Bay of Plenty Police District, will consider the effectiveness of the more concentrated spray against the current version being used by Police, which has the lowest concentration of capsicum currently available.

The new spray contains approximately six times more capsicum than the current spray, meaning that it has a more effective immediate impact, and takes slightly longer to wear off. 

Ross claims that, ”Since the introduction of OC spray, as its use has become more common, there has been a corresponding levelling off in its effectiveness over time. This is consistent with our own research and what has happened internationally among other Police jurisdictions, the vast majority of whom have already moved to the enhanced spray.”

As part of the trial, Mr. Ross said Police had tried different spray configurations, including a liquid "stream" spray and a gel version.

From 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2013, OC spray was used nationally 1505 times, while the new version of the spray has been deployed 119 times over a seven month period during the separate Bay of Plenty trial.

Scoop.co.nz 5/11/13

 

Police investigated again over spy agencies

The Independent Police Conduct Authority is investigating whether police neglected their duties in their handling of a complaint against spy agency the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) over alleged illegal spying on New Zealanders.

The police two months ago completed an investigation into the GCSB's surveillance of Kim Dotcom and his associate Bram van der Kolk. The spying was done at the request of the police ahead of their raid on the Dotcom mansion early last year.  In their findings, the police said the GCSB's spying was illegal but as GCSB staff did not act with criminal intent, no-one would be held accountable.

They also decided against further investigation of alleged illegal spying on 85 other New Zealanders after reviewing the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Paul Neazor's report on the matter.

Greens co-leader Russel Norman, who laid the original complaint, confirmed the conduct authority had decided to investigate a new complaint he laid in response to the police findings.

One of three issues raised by Dr. Norman was that leading barrister Kristy McDonald, who was hired by the police to review the investigation's findings, had a potential conflict of interest because of her previous work for the police and because she was acting for them in an ongoing court case against Mr. Dotcom.

Dr. Norman also has complained that the police said they wouldn't bring charges because they couldn't prove "criminal intent" by GCSB staff but the relevant laws don't require criminal intent to be established; also the police relied on Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Paul Neazor's findings that the GCSB's potentially illegal spying on 85 other New Zealanders was "arguably" legal rather than investigating the cases themselves.

Otago Daily Times 31/10/13

 

Police add 'sponge gun' to arsenal

Police will arm some specialist police units with a new non-lethal sponge gun, which will however cause pain, bruising and abrasions when they hit a person.

The gun will fire 40mm projectiles that have a high-density sponge nose designed to spread its energy across 4.5 times the surface area of a bullet.  Police media adviser Ross Henderson said the impact is unlike any other projectile, adding, “the impact from the sponge round is probably best described as like a hard punch. “

The sponge round is manufactured by American company Safariland.  Its website lists its velocity at 99 metres per second, roughly the same velocity as a typical paintball shot. It describes it as an excellent solution to incapacitate a single subject or control a crowd. The optimal range is five to 36 metres, although it may be used in situations from two to 50 metres, the website said.

They rounds are fired from a 40mm gas launcher already available to police and will be used by the Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch Armed Offenders Squad and national Special Tactics Group.  Police National Tactical Groups Commander, Superintendent Bruce Dunstan, said the rounds would be used in situations where previously firearms may have been the only remaining option.

Police consulted with the Independent Police Conduct Authority and other interest groups before introducing the sponge round. Its use has also been independently reviewed by researchers, Dunstan said.

The Dominion Post 29/11/13

 

Privacy

All-of-government privacy officer a smart move, says Privacy Commissioner

The Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff today welcomed the government’s announcement that it was creating the role of Government Chief Privacy Officer.

She said, “the need for the government to have expert internal advice on privacy has been obvious for some time. These days, good stewardship and protection of people’s information is a must for any organisation.

“This move brings the government sector into line with many large private sector organisations. Global internet giants and banks position responsibility for privacy at a very senior level. This ensures that the company gets advice on how to protect the people who entrust it with their personal information.”

Scoop.co.nz 19/11/13

 

Race

Drug law enforcement discriminates against Māori

Māori are significantly more likely to be arrested and convicted for cannabis offences because drug laws are enforced in a discriminatory way, a Cannabis and Health Symposium in Auckland was told. Khylee Quince, Associate Dean (Māori) at the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Law, said while less than five percent of personal cannabis possession cases result in prosecution, 34 percent of the prosecutions that do occur are of Māori.

“While the Misuse of Drugs Act itself is not racially discriminatory, the way it is applied and enforced clearly is.  Māori are more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested and convicted, and are much less likely to benefit from police discretion,” Ms Quince said.

“This is something that should concern all New Zealanders because it breaches the Human Rights Act and the Treaty of Waitangi which promises equal citizenship for Māori and equal treatment under the law.”

Ms Quince said decriminalisation of cannabis would only address the immediate issues of discriminatory enforcement for Māori. “That’s only one aspect of the problem. What we also need is more open discussion and Māori presentation at a justice system level.”

She said she thought New Zealand’s use of the law to identify and solve problems, for example youth and drug courts, was encouraging, but that she was sceptical about the current role of tikanga and kaupapa Māori in those processes, and that, “We need to be more involved and have a voice at the table so we can help ensure we retain our unique position as Māori.”

Scoop.co.nz 28/11/13

 

Refugees

The New Zealand High Court has denied the bid of a man from Kiribati to be recognised as a climate change refugee.  Kiribatian man Ioane Teitiota said the rising sea levels in the Pacific island nation, has prompted him to remain in New Zealand even though his work visa had expired. He said there was no land in which he and his family can live on safely if they are forced to go back.

Kiribati is a low-lying island vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and despite the claims of the world's first climate change refugee, the judge ruled that problems with the environment are not included in the list of internationally recognised criteria for Mr. Teitiota to be declared as a refugee.

New Zealand High Court Justice John Priestley said returning to his homeland Kiribati will not result in a sustained human rights violation such as the right to life, food and shelter.

Mr. Teitiota had challenged the decision of the judge and argued that the 37-year-old "refugee" and his New Zealand-born children will suffer harm if he goes back to Kiribati due to the pressures of rising sea levels and overpopulation.

Michael Kidd, Mr. Teitiota's legal representative said the case hits the outdated refugee laws that were drawn up at the end of the Second World War.  Mr. Kidd said the refugee laws should include people who are trying to avoid the catastrophic effects of climate change.

International Business Times 27/11/13

 

Right to Protest

No notice for oil-wells receives Taranaki Council backing

A law change meaning the public will not be informed of new offshore oil wells has been supported by the Taranaki Regional Council, but Chairperson of the Aotearoa Human Rights Lawyers Association Edward Miller is concerned the decision will strip New Zealand public of the right to know.

"The right to participate in public affairs is a fundamental human right that ought not to be traded for unproven economic gains," Mr. Miller said.

Exploratory offshore drilling will be classified as a non-notified activity meaning the public are not involved in the decision-making process, but Taranaki Regional Council director of resource consent Fred McClay said the public need not worry as long as the wells were regulated and managed properly.

David Marshall, the owner of Ahu Ahu Beach Villas in Oakura, said sturdy measures should be in place to keep the coastal environment safe, clean and pristine and that it was important for the public to be involved in the decision-making process around offshore drilling.

"When big money is involved and the monitoring agencies or government stand to gain from granting consents, it is wise and for the good of all to have transparency with regard to these issues,” he said.

Earlier this year the government used a law change to curtail the public's right to protest at sea.

Taranaki Daily News 2/10/13

 

Spying

Spy boss says ex-MP Keith Locke not spied on

Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) boss Ian Fletcher has confirmed former Green MP and activist Keith Locke was not among the 88 New Zealanders his bureau may have spied on illegally. Mr. Fletcher made the rare admission after initially refusing to answer, prompting Mr. Locke to take the matter to the Privacy Commissioner.

Mr. Locke said he was please to finally get the information from Mr. Fletcher, "and I hope that GCSB now adopts a policy of more reasonable openness to requests from others who ask whether they are among the 88 people.”

Asked whether Mr. Fletcher's decision indicated he would provide an answer to similar questions from others, a GCSB spokeswoman said: "We consider each request on its merits, and if a requester isn't happy with a response they can take it up with the Privacy Commissioner.’’

New Zealand Herald 6/11/13

 

Surveillance Cameras

Surveillance cameras in a suburban township will soon use automatic number plate recognition to search for stolen vehicles.  Once the system on Howick's Picton Street identifies a wanted car it will immediately send a message to the police control room with the number plate and a picture.

Tech Liberty's Thomas Beagle said that he is not aware of any other fixed surveillance camera in New Zealand using such technology, but "If it's just identifying vehicles that the police are looking for and telling the police about it, it's probably not that bad.”   However, if the information is stored then that could be an issue, he noted.

Howick Village Association president Jenny Foster has pushed for the technology and says the cameras are for the community, not just Howick's retailers. "The car of interest might not necessarily be doing a robbery here but it can still be flagged," she says.

Stuff.co.nz 6/11/13

 

Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

Call for Key to stop misleading New Zealanders that Parliament has power over the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

“The government seems intent on misleading New Zealanders that Parliament will have the final say about the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement(TPPA),” says Professor Jane Kelsey.

The Prime Minister claimed on TV3s Firstline that Parliament gets to debate and ratify the treaty once it is agreed, but Kelsey states that, “this mistruth has been repeated so many times by Ministers and National MPs that it has to a deliberate attempt to defuse growing concerns about the secrecy of these negotiations and anti-democratic nature of the agreement.”

The Cabinet Manual says, in unequivocal terms, “7.112: In New Zealand, the power to take treaty action rests with the Executive.”  In practice, that means the Cabinet decides whether to enter into negotiations, the negotiating mandate and any revisions to it, and what trade-offs are made to conclude a deal.  Cabinet then approves the signing of the text agreed to by the Minister.

The Cabinet Manual confirms that by signing an agreement the executive is indicating an intention for New Zealand to be bound to that text.  This constitutes a good-faith obligation under international law. Parliament does not get to see the text until after it is signed.  The text is then tabled in Parliament and referred to a select committee, but the committee cannot change the text, nor can Parliament.

Even if a parliamentary majority voted against the TPPA, Cabinet still has the power to ratify it, and indeed would be expected to under international law.

Groser and Key will be assuming this does not become an issue, because Labour has supported such agreements in the past, Kelsey claims, but “David Cunliffe’s call for release of the draft text so people can assess its implications shows that support can no longer be assumed.”

Scoop.co.nz 1/10/13

 

Welfare

Crackdown on welfare fraud

New measures to crack down on beneficiaries who have previously cheated the system have been introduced.

The 'low trust client' rules are aimed at preventing those with a history of benefit fraud from repeating the abuse.  It will apply to people who have been convicted of welfare fraud in the past or had overpayments established following a fraud investigation.  The new law will apply to an estimated 1500 per year, the Government says.

"These people have proven, through their own actions, that they are willing to be dishonest with the welfare system and take money they are not entitled to," said associate social development minister Chester Borrows.

"With these new measures we will have sensible steps to prevent them repeating this behaviour, such as requiring them to deal face-to-face with a single case manager.”

The changes are part of a series of measures announced by the Government earlier this year in a bid to "better prevent, detect and punish welfare fraud.”  The measures include changing the law to hold partners of beneficiaries complicit in 'relationship' fraud offending to account; joint agency fraud investigations; and enhanced information sharing between the Ministry of Social Development and Inland Revenue.

However the new measures lack justification and may breach international human rights obligations it has been argued by the New Zealand Law Society.

In its submission to the Social Services Committee the Law Society raised concerns over aspects of the Social Security (Fraud Measures and Debt Recovery) Amendment Bill.

Under the changes, the spouse or partner of a beneficiary who has committed fraud will be liable for the full amount of money so obtained if they benefited, directly or indirectly, from the fraud knowingly, or ought to have known they were benefitting from the fraud.

The Law Society’s Jeremy Finn says while there is no objection to proper accountability in relationship fraud, the amendment imposes a more stringent "ought to have known" standard on partners of fraudulent beneficiaries compared to those partners of other fraudsters.

"The Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009 establishes a carefully considered regime for the recovery of benefits derived directly or indirectly from ‘significant criminal activity’.  This proposed departure from the Act should be subject to careful scrutiny. No justification is apparent in the Regulatory Impact Statement for the proposed more stringent standard.”

He adds there are already laws in place to deal with such actions, and the proposal represents a departure from the general principles of criminal law.

"There exist a number of options to penalise positive acts or intentional omissions by a fraudulent beneficiary's spouse or partner to assist that beneficiary to obtain a benefit or level of benefit by fraud or other offending, to conceal that offending or to launder money received.”

The Law Society’s Joss Opie says the Social Security Act currently gives the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) discretion to whether welfare debt should be recovered. The Bill proposes to replace that discretion with a duty to take all reasonably practicable steps to recover debt. It also proposes that in some circumstances, MSD’s chief executive may disregard "relevant considerations" when recovering debt, including the effect of recovery on living standards.

This may impact on New Zealand’s compliance with its obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. These include an obligation to realise the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living including those on social welfare and their children.

"In the Law Society’s view, there would need to be very compelling justification for welfare debt recovery to take precedence over international human rights obligations and other relevant considerations. Such justification is not evident," says Mr. Opie.

The Law Society also noted that it has been constrained in submitting on the human rights implications of the Bill as a consequence of the apparent redaction of the human rights analyses in the relevant Cabinet papers.

voxy.co.nz 13/11/13 & Otago Daily Times 13/10/13

Liberty Watch - September 2011

Round-up of civil liberty news for September 2011.

CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE

Reporting Child Abuse

A package to make it easier for teachers to contact Child Youth and Family including a dedicated phone line has been announced by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett today.

CYF received 8300 notifications of possible abuse or neglect from teachers and school social workers in the past year, Ms Bennett said.

The education assist package has been established after Ms Bennett asked CYF to strengthen processes to respond better to school reports of abuse.

Parliament has recently passed a bill making it a criminal offence to turn a blind eye to child abuse.

New Zealand Herald 18/9/11

 

Anti Smacking Legislation

Over the period 22 December 2010 to 21 June 2011, police attended 456 child assault events, 18 of these events involved ‘smacking’ and 58 involved ‘minor acts of physical discipline’.

Of the 18 ‘smacking’ events, one resulted in prosecution, 12 resulted in a warning and 5 resulted in other / no further action being taken. Of the 58 ‘minor acts of physical discipline’ events, 9 resulted in prosecution, 38 resulted in warnings and 11 resulted in other / no further action being taken.

The smacking event prosecution involved a child being smacked at least five times on the buttocks with an open hand. The smacking was witnessed and reported to police by a neighbour.  The offender had a prior history of assaults and police laid a charge of Common Assault (Domestic). The defendant was ordered to come up for sentence if called upon by the Court over a one-year period.

There have now been 5 prosecutions for a ‘smacking’ event since enactment of the Amendment in June 2007.

The Press 30/9/11

 

School denied sniffer-dog drug search

Police are refusing to carry out random sniffer-dog drug searches at schools amid claims they are breaching pupils’ civil rights.

The move follows legal advice from police lawyers, but principals say they have lost a vital tool in the fight against drugs.

Although schools admit the random searches may be illegal if they cannot show just cause, they want the practice to continue until the legality is tested in court.

Education Minister Anne Tolley said a law change might be needed, because it was wrong for the rights of one or two pupils to take precedence over the rights of the whole school community.   Police, meanwhile, are drafting a new national policy detailing when they can assist schools, but they also appear to have stopped offering breathalysing services before school balls.

They will still help schools with searches but only when there is evidence of pupils carrying weapons or illicit drugs

Conducting blanket drug searches of schoolchildren without reasonable cause is discriminatory and a breach of the Bill of Rights Act, a civil liberties lawyer says.

“No other New Zealand citizens are subject to the same intrusive search criteria,” lawyer Michael Bott said.

Mr Bott said innocent pupils were routinely singled out for random drug searches, which were “deemed OK by virtue of their age and the fact that they’re compelled to attend the school”.

Dominion Post 30/9/11

 

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Charges relating to Urewera raids dropped

The Crown has dropped charges against 11 of the 15 people charged after the nationwide raids, but said four would still face trial for participation in a criminal group and firearm charges.

The group facing charges began as 17 but has dwindled to four in the four years since the arrests.

Police originally sought prosecution under Terrorism Suppression laws, but the solicitor-general rejected this.

Crown Solicitor Simon Moore said that there was no longer enough evidence to continue against some and the others would have to be tried separately after the main trial.

That would be 4 1/2 years after they were charged, and the main trial would have to be subject to wide-ranging suppressions, and so was not practical or in the public interest.

The larger group was going to be tried before a judge-alone but now that it is only four they will be tried before a jury in February 2012. An amended indictment was presented in the High Court at Auckland specifying that the objectives of the group were one or more of: murder, arson, intentional damage, endangering transport, wounding with intent, aggravated wounding, discharging a firearm, using a firearm against a law enforcement officer, or kidnapping.

Crown prosecutor Ross Burns said the Crown case relied heavily on video footage taken in the Urewera Ranges. The exercises are alleged to have taken place on private Maori-owned land. Police went onto the land after getting search warrants and installed motion-sensor cameras. A High Court ruling found that putting the cameras on private land was illegal and so the evidence could not be used.

New Zealand Herald 7/9/11, 17/9/11.

 

Criminal justice Reforms

Justice Minister Simon Power has made some changes to the controversial criminal justice reforms, committing to preserving the right to silence and substantially watering down other aspects to pass the bill with cross-party support.


The proposed changes now:

*Drop the pre-trial disclosure regime - described as an erosion of the accused’s right to remain silent and not having that held against them - from the bill altogether

*Allowing a defendant to choose a trial by jury if they are charged with an offence carrying a maximum penalty of more than two years’ jail, with no “exceptional circumstances” clause; the bill originally proposed a three-year threshold

*Allowing a trial to proceed in the absence of the accused for procedural hearings such as initial appearances, and preventing trials from proceeding if the defendant is absent and has a reasonable excuse, unless it would not prejudice the case; the bill originally required trials to proceed if the accused was unreasonably absent.

*Further restricting the ability of courts to impose fines for non-compliance in court procedure, by clarifying that this can only be done rarely and for significant non-compliance

*Remove the word “substantial” from the “miscarriage of justice” test.

New Zealand Herald 15/9/11

 

GAMBLING

The Legality of Office Sweepstakes

Internal Affairs has warned that office sweepstakes may be illegal.

Under the Gambling Act 2003, sweepstakes are considered a form of illegal gambling if the total value of all the prizes offered is more than $500, if someone is paid to run the sweepstake, or if some of the money is kept as profit.

Each sweepstake must pay its own prizes and the total value of all prizes in each sweepstake must not exceed $500.”

If the prize money goes over this, or the sweepstake organiser gets a cut, they are considered an illegal bookmaker.

Dominion post 9/9/11

 

MENTAL HEALTH

Patient smashed two windows to escape from secure room

A patient in a psychiatric ward smashed his way through two windows to regain his freedom.

About 7.30am on August 1, Palmerston North Hospital staff put a patient in a “secure room” by himself because he had tuberculosis and there were concerns it could spread to other patients. But, as defence lawyer Alan Knowsley told Palmerston North Court that under the Mental Health Act this was effectively unlawful imprisonment.

Community and justice liaison nurse Grahame Stillwell confirmed this.

The patient appeared in court on two charges of wilful damage resulting from his reaction to twice being put into a room by himself, and was convicted and discharged on both charges.

There was no order for reparation for the damage caused.

Manawatu Standard 16/9/11

 

NATIONAL SECURITY

NZ man denies al-Qaeda links

A New Zealand man alleged to have links with al-Qaeda says his life has been ruined because of an innocent mistake.

Mark Taylor was among 23 Australian-based people of security interest listed in a secret diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks.

He had been arrested trying to enter an al-Qaeda stronghold in Pakistan, claiming he was there only to find a Muslim wife.

He said he was arrested and tortured by the Pakistani military, who accused him of being a spy. During the torture he said he was working for “jihad” (holy war) due to the pressure he was under.

Mr Taylor has said, “I haven’t been taken to court, I haven’t been charged or anything. It’s all just basically a completely made up story to make me look bad.”

Prime Minister John Key said earlier this month that he was aware of Mr Taylor, and that “he’s someone that has quite a number of restrictions on him for very good reasons, without stating what the reservations where.

Otago Daily Times 12/9/11

 

POLICING

Man in hospital after police gassing

An armed man who was gassed during a stand off with the Hamilton Armed Offenders’ Squad this afternoon was hospitalized.

An eye witness described how “The armed defenders were trying to coax him out for about 45 minutes. And then they shot with shot guns, a sleepy gas into the bedroom windows.”

Officers wearing gas masks cleared the house.

Otago daily Times 14/9/11

 

Driver stopped for warning other drivers of speed trap

A man who flashed his headlights to warn another driver of a speed camera was pulled over by police

“I can’t remember the exact words; it was either inappropriate or excessive use of headlights,” he said.

It is against the law - with a penalty of $150 - to flash dazzling, confusing or distracting vehicle lights, although police say the law is used sparingly.

New Zealand herald 15/9/11

 

Covert Surveillance

Following the judgment in the Urewera raids case, the government is to pass temporary legislation suspending the judgment of the Supreme Court that covert surveillance on private property by the police is illegal.  The government expressed concern that it could impact on 40 trials and 50 police operations currently underway

New Zealand Herald 15/9/11

 

PRISONER RIGHTS

Female Prisoners and babies

Women in prison will now be able to keep their babies with them for longer, as the age limit for infants living in prison has been extended from nine months to two years. Plunket says the change is a step in the right direction, but says it should go further because international evidence shows the first three years of a child’s development are crucial.

newszealand.blogspot.com 18/9/11

 

PRIVACY

Blood samples to be kept indefinitely

Over two million blood-spot samples collected from newborn babies are to be kept indefinitely. ”Guthrie” cards have been collected from every baby born in New Zealand as part of a screening programme to identify and treat those born with serious metabolic disorders, such as cystic fibrosis. There has been mounting concern over access by researchers and others, and, in response, new governance arrangements were issued. Under these, individual written consent will be required for population research on samples collected before June this year.  ”Guthrie” cards were used to identify victims of the Christchurch earthquakes.

newszealand.blogspot.com 17/9/11

 

Reality TV Show breached privacy

The reality programmePolicetwice showed a man being arrested and taken to the police station to “detox” after solvent abuse.  The complainant’s first name was disclosed and his house was shown, in breach of privacy and fairness standards.

The Broadcasting Standards Authority held that the although the complainant’s face had been blurred he was identifiable due to use of his first name, full length shots of his body and clothing, footage of his property and street, recordings of his voice. Furthermore, the complainant’s solvent abuse was a private fact, and disclosure of complainant’s solvent abuse in the late 1990s would be highly offensive to an objective reasonable person, and it was unfair to re-broadcast footage more than 10 years after filming.  Public interest did not outweigh the complainant’s right to privacy.

The complainant said that his main concerns were that, first, he had not consented to the broadcast, and second, that the filming had taken place in the mid to late 1990s, and he had since “gotten on with my life”, but TVNZ had broadcast the footage two or three times.

scoop.co.nz 19/9/11

 

WELFARE

Take a drug test or lose benefits?

Addiction treatment services are raising the alarm about a proposal to penalise welfare beneficiaries who refuse to undergo drug tests or addiction treatment.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has backed drug testing.

"We expect it for people who're in work so why shouldn't we expect it for people who're looking for work? Frankly, I don't think that's too much to ask," she says.

Dr Paul Fitzmaurice of the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) says drug tests have increased from 30,000 to 40,000 a year three years ago to well over 100,000 a year. Paul Jarvie of the Employers and Manufacturers Association says testing now covers 40 to 50 per cent of the workforce.

New Zealand Herald  24/9/11

 

Liberty Watch - September 2013

Round up of civil liberty news from September 2013.

Criminal Justice

Criminals seek to overturn voting ban

Prisoner Arthur Taylor has teamed up with three other inmates to take the government to court over prisoners' rights to vote. 

Papers have been filed with the High Court in Auckland taking action against the Attorney General and Department of Corrections seeking a declaration that the blanket ban on prisoners voting contradicts basic human rights.

"As part of our case, we will be showing the court that the blanket ban on prisoner-voting cannot be justified by any society that considers itself free and democratic," Taylor said.

"It is of note that almost none of the countries that New Zealand likes to compare itself with have a blanket ban on prisoner-voting."

New Zealand removed the rights of all prisoners to vote in 2010 following a private member's bill.  Previously, only those sentenced to more than three years in jail or preventive detention were disqualified.

Prisoners' voting rights vary widely from nation to nation, with a limited few, such as Britain and Bulgaria, having a blanket ban, while most other Western nations either allow voting or limit it in some way.

Taylor said he became involved with the women involved in the case, who are all inmates at Christchurch Women's Prison, as "Many of [these women] have children and they have a deep interest in their education, and it is particularly apposite that they have a say in the welfare of their children...They cannot do this fully without having a say in the running of their country."

The full statement of claim asks for declarations against the Attorney General and Corrections that the blanket prohibition on prisoner voting is inconsistent with section 12 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, which provides that all citizens over 18 have the right to vote; New Zealand's international obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act is meant to protect and affirm; and the International Declaration of Human Rights.

 

Stuff.co.nz 6/913

 

Care at Otago Prison questioned after deaths

Police investigations into the death of an Otago remand prisoner have been stepped up following the involvement of New Zealand's police watchdog in the case.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) received a complaint from Wellington drug and alcohol counsellor Roger Brooking in March regarding patient medical treatment at Otago Corrections Facility.

Mr. Brooking laid the complaint after he found out police had done "absolutely nothing'' in investigating the February 2011 death of Jai Davis.  At the same time, Mr. Brooking also raised concerns with the IPCA about the police investigation into the October 2010 suicide of Otago prisoner Richard Barriball.

One month after Mr. Brooking laid his complaint, police dedicated a full-time team to Davis' investigation.

"Basically, he died two years ago and police had done absolutely nothing,'' Mr. Brooking said.

Police said officers had been investigating Davis' death on behalf of the coroner since it occurred, and that, "The investigation has been complex and has developed as new information has come to hand.''  They also stated that, "With regard to Richard Barriball, we confirm that we have been reviewing the investigation file in relation to his death.”

New Zealand Herald 24/9/13

 

Compensation for 'horrific' police beating

A man, who became a morphine-dependent invalid after a beating by a senior-ranking police officer, has won a five-year battle for compensation.

The man was left seriously injured after an attack by Senior Sergeant Ron Greatorex on May 6, 2005.

Greatorex was in an unmarked car, and not in uniform, when he flashed his lights to get Byfield to stop his SUV.  When Byfield stopped at a railway barrier, Greatorex, wearing blue police-issue overalls without any official police insignia, approached him and told him to get out of his car.  Byfield demanded to see formal police identification. Greatorex was unable to provide him with any.

Byfield, assuming Greatorex was just a workman, and fearing a possible road-rage incident, drove off.  Greatorex followed him home and delivered what witnesses described as a violent beating.

Greatorex then charged Byfield with failing to stop for a police officer, assaulting an officer and escaping custody.  Byfield was initially convicted, but that was quashed two years later on appeal to the High Court at Christchurch.

Byfield said he was left with such severe injuries after the assault he has still not recovered.

Police said Greatorex was investigated in 2011, but that, "none of the complaints made by Mr. Byfield were upheld," despite a High Court ruling quashing the man's convictions, and he still works as a senior-ranking police officer in Christchurch.

 

The Press 29/9/13

 

Disability Rights

Human Rights Commission calls for more sign language education

Schools and early childhood centres need more resources to teach New Zealand sign language, the Human Rights Commission has advised following a year-long inquiry into the into the use and promotion of the language.

It is one of 15 recommendations the commission made in its report of the inquiry, designed to help remove barriers experienced by deaf people.  Other recommendations included prioritising training in disability awareness and deaf culture, and sign language for early intervention health care staff.

The report also recommended the creation of an expert advisory group on sign language and a statutory board to take charge of promoting the value and use of sign language alongside the country's other official languages.

Disability Rights Commissioner Paul Gibson this morning told TV ONE's Breakfast the inquiry looked at the complaints the commission had received and found there had been changes in the deaf community's expectation, and that deaf people were not being included in many areas of life, through a lack of interpreters and a lack of support resources through the education system.

New Zealand sign language was made an official language in 2006, Mr. Gibson pointed out, and in 2008, New Zealand ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, "And we are seeing sign language now as a right, a right to communicate, a right for all people to express themselves," he said.

However, Mr. Gibson said sign language is "not resourced within our education system. It's not promoted when we first identify a deaf or hearing-impaired child, to their families. Families don't know the opportunity that this creates."

In a statement accompanying the release of the report, Mr. Gibson said deaf people and other NZSL users were often not able to access their right to education.

"Before and during this Inquiry we received many stories of people being denied their right to communicate using NZSL, and children and families being discouraged from learning it."

Mr. Gibson said sign language on television during the Christchurch earthquakes was great, when it happened, but there was a battle behind the scenes to actually make that happen.

"Deaf people in Canterbury were denied the basic information they needed to find water, to find the support and resources that everybody needed during those times of earthquake, with a lack of communication through other ways," he said.

"It was great when interpreters were eventually seen on TV alongside people giving out the vital information through those emergencies. But it did have to be fought for. That shouldn't happen again," Mr. Gibson told Breakfast.

TVNZ One News 3/9/13

 

Critics hit out at 'unjust' KFC policy

The Human Rights Commission has been called upon to investigate concerns that workers with disabilities are losing their jobs at KFC because of its restructuring policy.

The Unite Union said disabled workers had been let go in the past year because of a KFC policy for all staff to be capable of all duties.

Restaurant Brands general manager of people and performance Jennifer Blight refused to answer questions about the policy, apparently called "all star level" staffing.

"These [questions] pertain to employment-related issues between Restaurant Brands and employees, and as such are matters that we do not discuss publicly,” she said.

New Zealand Herald 1/9/13

 

Employment

Employment Relations Amendment Bill 'breaches human rights'

The Human Rights Commission (HRC) has made a critical submission on the Employment Relations Amendment Bill currently before the Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee.

They have emphasised the fundamental nature of rights at work and found that proposed changes to collective bargaining and union rights should be rejected as inconsistent with New Zealand's international obligations. The HRC comments that, "New Zealand is falling short of international benchmarks [developed to measure Decent Work], a situation that will be exacerbated by the passing of the Bill.”  The HRC also notes that since New Zealand's labour market is one of the most deregulated in the developed world "it is difficult to understand the justification for deregulating the New Zealand labour market even further, while at the same time breaching international obligations to protect employee's rights.”

Voxy.co.nz 6/9/13

 

Job personality tests may be illegal

Employment lawyers and psychologists say the increasing use of psychometric testing as part of restructures and redundancies in the public service could be illegal.

In July, The Dominion Post revealed the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and the Department of Conservation had used psychometric testing in this way.

At the ministry, 135 health and safety inspectors had to take psychometric personality tests as part of restructuring in February.

The Hogan Assessments' The Science of Personality test asked them to answer true or false to questions such as: "I hate opera singing;" "I like to try new, exotic foods"; "I can use a microscope"; and "my best friends know how to party."

An Employment Court decision earlier this year found a psychometric test was unfair and used "irrelevant criteria" for deciding on redundancies, when Judge Graeme Colgan awarded a former Transfield Services worker $15,000 for wrongful dismissal after a psychometric test was used as part of redundancy considerations.

He ruled the test was irrelevant, of dubious value and led to a "plainly wrong" conclusion.

Now, new information provided to the Public Service Association under the Official Information Act shows the use of psychometric tests for internal restructuring is widespread.

At least 12 government departments indicated they used the testing as part of restructuring or change management. It was used by all departments as a recruitment tool but some restricted its use to management roles.

Dominion Post 10/9/13

 

New Legislation

Child worker law changes receive unanimous backing

A major law change that will introduce compulsory security screening of up to 376,000 people working with children has been unanimously backed in Parliament at the first hurdle.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett welcomed the cross-party support for the Vulnerable Children Bill, saying she had tried to keep politics out of the wide-ranging child protection measures.

The bill will create two new Acts, the Vulnerable Children Act, which will require the screening of workers, and the Child Harm Prevention Orders Act under which courts could issue orders to prevent a person from associating with children for up to 10 years, even if they had not been convicted of a crime.

It has been sent to a select committee, which was expected to report back in March next year.

New Zealand Herald 18/9/13

 

Marine Legislation Bill and Human Rights

Chairperson of the Aotearoa Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA), Edward Miller, has expressed concerns about the process and human rights implications of the Marine Legislation Bill, which is now heading toward its third reading.

 

The Bill amends two other pieces of law, notably the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012, which regulates offshore oil drilling.  A subsequent supplementary order paper amends that legislation, allowing the Environment Minister to introduce regulations that designate exploratory oil drilling as a non-notified activity.  This would mean that applications for exploratory oil drilling could be made and granted without notifying the public, granting the Minister sole discretion to assess the risk of significant environmental damage.

 

Mr. Miller argues that, “The right to participate in public affairs is a fundamental human right that ought not be traded for unproven economic gains.”

 

Earlier this year the government used a supplementary order paper to remove the right to protest at sea. Documents later released show that these changes were the result of a deal between oil company Shell and Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce.

 

HRLA has made a submission on the Discussion Document, recommending that the Minister refrain from regulating to make exploratory oil drilling non-notified until a full and open human rights assessment has been undertaken.

 

Scoop.co.nz 25/9/13

 

Police Complaints

Commander upholds police complaints

Marlborough area police commander Inspector Simon Feltham has upheld veteran protester John Minto's complaints against police over their actions at the Waihopai spy base protest in January.

Minto said he had made several complaints about police in 30 years of protesting, but this was the first time one had ever been upheld, and two were upheld at once.

Minto had complained about two things: police officers at the protest breached policy by wearing Tasers; and that they acted unprofessionally in the way they dealt with a letter that the protest group was attempting to deliver to the base commander.

Feltham acknowledged that police had breached policy by wearing Tasers at a protest and that they had not acted to the professional standards police should.

Mr. Minto said the Independent Police Complaints Authority had initially taken the police's version to the letter and dismissed the complaint.  "I was furious,” he said, “and wrote to them saying they hadn't talked to witnesses and were just taking the police's view. They then referred both complaints back to police."

Feltham said the manner in which protests at the Waihopai Base were policed had been reviewed in order to minimise future issues.  This approach included more dialogue with protest groups and leaders during such events.

Marlborough Express 5/9/13

 

Spying

Privacy Commissioner accused of colluding with GCSB in cover up

Valerie Morse, one of the 17 people arrested in the Urewera raids, who requested details from the Privacy Commissioner about whether she was spied on by the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) has told that the Privacy Commissioner has upheld the GCSB’s ‘neither confirm nor deny’ response to people seeking to find out if they are among the 88 who were subject to illegal surveillance by the GCSB.    She claims that this illegal activity has now been sanctioned by the Privacy Commissioner who has refused to require that the GCSB come clean and advise people if they have had their rights violated, allowing the GCSB to use the exceptions in the Privacy Act to cover up the systematic illegalities by this rogue agency.

In a press release she stated, “We know that there is a legal opinion sitting with the Solicitor-General that clearly says that the actions of the GCSB in spying on 88 New Zealanders and permanent residents had no basis in law, and was therefore illegal. Will Crown Law now step in and initiate a prosecution against the agency or will it also collude in this cover-up?

“It is nonsensical to say that ‘national security’ will be compromised by telling people that their rights have been violated. National security is about protecting New Zealanders from exactly this type of activity, not about protecting the GCSB from public scrutiny and prosecution. The GCSB must advise those people who have been illegally spied upon; they have the right to know, and those people must have the right to take legal action against the GCSB. This is a cover up of epic proportions.” 

 

Scoop.co.nz 3/9/13

Liberty Watch April-May 2016

Censorship

Wicked Campers slogans ruled objectionable by Chief Censor

Three slogans on the vans of tourist rental company, Wicked Campers, have been ruled R16 by the Chief Censor and are now "objectionable publications".

The ruling against the three slogans means Wicked Campers faces a fine of up to $200,000 for each instance in which vans with the slogans are caught out in public. Enforcement is down to the police, which was the agency that raised the issue with the Chief Censor.

Associate Minister of Tourism Paula Bennett said slogans that promoted drug use and sexual violence "totally overstep the mark". She said further rulings were to come from the Chief Censor with the current three being those issues first raised.

The vans affected by the ban are those carrying slogans that linked drug use to images recognisable by children. One carried an image of Snow White using what appeared to be a crack cocaine pipe, while another featured cartoon characters Scooby Doo and Shaggy smoking marijuana. The third van to have its slogan banned showed a Dr Seuss character also talking about smoking marijuana. 

The Chief Censor's decision shows that Ford Sumner lawyers were hired by Wicked Campers, and relied on an argument of "humour through social commentary" to defend the slogans.

The submission from the law firm to the Chief Censor said the slogans "attract and reflects Wicked's young customer base through its extensive use of popular culture touchstones".

Wicked Campers said it would be an unreasonable limitation on freedom of expression to rule against the slogans when "painting a vehicle with artistic imagery and provocative phrases is no different from an individual displaying artwork in a gallery".

The Chief Censor's ruling said the three vans "promote and encourage criminal acts". While saying the material was shown in a humorous way, there was concern it would attract children and teenagers who might then see the displayed drug use as "funny and cool".

Freedom of speech was also considered, but the ruling said the overwhelming balance fell against open publication. The ruling found the slogans were R16 content, then invited Wicked Campers to raise the issue again if it found a way to display the content without those under-16 years of age seeing it.

 

New Zealand Herald 28/4/16

 

Criminal Justice

Prisons to introduce visitor new approval process for children

Rules surrounding children visiting prisoners will be tightened around the country following safety concerns.

From September all child visitors will have to be approved before they can visit a prison. It was previously up to parents, caregivers and guardians to decide whether it was appropriate to bring someone under-16 to prison. Some prisoners, such as those with convictions for hurting children, may have restrictions placed on the contact they have with child visitors.

Corrections Department service development deputy chief executive Jo Field said applications would be assessed on a-case-by-case basis. "To do that we need to know who the children are and how they are connected to the prisoner they are visiting,” she said.

The application process for a child will be similar to that for adults: Prisoners typically send a private visitor application form to any person they would like visits from.  The forms typically ask their name, date of birth, relationship to the prisoner, and any criminal history. The visitor completes the form and sends it back to the prison for approval. Child visitor application forms can be sent to the child's guardian to complete on their behalf.

"One of the key benefits of the work we are doing in requiring child visitors to be approved will be robust data on the number of children visiting prisoners, giving us the ability to reliably report on this information."

Deputy national commissioner Rachel Leota said the primary motive for the new rules was child safety.

"Knowing who the children are and how they are connected to the prisoner they are visiting plays a key role in this.

 

The Dominion Post 3/4/2016

 

Fears proposed Bill could leave addicts languishing in cells

A court judge who presides over one of the country's busiest courts has criticised a proposed Bill which he says could see drug and alcohol addicts forced to languish in a police cell before being admitted to secure treatment centres.

District Court Judge Philip Recordon said the Substance Addiction Bill did not yet have the safeguards to ensure individual rights are protected. 

The proposed Substance Addiction Bill replaces the Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Act and allows for the compulsory assessment and treatment of drug and alcohol addicts. In a six-page submission to Parliament's health committee, Judge Recordon said he supported the intent of the proposed new Bill, but was worried individual rights were not protected.

"Is it anticipated that under the bill, individuals will have to wait in securely contained in police cells without access to lawyers?

"We anticipate that such an arrangement will not sit favourably with the police who understandably do not like holding those with clear mental health issues, and who are already called on too often to do this."

Judge Recordon also said he had been made aware of 14- and 15-year-olds having to spend four to five nights in police cells, due to a lack of secure community facilities.

The Human Rights Commission agreed there was a real possibility patients could be held in police cells or other substandard places for long periods of time before being admitted. Chief legal adviser Janet Anderson-Bidois said adult addicts could be held for up to 27 days in such conditions before a decision was made to admit them for treatment. As a safeguard, she said there should be an urgent review process with a turnaround of 48 hours.

The health committee is due to report back in September.

 

Radionz.co.nz 19/5/16

 

Human Rights 

UN concern at Māori in prison

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has criticised New Zealand’s record on Māori unemployment, imprisonment, the foreshore and seabed and the Trans Pacific Partnership.

The committee has just finished its sixth periodic report on a range of issues submitted by the government and by non-government organisations including iwi.

Among the positive moves since the last report it identified the law banning foreign charter fishing vessels, the 2014 Vulnerable Children Act, the adoption of a Māori action plan for disability support services and the Ka Hikitia Māori education strategy.

But it was concerned the Government continues to pass laws that are inconsistent with the 1990 Bill of Rights and with the UN Convention on Human Rights.

It also said New Zealand needs to address the high Māori and Pasifika unemployment, especially among women and young people, and needs to do something about the disproportionately high rate of Māori at all levels of the criminal justice system including prison.

Other concerns include whether the replacement for the Foreshore and Seabed Act, the Māori and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act of 2011 has helped any Māori secure rights to their customary land, and that there wasn’t enough engagement with Māori before the signing of the Trans Pacific Partnership.

 

waateanews.com 5/4/16

 

Immigration

Amnesty criticises denial of visa to Iranian filmmaker

A visa was granted for an Iranian filmmaker to attend documentary festival in New Zealand after a petition attracted around 1000 names.

Amnesty International had criticised the original decision to deny a visa to Iranian film director Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami, who visited New Zealand during the Documentary Edge Film Festival.

A human rights activist, Ghaemmaghami was invited to speak at screenings of the documentary and also to feature as a guest speaker at an international industry event.

“Film directors are often the target of crackdowns by governments in their own countries, but it is deeply concerning to see our own country rejecting this visa application”, said Margaret Taylor, activism manager at Amnesty International, at the time of the original decision.

“Rokhsareh plans to visit several other countries such as Australia, Turkey and the United States on her worldwide tour to promote this documentary, so it’s surprising that New Zealand has rejected her application on the grounds that she may be a flight risk.”

 

Asia Pacific Report 18/4/16; The Daily Blog 21/4/16

 

LGBTI Rights

Transgender woman 'humiliated' after told she can't board Jetstar flight

A transgender woman who was unable to board a flight because she didn't have identification has described the experience as humiliating. Jetstar has apologised to Darci-Lee Hume of Christchurch, who said she was due to board a flight out of Christchurch airport with a friend yesterday morning, but was not able to check in.

She told Fairfax the pair were asked to show identification by Jetstar staff. The friend used a bankcard, but Miss Hume did not have any ID so was not allowed to board the flight. Because Miss Hume is a transgender woman, her ticket was booked with the honorific "Miss".

But she said staff told her that her details didn't match, Fairfax reported.

"When they came to me they said 'your details don't match up'. Miss Hume alleges she spoke to a manager who said her details didn't match up, saying, “you are clearly not a Miss, Sir”.

Miss Hume said she had "never felt so humiliated".

A Jetstar spokesman told Fairfax that Ms Hume's gender was not an issue when they asked for identification, and regretted any offence caused. For travel within New Zealand, the airline requires that identification be shown if requested.

 

New Zealand Herald 8/4/16

 

School installs toilet for transgender pupil

A popular Auckland primary school has been praised for installing a unisex toilet to help a 6-year-old transgender pupil feel safe and accepted. The toilet was installed earlier this year with the support of the Board of Trustees and the Education Ministry after the child's transition from boy to girl.

The reporting newspaper, the Herald on Sunday chose not to name the school to protect the child's privacy, but stated that sources said that schoolmates have happily accepted the child's transition and parents who know the girl have also been supportive.

The school's board chairman said their decision was about supporting a pupil. "We have a policy of safety around identity and culture, and that includes gender. We feel strongly that every child deserves to feel safe in the school environment."

Duncan Matthews from Rainbow Youth applauded the school."It is awesome the school has taken active steps helping those people who wouldn't feel comfortable using a gender-specific bathroom," he said. "It is great this school is leading the way to show other schools the sky doesn't fall down if you have a gender-neutral or unisex bathroom."

A recent youth survey revealed 1.2 per cent of New Zealand school-aged children identified as transgender, over 3000 in Auckland, and more than 9000 nationwide. It is not known how many primary-age children are transgender and the Ministry of Education said it did not keep such figures.

Katrina Casey from the Ministry said unisex bathrooms were becoming common at schools and there were no separate boys and girls toilets in new builds. "Our standard design is for individual self-contained bathrooms that can be used by either gender," she said.

Last year the ministry revised sexuality education guidelines which included the suggestion of gender-neutral uniforms and a review of toilet spaces.

Earlier this year, two Wellington secondary schools decided to fit gender-neutral bathrooms for students who felt uncomfortable using "male" or "female" bathrooms. Wellington High School has already transformed its boys' bathroom into gender-neutral facilities and Onslow College is about to do the same, spending thousands of dollars to convert an old block of girls' toilets.

 

Herald on Sunday 15/5/16

 

Privacy

Government agencies to share data

The government wants to bring together the data held by 10 government agencies so that more can be known about New Zealanders.

The agencies include health, education, social development, justice and Inland Revenue, creating what the government calls a "data highway".It is planned to give government workers access to it, even on their Smartphones, so they can draw information on people from multiple sources before making decisions that affect them.

Bill English, the Finance Minister has also said he wants to go much further, and use the information to target families and funding, like Facebook uses its algorithms to target adverts. "We're not looking at reducing privacy or confidentiality," he says. "We're looking at sharing it."

The sharing is already well underway in what's called the Integrated Data Infrastructure, which already has 166 billion facts and 177 active projects. Mr. English is already using it to turn down funding for proposals in this year's Budget.

 

Newshub.co.nz 19/4/16

 

Kiwis to Government: ‘Don’t share our social media records’

New Zealanders are more worried about government agencies sharing their social media records than their credit history, income details, family court records and even their suspected but unproven criminal activity. That’s just one of the findings in a newly released report from Perspective, Colmar Brunton’s regular social research study, that reveals what New Zealanders think about government departments sharing information.

Group Account Director, Social Research Agency, Dr Andrew Robertson says 77% of New Zealanders oppose government agencies accessing their social media records without permission. “The sensitivity around social media is a little surprising given the public nature of social media activity itself,” he says. “Kiwis need to realise that their social media activity can not only be extremely widely viewed but is also discoverable in the legal sense.”

“It’s likely that for many New Zealanders, the social media voyage of discovery over the past decade has been one of ‘post first, think later’, with people only recently beginning to understand the implications of their online activity.” Dr Robertson says the other types of information Kiwis are most protective of could be described as inherently private matters.

The top five information types Kiwis oppose being shared by government agencies without permission are financial assets and savings (90%), sexual orientation (83%), history of physical illness and treatment (80%) and history of mental illness and treatment (78%), ahead of social media records in fifth place. 

Dr Robertson says the survey was carried out in the context of the Government’s ‘data highway’, initiated in 2015. Under this scheme departments including Health, Education, Social Development, Justice, Inland Revenue and eventually all others, will be able to share information easily between each other.

“Kiwis have mixed views on this idea. More than a third (36%) disagree with government departments sharing personal information but almost half (47%) agree with the move and 14% are neutral about it,” he says.

The information Kiwis are most relaxed about government departments accessing without permission includes their country of birth (77%), criminal convictions (75%), date of birth (69%), whether a person has a passport (69%) and whether a person has been declared bankrupt (66%).

 

Scoop.co.nz 19/5/16

 

Security and Intelligence Services

SIS data protection shows 'significant' failings - report 

A report into the Security and Intelligence Service (SIS) has found "significant shortcomings" when it comes to data protection. The first part of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security's review into how the spy agency holds and uses information collected for assessing security clearances was recently released.

In it, Inspector General Cheryl Gwyn says while there are strengths to their processes, there were also major problems around the access and use of vetting information. "I recognise the serious commitment to privacy that is made by the SIS staff who undertake this difficult and sensitive work.  What is also needed, and what is required in any Government agency that deals with personal information, are systemic safeguards to back up and verify that commitment," Ms Gwyn said. 

"For instance, I found electronic records for the largest category of clearance holders and candidates were accessible at any time to 60 or so staff who carry out security clearances."

Under standard data protection requirements, staff should only have access to files they're working on and only while the files are active.

Ms Gwyn has recommended the SIS has stronger systems to track access to files, record and check the reasons for accessing them and making clear the conditions information can be collected and used.

As part of its job, the SIS is required to undertake inquiries into whether people should be granted New Zealand Government security clearance which is required to access classified information as part of their work. Security clearances require the SIS to look into a person's personal and professional life, which amounts to a "large volume" of highly personal and sensitive information.

"In both sensitivity and scale, the SIS’s records are one of the most substantial compilations of personal data about New Zealanders that the Government holds," Ms Gwyn says.

It completes around 5000 of these inquiries per year.

The Green Party co-leader, Metiria Turei, said the report shows, “the fact that they [the SIS] have not been adequately protecting this information is very concerning,"  

"Many New Zealanders should be worried about how the SIS has been using their private information and how many people may have seen it," she said.

The Director of the SIS has accepted the report's findings and recommendations, and work has already begun on making changes.

 

newshub.co.nz 7/4/16

 

 

'Innate tension' stops GCSB helping other agencies

An "innate tension" in the current law has stopped the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) help other agencies by monitoring New Zealanders' private communications, the new director of the intelligence agency says. Andrew Hampton, who has been in the role for almost a month, said the current legislation contained an "innate tension, or some would say a contradiction". 

"On the one hand saying we are prohibited from intercepting the communications of New Zealanders, but at the same time it says we are able to help agencies do [so]. So I think that tension probably drives a bit of conservatism." 

Mr Hampton said another reason the bureau had acted conservatively was after "challenges" in recent years, such as the public outcry over the GCSB's possibly unlawful spying on New Zealanders, uncovered in the 2012 review by Rebecca Kitteridge. 

"We now have a very healthy culture of compliance. I am satisfied that everything that the bureau does, there are systems and processes in place to ensure that it is both in accordance with the law, and in accordance with our national interest. 

A recent broad-sweeping intelligence review by Sir Michael Cullen and Dame Patsy Reddy recommended the agencies effectively work as one agency, and the GCSB be given the power to spy on New Zealanders for itself, rather than on behalf of the Security Intelligence Service (SIS). 

The report noted that the outcry following the Kitteridge report had made the agency reluctant to undertake intelligence work for other agencies like the SIS, even after the law was changed to specifically allow it soon after that report. 

 

Otago Daily Times 24/5/16

 

Liberty Watch Yearly Review 2011

The past year has seen continuing challenges to the values of privacy, not just from the state, but employers, teachers, and even parents seem to be increasingly disregarding the notion of a right to privacy. It was reported in May that the Government was considering using bracelets for monitoring home detention that could detect the presence of alcohol use through secretions in the sweat, and in a trial of a scheme in the Bay of Plenty police officers were paying visits to known recidivist drunk drivers, even though no complaints had been made just to let them know that police are “keeping an eye on them”.

 

Schools

In the same month it was also reported that the Secondary Schools Principals Association President announced that most schools now used network managers and teachers to monitor their pupils’ social network sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, for evidence of misbehaviour. Schools were increasingly using other ways of monitoring their pupils outside school activities. Breathalysers and sniffer dogs were increasingly being used by schools to check people for alcohol and drug use at school balls. The teachers, seemingly being increasingly encouraged to see pupils as potential criminals and themselves as acting in the role of police, were given more powers to search students and their belongings, including cell phones, diaries and laptops, and issued with guidelines on how and when to carry out these searches.

The police were concerned about some of these increasing intrusive developments when in September they refused to carry out random sniffer dog searches claiming that they were in danger of breaching the children’s civil rights. The police stated that they were happy to assist principals, but only where there was reasonable suspicion that pupils were carrying weapons or illegal drugs.

 

Video Surveillance

Employers at Wellington International Airport were found to be using a private investigator to secretly filming employers in their coffee room. One employee who was sacked after being accused of misconduct was given a chance to get his job back after the Employment Court ruled that evidence gathered in such a way was illegal. A law change under the Private Investigators and Security Guards Act has now made such activity legal. The covert use of surveillance by police officers was also bought into question when a ruling in the case of those arrested in the Urewera Raids went against the police and their use of evidence that had been collected through the use of devices placed illegally on private land. The government later passed legislation to suspend the judgment’s applicability to 40 trials and 50 police operations that were already underway.

 

Apparently, no space is too private to be considered open for surveillance. Wainuiomata High School was just one school that was reported to installing cameras in toilets. The Kaikoura District Council was also reported to be doing the same thing.

 

Alcohol and Drug Monitoring

There is a seemingly growing desire to screen everyone’s behaviour. The alcohol advisory group of New Zealand (ALAC) wanted to extend the British Royal College of Psychiatrists advice, that all those aged over 65 visiting a G.P. should be screened for alcohol use, to cover the whole population. In a similar move the Social Development Minister Paula Bennett backed drug testing of welfare beneficiaries, amidst claims from the Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) that up to 50% of the workforce were now routinely screened for drug use.

 

Spying on Each Other

The state and employers cannot always observe our behaviour, so individuals are being encouraged to act and think as spies. Software was made available in New Zealand called MyFone, which lets parents remotely see all the numbers called and answered on their children's phones, and the content of all texts. A device was also made for sale and marketed for parents to track their children’s use of a car including its speed and location history.

We were all encouraged to spy on our neighbours when the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) announced the launch of a website where it asked the public to confidentially and anonymously pass on any information that may pertain to threats on New Zealand’s security and way of life. The online form states that “as part of the community you may have information which can contribute to defending and enhancing New Zealand’s security…”. The Security Intelligence Service was also given stronger powers in new legislation passed in July, which led to the Human Rights Commission (HRC) expressing concern about the Act’s diluting the accountability of the already often secretive SIS.

 

Police Use of Weapons

The appointment of a new Police Commissioner, Peter Marshall, saw the relaxation of the rules surrounding the police and their access to firearms. In May it was announced that every frontline police car was to carry semi-automatic rifles and pistols. Similarly, the access to tasers was relaxed. Police were now able to routinely carry a taser if they felt they were heading into danger whereas previously they had to get permission from a superior. In July, The Sunday Star Times reported that Tasers had been used 102 times in dealing with suspects since their introduction in March 2010. Somewhat concerningly, they also noted that they had been accidently discharged 108 times in the same period.

 

Race Relations

The issue of race continued to bubble away under the surface of New Zealand society. July saw reports that two bus drivers had refused to allow two Muslim women, who were wearing a veil, admission onto their bus. The bus company claimed the men weren’t racist but merely suffered from “maskophobia” and had been sent for counselling. Nevertheless the HRC said that the incidents appeared to amount to racial discrimination.

The Human Rights Annual Review of Race relations published in March noted that 2010 had seen an increase in the number of complaints made to the HRC about racial discrimination, mostly because of the response to broadcaster Paul Henry’s controversial comments about the Governor General. The report, however, expressed positive comments about the growth of Te Reo Maori, the cultural diversity of Parliament, and the settling of historic Treaty of Waitangi claims, although it voiced concern that stricter laws surrounding the punishment of criminals, such as the three strikes law and the removal of the prisoners’ right to vote, would disproportionately affect Maori. On a similar line, the lobby group, Rethinking Crime and Punishment, called for an inquiry into why the rate of imprisonment of Maori is so disproportionately high. They pointed out that over 40 per cent of adult male Maori have received a prison or community based sentence, at some time in their life, and that this is six times the rate of non-Maori.

 

Sexual Equality

Research by the Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS) described New Zealand as the best place to be born female in the Commonwealth, but it noted that women earn 72 per cent of the wages of men. The Greens raised the profile of the issue of gender inequality of pay with a bill that proposed that a woman doing the same work as a man should have the right to know his pay. The Equal Opportunities described it as disturbing that a large number of women did not know if they were receiving equal pay. In a response to the Green’s proposal, the head of EMA, Alasdair Thompson, found himself dismissed from his position for his suggestion that women got paid less because their productivity was lower as many of them “took sick days once a month”.

 

Internet

The notion of Internet access being a human right came under the microscope with the passing of a law that aimed to prevent the illegal sharing of copyrighted files. Under the new law, anyone accused of letting their Internet connection be used to share such files could be fined with very little opportunity to defend themselves.

 

Summary

It has to be noted thought that a succession of reports throughout 2011 gave New Zealand positive ratings in comparison with the situation in other countries. The most recent, The Democracy Index, compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, listed New Zealand as fifth in a table of 165 nations measured across five categories, namely, electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, how government functions, political participation by the public, and political culture. However despite the good reputation New Zealand enjoys, there is no room for resting on laurels, and the eternal vigilance of a civil liberties group such as the New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties is always necessary if we are to protect the rights we have.

Libertywatch December 2015

Counter-Terrorism

'Jihadi brides' free to return

New Zealand women who have left the country to marry jihadist fighters in the Middle East have not had their passports cancelled and are free to return, the Government has said

New Zealand's Security Intelligence Service (SIS) director Rebecca Kitteridge revealed this week that a growing number of women were heading to Iraq and Syria.

She said it was not clear whether these "jihadi brides" had gone to the region to fight themselves or to support Isis (Islamic State) fighters.

The number of New Zealand women in this category was not known, but it was less than a dozen.

Counter-terrorism law changes passed a year ago gave the Internal Affairs Minister greater powers to suspend or cancel the passports of suspected foreign fighters.

Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne said no woman's passport had been cancelled in any circumstances. A very small number of men's passports had been cancelled, though he would not reveal the number.

"I'm not going to go into any particular details, but any passports that have been cancelled have been cancelled because people pose a threat to national security or who are going to engage in terrorist activities. Marriage doesn't usually come into that category."

Ms Kitteridge said that if any of the women returned from Iraq or Syria, the SIS would "maintain an interest in those people".

Otago Daily Times 10/12/15

 

Criminal Justice

Murder suspect fights extradition to China

Human rights barrister Tony Ellis has filed for a judicial review of the Justice Minister Amy Adams’ decision to send Korean-born New Zealand resident Kyung Yup Kim to Shanghai, and the Greens human rights spokesperson, Marama Davidson, says Mr Kim should stay in New Zealand, because assurances he will not be tortured or face the death penalty cannot be trusted.

"There is no way the Minister can actually guarantee Mr Kim will receive a fair trial, won't be tortured and won't be subject to the death penalty," Ms Davidson said.

"New Zealand has signed up to the United Nations Convention against Torture and as such we are not supposed to send people to countries where they could be tortured by the state."

Just last week, the United Nations said that 'the practice of torture and ill-treatment is still deeply entrenched in the criminal justice system' in China.

Tony Ellis said: "Mr Kim will fight to the last-ditch. We probably have a year or more to go with the remedies, but I think we have a reasonably strong case that the minister's decision is wrong."

A judicial review hearing would likely be in February next year. If that went against Mr Kim, he would appeal to the Supreme Court if necessary.

"If he loses that, I think we will probably be the first case that would apply for interim measures before either the UN Human Rights Committee or the torture committee."

Dr Ellis said part of the judicial review application would be the "extraordinary" amount of time that Mr Kim had been held in prison, which had caused him to become depressed and suicidal.

Ms Adams insisted that she has, “sought, and received, undertakings from the Chinese Government waiving the death penalty should Mr Kim be convicted and providing for his monitoring, fair treatment and trial.

New Zealand Herald 16/12/15

 

Drug Testing

Polytechnic drug and alcohol testing policy questioned

The latest draft of Otago Polytechnic's drug and alcohol testing policy takes ''a sledgehammer to a problem that doesn't exist'', the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) says.

Under the first draft of the policy, students and staff in every programme except business and IT, could have been subject to random drug and alcohol testing.

Polytechnic organisational development director Matt Carter said that had been pared back.  The most recent version of the new policy says students or staff could be tested if they were involved in "safety sensitive activities''.

That usually meant "operating machinery or a requirement to make really high-risk decisions'', Mr Carter said, but he admitted the new model could still allow testing for a significant segment of the polytechnic population.

Students and staff would be tested after an accident, or if staff had "reasonable cause'' to suspect they were impaired by drugs or alcohol, he said. Students and staff would also be allowed to refuse "reasonable cause'' testing once with no repercussions, although their name would be recorded. Post-accident testing was mandatory.

If a student or staff member was tested for drugs or alcohol and did not receive a definitively negative result, they would be stood down from "safety sensitive areas'' pending further testing.

If further testing was also non-negative, the person would be banned from safety sensitive areas until they tested negative, and offered counselling. They would also undergo testing for 12 months following the first test, and face disciplinary action for any non-negative results.

Mr Carter said the policy was ''not about catching people out, it's about making sure it's a safe place to work and learn''.

"A lot of industries have a growing expectation that people will be subject to policies like this ... it's up to us to set the standard.''

But TEU organiser Kris Smith said the new version of the policy was still "far too broad''. "You could describe absolutely every activity as having an element of risk,'' she said. And the post-accident testing included in the new draft policy ‘‘amounts to random testing'', she said.

Otago Daily Times 8/12/15

 

Immigration

Man refused entry to NZ for being a ‘bikie’

An Australian man with no criminal convictions was held in a New Zealand jail cell without charge for 12 hours after being refused entry to the country because he is a member of the Rebels motorcycle club. John Millar arrived at Christchurch airport on 2 December where immigration officials handed him over to police after customs found a Rebels club vest in his luggage.

Millar, who intended to join a motorcycle ride with the Christchurch chapter of the Rebels, was transferred to a watch house before being put on a flight back to Brisbane the next day.

Immigration NZ told him yesterday that his membership of the club led him to being refused entry under section 16 of the Immigration Act. That allows authorities to turn back anyone believed to be likely to commit an offence drawing jail time or pose a threat or risk to security, public order or the public interest.

"I've done nothing wrong but I'm being punished," Millar, who has travelled to New Zealand three times in the past 20 months without incident, told Guardian Australia.

"They put me in a cell and I had no toilet paper, no phone call, no shower, a blanket and a thin little blanket on a concrete floor," Millar said.

Immigration NZ confirmed on Saturday night that a man was sent back to Australia under Section 16 of the Immigration Act for being a gang member.

New Zealand Herald 19/12/12

 

Australia and NZ Greens call for human rights inquiry

The Green parties of New Zealand and Australia have lodged a submission with the Australian Human Rights Commission asking it to establish an inquiry into the treatment of New Zealand citizens who are detained in immigration detention centres.

Green Party human rights spokesperson Marama Davidson has written to the Commission on behalf of the New Zealand and Australian Green Parties, saying people from both countries were deeply concerned about the human rights abuses occurring in Australian facilities and the impact these were having on innocent family members.

“Just because these people were once in trouble with the law does not mean they waive their basic human rights, and the human rights of their families, forever,” Ms Davidson said.

“The submission details some horrible human rights abuses including forcing a terminally ill woman with lung cancer to spend her last few days alone, while her husband Ra Fowell was detained for historic driving and marijuana possession offences. Mrs Fowell died two days ago.

“Detainees are being denied medical treatment, the right to family, and the right to adequate access to legal counsel, while facing arbitrary detention which is a fundamental abuse of their human rights on its own.

“The vast majority of those who are detained for historic offences are not rapists and murderers as John Key has described them.

“Decent societies that believe in democracy uphold the basic human rights of people even if they are in prison, or once committed a crime.

“The Australian Government has set itself on a slippery slope by denying those in detention some of those fundamental rights, and the New Zealand Government has let down its citizens by failing to fight for them.

“The two Green Parties hope that the Australian Human Rights Commission will help shed some light on the treatment of Kiwis arbitrarily detained in Australian centres,” Ms Davidson said.

Scoop.co.nz 3/12/15

 

Policing

Ex-judge criticises search of journalist’s house

A retired long-serving district court judge, Roy Wade, has criticised police for their treatment of television journalist Heather du Plessis-Allan, who is under investigation after purchasing a gun without a firearms licence as part of a news story.

Mr Wade said he "very much" doubted whether there was a need for police to rifle through the journalist's private space and belongings, given the nature of the investigation.

The police had executed a search warrant on the pretext of looking for a sample of handwriting at the Wellington home du Plessis-Allan shares with husband, Newstalk ZB journalist Barry Soper.

The search came after an expose by du Plessis-Allan for TV3's Story programme. She collected a rifle from a courier after sending Gun City a mail order form in which the "Police Use Only" section had been filled in with a fictitious officer's name and police registration number.

The form included details of the credit card used to pay and a firearm licence number, apparently checked as genuine by Gun City staff.

Today Mr Wade, who presided over cases in the Auckland region, wrote to Commissioner Mike Bush expressing concern and "sadness" over the handling of the investigation and search warrant.

In his letter he wrote,

Today, I saw that your officers thought it prudent to search the home of a reputable journalist who did nothing more than expose the hopeless inadequacies of our gun laws. 

 Search warrants are inherently obtrusive: how would any one of your staff (or you, for that matter) like to be subjected to seeing their most intimate belongings and documents pored over by total strangers for no reason at all?

If your officers did really need a handwriting sample (which I very much doubt, given that she always acknowledged being the author of the form in question), why not simply ask for one? Was it simply to try and humiliate her?

The Thorpe Enquiry 20 years ago highlighted the complete inadequacy of NZ gun laws. It was launched to address the gaping holes in our legislation. It cost millions but was totally ignored....

The NZ Police do themselves great harm by their insensitive treatment of the citizens of this country.

New Zealand Herald 2/12/15

 

Police search of journalist Nicky Hager's home ruled illegal.

The Dirty Politics author, Nicky Hager, has won his case against Police, with Justice Denis Clifford deciding Police did not meet their duty of candour when they asked a District Court judge to issue the search warrant.

Police searched Hager's Wellington home in October 2014 looking for clues to the identity of "Rawshark", who had hacked the emails of blogger Cameron Slater.

The judge found the police had failed to give relevant information on the case when they asked for the warrant, and the way police conducted the search tended to support the finding that the search was "fundamentally unlawful".

Hager's lawyer Felix Geiringer said, "This is a major landmark establishing the importance of journalistic source protection."

Asked whether Hager would be receiving an apology, police said they would not be saying anything other than a simple statement on their website from Assistant Commissioner Malcolm Burgess. 

Hager said he felt the police effort on his case had been "strange" from the outset, but he hoped other journalists would now be prevented from getting similar treatment. "The best thing to stop this becoming common towards the media from police is for them to spectacularly lose cases like they have today."

Stuff.co.nz 18/12/15

Libertywatch February 2016

Round up of civil liberty related news from February 2016.

Criminal Justice

More prison cells could be 'double-bunked'

Up to 130 more prison cells could be "double-bunked" to cope with an unexpected increase in the prison population, Corrections chief Ray Smith said while facing questions in a select committee about plans to cope with a record-high prison muster. 

Smith said double-bunking was not new in New Zealand, around 30 percent of the prison population was double-bunked, compared to 70 to 80 percent in South Australia, and that two prisoners to a cell had not led to an increase in violence, as some critics had claimed. 
Corrections were also delaying closing prisons, including Waikeria in the Waikato to cope with growing prisoner numbers. 

Another 270 prison beds would be available in April following renovations at various jails. 
The prison muster rose to 9360 last month, contrary to long-term forecasts of a fall in prisoners, and is expected to rise further.  Although the long-term prison population was relatively stable, the remand population had grown significantly. 

Otago Daily Times 17/2/16

 

Corrections ‘losing’ Māori inmates

Justice reform group Just Speak is accusing the Department of Corrections of under reporting the proportion of Māori in its prison muster.

Strategic advisor Kim Workman says in recent years the department has taken to using its own year-end prison census, coming up with a claim that only 50 percent of all prisoners are Māori.  However, Statistics New Zealand says, based on the number of Māori sentenced to prison during the course of a year, the figure is 55.7 percent.

Mr Workman says the Salvation Army’s State of the Nation report calculates there are about 1000 more Māori in prison than a decade ago, with the rate rising sharply during 2014/15 to reach an average of 693 prisoners per 100,000 population.  That’s seven times the rate of non-Māori.

Mr Workman says the old adage ‘you have to face it to fix it’ applies and Corrections needs to come clean with its ethnicity data and not leave it up to the Salvation Army to provide good information about Māori in the criminal justice system.

Waateanews.com 17/2/16

 

Discrimination

Banning New Zealand backpackers could breach Human Rights Act

Backpacker accommodation that refuses entry to a person based on their nationality could face legal action, a New Zealand Human Rights Commission spokeswoman has said.

A business providing goods or services, including accommodation, was required to comply with the Human Rights Act, the spokeswoman said. The business was not allowed to discriminate on any of the prohibited grounds set out in the Act, unless a statutory exception applied, she said.

She was commenting after it was reported last week that many backpacker hostels in Blenheim banned New Zealanders from staying because they were allegedly messy, aggressive and did not pay for their rooms.

Stuff.co.nz 2/2/16

 

Human Rights

Amnesty International: New Zealand needs to do more on human rights 

New Zealand showed some leadership on human rights in the past year but needs to do much more, an annual report card by Amnesty International says.

The "State of the World's Human Rights" report applauded New Zealand's work on the international stage as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

It had shown "glimpses of ... leadership" by lobbying for humanitarian access to Syria and in urging permanent members to be restrained in their use of veto powers, the report said.
However, this positive work was "dampened" by the Government's decision not to raise its relatively small refugee quota. There were also concerns about asylum seekers being detained alongside remand prisoners in New Zealand’s prisons.

The report also criticised New Zealand's record on domestic violence, children's rights, privacy issues, and the over-representation of Māori in New Zealand prisons.  Māori make up 51 percent of the prison muster, despite only being 15 percent of the total population.

The Report also questioned New Zealand's role in the Five Eyes international spying network.  Reports in March last year, appeared to show New Zealand was spying on its Pacific neighbours on behalf of the United States. 

New Zealand Herald 24/2/16; Stuff.co.nz 24/2/16

 

Privacy 

Government made 12,000 privacy requests to just 10 companies

Nearly 12,000 requests for New Zealanders personal information were made by Government agencies over three months and to just 10 companies, new research reveals.
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC), has warned that more than 1000 requests were incorrectly characterised as being made under the Privacy Act, and that this could have legal consequences.  

"The Privacy Act provides no mechanism for government agencies to make requests for personal information of individuals. The mischaracterisation is more than trivial and has legal consequences beyond mere linguistics," the OPC report states.

The OPC has also stressed to companies that they do not have to comply with many requests, and law enforcement agencies should make this clear.  They advised that companies must decide if a clause justifies information release.

"If the company decides not to release the information without a court order then it is entirely legal for it to do so ... to avoid confusion, law enforcement agencies should consider making it clear on request forms that it is a voluntary decision for the agency being asked to accept or decline a request."

The five government agencies that made the most requests for personal information were Inland Revenue (4670 requests), Police (3513), Ministry of Social Development (3150 requests), Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (99) and Customs (73).

Requests for all information held about a person on an account, such as name, address, subscriber services, transactional information and communications, were the most common

The most frequently cited information gathering powers used by government agencies were section 17 of the Tax Administration Act (4470 requests), section 11 of the Social Security Act (3108), and production orders under section 71 of the Search and Surveillance Act (962).

New Zealand Herald 18/2/16

Libertywatch January 2016

Corruption Index

New Zealand falls again in Corruption Index

New Zealand has fallen to fourth place in the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). This is its second consecutive drop in a survey it has previously topped 7 times because of the corruption-free reputation of its public sector.

"Our government must act immediately to re-establish New Zealand's stand-out reputation for a trusted public sector…New Zealand trades on its corruption free reputation", said Transparency International New Zealand Chair, Suzanne Snively. 

PSA National Secretary Glenn Barclay remarked on the fall saying, "We’re not surprised, because we’ve noticed a growing lack of transparency.

"Journalists and members of the public are reporting increasing manipulation of the Official Information Act, with delays and demands for payment becoming commonplace.

"The secrecy around the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement, the murky process around the Auckland Convention Centre deal and Serco’s handling of Mount Eden Prison have made things worse".

The CPI is produced each year to highlight the global importance of transparency. Top performers share key characteristics including, high levels of press freedom; access to budget information so the public knows where money comes from and how it is spent; high levels of integrity among people in power; and judiciaries that don't differentiate between rich and poor, and that are truly independent from other parts of government. 

Denmark, Finland and Sweden are now perceived to have the least corrupt public sectors. New Zealand, which was ranked number one in both the 2012 and 2013 surveys, fell behind Denmark in the 2014 CPI and then Sweden and Finland as well in the just-released 2015 survey.

Further downgrades in New Zealand's scores are likely if areas such as access to information and governance of the environment fail to keep pace with the trends in northern European countries. 

Scoop.co.nz 27/1/16

 

Criminal Justice

'Clean slate' for convictions

The Clean Slate Act is designed to allow people with less serious convictions to put their pasts behind them if they have been conviction-free for at least seven years, were not sentenced to imprisonment, and meet other criteria.  It applies to employment and any other situations where an individual is asked about their criminal record.

Nationwide, 29,973 people were eligible to have 76,775 convictions concealed under the act between January and November last year. The most concealed convictions were dangerous and negligent acts, public order offences and traffic offences.

Ministry of Justice general manager, Tony Fisher said a person meeting the criteria to have their convictions concealed did not have to apply for a clean slate. The scheme was applied by the ministry when an application was made for a copy of their criminal record.
A person would lose eligibility to have their convictions concealed if convicted of a further offence.

New Zealand Herald 13/1/16

 

Gender

State Services Commission needs to step up efforts on equal pay

New figures show the government’s failing to lead by example in making sure female public servants are paid the same as their male colleagues. The State Services Commission has revealed men working at Crown Law and the Ministry of Defence are paid nearly 40 per cent more on average than women.

The gap is 28 per cent at the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, 26 per cent at the Ministry of Education and 27 per cent at the State Services Commission itself.
PSA National Secretary Erin Polaczuk says the numbers are very disappointing but not surprising.

The government and the State Services Commission are failing to drive home the message that women working in the public sector are worth 100 per cent. These figures send a clear signal that our female members are not valued by their employers.

The government and the State Services Commission are part of the Joint Working Group on Pay Equity Principles, along with the PSA and other groups…They need to practice what they preach. We’re calling on the Commission in particular to take firm action on this, and require all departments to make progress on this by the time figures are released next year.

Scoop.co.nz 22/1/16

 

Immigration

More than 1300 overseas visitors denied entry to New Zealand

More than 1300 overseas visitors were denied entry to New Zealand last year, mostly because border officials did not believe their stated travel purpose was genuine, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) figures show. 

The country's border security protocol was highlighted after an Alexandra woman criticised INZ for refusing entry to her Portuguese friend without providing a specific reason. 
Mario Quintela, travelling to New Zealand on his first overseas trip, planned to stay in the Central Otago town with Pam Jones and her husband Nuno Vilela, and held a return ticket within the three-month timeframe allowed for a visa waiver visitor, Ms Jones said. 
However, he was denied entry at Auckland International Airport because officials were not convinced Mr Quintela's intentions were genuine. 

‘‘The only concrete thing they told us was ‘we have some concerns','' Ms Jones said. 
INZ told the Otago Daily Times it could not comment on specific cases but there were general reasons it refused people entry in to the country. 

They included a suspicion a visitor intended to disregard their visa obligations and become an overstayer, or did not meet the character requirements of their visa. 

‘‘The most common reason being that we are not satisfied that they have come to New Zealand for the purpose they have stated, such as saying that they are visiting but their intention is to work here in breach of their visa conditions,'' INZ assistant general manager Peter Devoy said. 

Mr Devoy would not be drawn on how much, if any, individual discretion could be used by immigration officers when deciding who was let into the country.  ‘‘Border staff are required to follow immigration New Zealand legislation, instructions and standard operating procedures. ‘The standard operating procedures require staff to weigh and balance the risks and overall circumstances of every individual they deal with when making a decision. 

Otago Daily Times 18/1/16

 

LBGT Rights

Trade Me users hit back at criticism over 'no heterosexuals' listing

The people behind a Trade Me advertisement for a room for rent that specified "no heterosexuals" have hit back at criticism from the Human Rights Commission over the listing.

The listing advertised a room in Newtown, Wellington, but the original text stated those behind the listing did not want to live with a heterosexual, a couple, or someone who does drugs and parties a lot. "You are not being discriminated against by us, we just don't want to live with you", the listing read on Tuesday morning.

The listing went on to say transgender people face high levels of housing discrimination in society. "An extremely high number of transgender people are homeless, in unstable or unsuitable housing, and regularly face housing discrimination. We are routinely turned away from flats for being trans."

It was legal under the Human Rights Act to turn potential flatmates away on the basis of sexual orientation, according to the Human Rights Commission. 

Flatmates ultimately have the right to decide who lives in the house, but New Zealanders should all be given a fair go, a Human Rights Commission spokeswoman said.

The people behind the listing said discrimination towards transgender people ranged from threats, assault and harassment, through to high levels of employment discrimination.

Heterosexuals are not discriminated against in housing, healthcare, education, employment, they said. "You [heterosexuals] are accurately represented in film, literature, media."

Heterosexuals did not need anti-discrimination legislation to protect their rights, because they're already respected, they said.  "Sorry your feelings are hurt, but we don't really care, we're busy surviving in a society which is hostile to our existence," the listing ended.

Stuff.co.nz 26/1/16

 

Official Information Act

Charging for OIA requests ‘an attack on democracy’

Concern was expressed over the  $651 estimate received by Fairfax business journalist Richard Meadows this week for an Official Information Act (OIA) request to the Reserve Bank.

Meadows was informed by the Reserve Bank that charging media for requests was now its "standard policy", rather than a one-off.

Previously, outgoing chief Ombudsman Beverley Wakem effectively recommended that agencies make wider use of charges, and especially, that they should charge media agencies and Members of Parliament.  

Under the law, government departments and other agencies covered by the OIA are allowed to charge for official information requests, but most departments have guidelines that make exceptions for the media, MPs, and the researchers who gather information for political parties.  However, this may be about to change, and the Ministry of Justice is reportedly holding a review of the current charging regime. 

Labour MP Jacinda Ardern says it would be "really worrying" if media were to be regularly charged for official information requests, given their role in letting the public know what politicians are doing and how it will affect them.

"We're reliant on their access to information as part of open and transparent government, and it would of course become a deterrent for a journalist to access that information if they are routinely being charged."

Joanna Norris, editor of The Press and chairwoman of the NZ Media Freedom Committee, says it's not about making special rules for media, but making it easier for everyone to make requests for official information.

"I don't necessarily believe that media should be treated any differently – this is information that is held on behalf of all New Zealanders and all New Zealanders should have access to that information."

Stuff.co.nz 13/1/16

 

Policing

Police take a year to disclose secret search of activists’ home

A Takaka couple, Rolf and Ute Kleine, had to wait a year to find out their home had been covertly searched by Police who took various items and copied their computer drives.

The search took place in January 2015, but the Kleine’s have only just received a letter from the Police disclosing it.

At the time, January 2015, the Police were trying to find the author of a letter threatening to contaminate infant formula if New Zealand did not stop using 1080 poison for pest eradication.

Under the Search and Surveillance Act the Police don’t have to provide much justification for covert searches. All they need to do is tell a judge that to disclose the search would “endanger the safety of any person” or “prejudice ongoing investigations”.

Even though technically the Police can wait 12 months to inform people their home has been secretly searched there appears no real excuse for the Police to wait 12 months in the Kleine’s case, and they could have been informed about the covert January search when they were raided a second time in March and taken to Police stations.

Former Green Party MP, Keith Locke, commented, “Not only is it spooky to think your home might be raided without you knowing. If the Kleine’s experience is anything to go by you might lose valuable items without even knowing they are gone. Some time after the March raid Rolf Kleine noticed a five-year-old newspaper clipping was missing from his home. He contacted the Police, and yes they had it, but hadn’t told him they had taken it.”

The Daily Blog 18/1/16

 

Police door knock 'known activists' ahead of TPP protests

Police checked on "known activists" around the country ahead of TPP protests planned for 4 February.

Scout Barbour-Evans, a Dunedin transgender activist said an officer knocked on their door about 10 this morning.  The officer wanted to know what the plans were for anti-Trans-Pacific Partnership action in Dunedin, Scout said, who is not a member of the Dunedin anti-TPPA action group.

Prominent anti-TPP protestor Professor Jane Kelsey said such monitoring of critics to the controversial agreement was "entirely predictable" behaviour from the Government, and shows the "disrespect the Government has had throughout to people's right to voice their dissent about this negotiation and this agreement".

"This is perfectly consistent with their attempts to shut down democratic engagement with, almost anything, but certainly with the TPPA."

The Government was attempting to make a law and order issue out of the opposition to the agreement, she said, by painting those in opposition to it as radicals who posed a national security risk.

Civil liberties lawyer Michael Bott said the police action would have a "chilling" effect on freedom of expression and the right to protest.

"These people haven't committed any crime and yet the police are going to conduct a search or an interview, and there are legal concerns with that."

Labour Party police spokesman Stuart Nash said he thinks the door-knocking is "not the way we do things in this country.

"My initial reaction is that it is a little heavy-handed. The protesters have a legal right to protest within the bounds of the law.

"During every single TPP rally, I can't recall any instances where protesters have been violent or aggressive.

"Unless the police know something we don't, the protesters have the absolute right to voice their concerns, as we live in a democracy."

Mr Nash said he didn't blame frontline police for the tactic.

"They're just following a directive from above, and it would be good to know why the police hierarchy feel this is a necessary step, and it would be good to know if they actually know if the protesters plan to engage in civil disobedience."

Police said the visits were part of a national directive to visit activists in the lead up to the protests.

New Zealand Herald 28/1/16

 

Security Intelligence Service

Activist says SIS will struggle to recruit Maori

A report into diversity in the NZ intelligence community found the SIS and Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) are largely staffed by white males in an "old boys' club" with a culture of "excessive" and "unnecessary" racist jokes made at the expense of Maori and Pacific staff.

The study relied on reviewing data from the agencies and informal conversations with staff. It was carried out as part of an internship by a Masters student from Massey University who was asked to study diversity issues at the agencies on the basis the intelligence community was "not an accurate reflection of New Zealand's population".
The report, provided through the Official Information Act, found a lack of awareness or recognition to culture or diversity. Concerns over "double-standards, stereotypes and harassment" saw Maori and Pacific staff report they had felt "harassment through humour". 

"Although it was not a pressing issue, staff did note that often at times this type of banter was excessive, unnecessary and that it would not be tolerated if the same was done to those of non-ethnic descent."

It found the recruitment strategies were not attractive to ethnic minorities or effective in reaching them. The study also stated Maori and Pacific people "can come from open, honest, trusting families and communities" which meant the type of work carried out by the agencies and the necessary secrecy could be "a potential barrier to recruitment".
Security clearances were also an issue with ethnic minorities having a higher showing in crime statistics, the study found. It meant those vetted had a greater chance of being "associated with someone who holds a criminal conviction", which created a "red flag" situation that deprived candidates of the chance to explain potentially risky connections.
Diversity in gender was also an issue, with female staff reporting promotion being a case of "not what you know, it's who you know".  Those interviewed also raised the military background of the agencies, with those managed by former service staff feeling as if they were "talked at, not too" which perpetuated an "old boys' club".

While women at both agencies were positive about their work environment and its purpose, those at the GCSB also reported "a low level of sexism" with those there more than a decade having experienced discrimination or harassment.

In a covering letter to the report, GCSB director Una Jugose said efforts were under way to increase diversity and there were signs of success, particularly in management. She said the study contained "useful observations" which led to the creation of a women's network aimed at helping women in the agencies "realise their potential" through informal coaching and hearing from inspirational female leaders.

There was also new training aimed at helping staff identify and correct "the impact of unconscious bias" identified in the report.

She said addressing diversity "will likely always be a challenging issue for us due to the nature of our work and the requirements for vetting".

New Zealand Herald 3/1/16

 

Student Loans

Student debt arrest: 'People will be scared to come home'

The first arrest of a New Zealand student loan debtor living overseas has sparked concerns for the tens of thousands of other Kiwis who also owe money for their studies.

The New Zealand University Students' Association acting president Laura Harris has spoken of her concerns after a man was arrested at the border on Monday while trying to leave the country after returning home for a visit. 

He has lived overseas since 2004 and has student debt of more than $20,000.

After an initial court appearance, he was bailed to his in-laws' house.  

Ms Harris said the arrest was "really concerning" and she had been contacted by a large number of students and their parents. 

"It's really concerning for the large number of these students that want to come home and visit their families and parents, and come to tangis and weddings and funerals. 

"People are going to be scared to come home." 

She said that the repayment system was flawed, and should be based on a debtor's income not the amount owed. 

"The way that you repay the scheme is based on your student loan and not your income. The system should encourage them to pay loans instead of really harsh penalties." 

A law change in March 2014 means student loan borrowers who are well behind on repayments and ignore requests from Inland Revenue may have an arrest warrant issued, stopping them from leaving New Zealand until they resolve their arrears. 

Inland Revenue has tracked a small number of overseas-based defaulters but, despite the controversial policy generating headlines, until now no arrest warrant has been issued. 

An IRD spokesman said its powers to arrest at the border were used as "a very last resort", and followed strenuous efforts to contact the borrower and make repayment arrangements. 

Serious defaulters are first contacted to discuss repayment options and are given time to repay some of their loan. Relief from repayments can be granted for hardship reasons, but the man arrested had not made any such application. 

An arrest warrant can be issued if a court is satisfied that the person has committed the offence of knowingly avoiding student loan repayment obligations, and is about to leave NZ.  A district court can then make subsequent orders that include paying the amount in default, making arrangements for payment, providing security for the payment, not leaving the country without permission, and surrendering travel documents or tickets. 

The option of arrest at the border was modelled on a law that is used to capture people who default on child-support payments. It was designed to target the worst offenders and act as a deterrent to others. 

An information-sharing agreement with the Department of Internal Affairs also alerts Inland Revenue when defaulters apply for a New Zealand passport. 

An information-sharing agreement with Australia, expected to start this year, will allow for the exchange of contact details of Kiwi borrowers living in Australia.

Otago Daily Times 22/1/16 

Libertywatch July 2015

A round-up of civil liberty news from New Zealand.

Christchurch

Transition to democratically-elected regional council for Canterbury under way

The regional council for Canterbury, Environment Canterbury (ECan) will be run by a combination of elected councillors and Government-appointed commissioners from next year, with a fully elected council returning in 2019.

Environment Minister Nick Smith on Wednesday confirmed the next governance model would be a 7-6 split between councillors and commissioners, forming after the next local government elections in October 2016.

"This phased approach ensures we maintain the momentum in completing Canterbury's water plan and work on the earthquake recovery, while providing an orderly transition to a fully-elected council in 2019," he said.

Under the mixed-governance plan, four elected councillors will represent Christchurch. North, Mid and South Canterbury will have one elected councillor each.

The Government, frustrated at ECan's inability to implement freshwater management reform, removed the council in 2010, replacing it with six commissioners.

They were only expected to serve until 2013 but their tenure was extended. Smith believed a return to a wholly-elected council at that point could jeopardise work under way, particularly on water reforms.

He acknowledged the need for a return to a democratically-elected council, but said the commissioners’ ongoing presence was essential.  

Smith allayed fears the commissioners could stay beyond 2019. Legislation to be introduced later this year would guarantee an elected council would take over.

"Calling it a transition to democracy is misleading, this is just denying Cantabrians their rights for four more years," Labour environment spokeswoman Megan Woods said however.

 Christchurch deputy mayor Vicki Buck was also disappointed, saying, "It's a very fundamental part of democracy that you elect your representatives."

Green Party spokeswoman for Christchurch Eugenie Sage echoed the concerns.  

"Democracy is our greatest asset yet National is denying Cantabrians a proper vote for almost a decade. Citizens deserve more than the second-class council they are getting which the Government can continue to influence and dominate.

Stuff.co.nz 8/7/15

 

Criminal Justice

Prisoners should be allowed to vote - High Court

A ban on prisoners voting has been ruled inconsistent with the Bill of Rights, in a declaration from the courts that is the first of its kind.

Prisoner Arthur Taylor is one of a group of five serving prisoners who argued that the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act 2010 was inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

Under the amended act, all people in prison on Election Day are unable to vote.  However, Justice Paul Heath formally declared the ban to be inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, which all laws should be in line with.  The Attorney-General had also found the law was inconsistent with the Bill of Rights before it was introduced.

The declaration from the High Court was the first of its kind. It sends a formal message to Parliament that the law it passed was indefensible as it limited individual rights without reasonable justification. 

Heath said the inconsistency arose in the "most fundamental aspect of a democracy...the right of all citizens to elect those who will govern on their behalf."

As it stood, the law had "arbitrary consequences" in that a low-level offender given a short prison sentence could not vote if incarcerated on election day, while a serious offender imprisoned for 2-1/2 years between elections could still vote, Heath said.

The courts still have to apply the law under the Bill of Rights Act, but the formal declaration from the High Court indicates it should not be in place. 

University of Otago law professor Andrew Geddis said the Government and Parliament should decide, "whether or not they think the law is worth it."

"In the end, Parliament is sovereign and can do what it wants, so if Parliament wants to take a different view on this issue it can, but I think it really ought to re-examine this issue given the strength of the notice that has been given."

In practice, it would boil down to how embarrassed the Government would be about the issue, Geddis said.

"They've essentially been told they've made law that good nations like New Zealand shouldn't make - but do they care?"

A spokesman for Justice Minister Amy Adams said Parliament had considered Bill of Rights implications when it passed the amendment in 2010.

"At this stage we're still considering the judgment but it's worth noting that, as the judge has stated, the finding that a piece of legislation breached the Bill of Rights Act does not invalidate the legislation."

Stuff.co.nz 24/7/15

 

New Zealand's longest-serving prisoner’s case heads to the UN

77-year-old Alfred Vincent's case is heading to the United Nations amid claims he has been wrongly jailed for 40 of the past 47 years.

Auckland-based human rights lawyer Tony Ellis wrote to Vincent last week with news he planned to lodge his case to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention by September.

Ellis said Vincent had spent a disproportionally long stretch behind bars in Canterbury prisons for seven convictions in September 1968 of indecent assault on five boys aged 12 to 14 – offending that carried a maximum jail sentence of seven years. 

At the time, he was sentenced to preventive detention because of six previous convictions for indecencies with boys, which saw him jailed for several years in the mid-1960s.

"I think it is appalling in a civil society such as ours that you can lock someone up for 47 years when the finite sentence was for seven years. If you do a double murder, you don't stay in for half that long. It's absurd," Ellis said.

Vincent was due to appear in front of the Parole Board in late August, three years after his last appearance, when the board imposed a three-year postponement order.

"I do want to be released from prison," he said in his parole assessment report in 2012.

"I don't have sexual thoughts any more. I get locked up at 7pm every night, I keep to myself and I stay in my cell."

In 2012, Fairfax contacted all four of his surviving victims from the 1968 preventive detention charges. Three supported his release.

On July 8, Ellis learned he had won a landmark case in front of the UN Working Party on Arbitrary Detention involving an intellectually disabled inmate, who had been locked up for 45 years in North Island psychiatric institutions or prisons for child sex offending.

The 58-year-old man remained in jail, despite the UN calling for the Government to release him and compensate him for illegally depriving him of his liberty since 2004. He was first admitted to a psychiatric institution at age 12 for allegedly sexually abusing a young girl in 1968 and was sentenced to preventive detention in 1994 on a charge of unlawful sexual connection with a minor after several previous child sex convictions.

Ellis said he was seeking a Government decision by August 7 on whether the man would be released immediately and compensated.

Stuff.co.nz 27/7/15

 

Serco 'may have broken law' - human rights expert

A human rights lawyer says the alleged treatment of a Mt Eden prison inmate possibly breaches both the Corrections and Bill of Rights Acts.

Alex Littleton broke both his legs in February after a prolonged assault by other inmates.

Littleton said he was discharged from hospital four weeks early after private prison operator Serco said he would receive appropriate care in prison. But he said that did not happen.

He is now at Kaitoke Prison near Wanganui. In a recording obtained by Radio New Zealand, he accused Serco of lying to the hospital about the care he would receive on his return to Mt Eden.

"I wasn't getting my pains meds from 10 o'clock at night until eight o'clock in the morning," he said.

Littleton said he soiled the bed on the first night because he could not walk.

His mother, Lorraine Pehi-Littleton, is distressed at what she heard from her son about his treatment.

"I was able to grill the doctors about why they were letting him go back to Serco, and the doctors assured me that Serco had assured them that he would get exactly the same care and service as he was receiving in the hospital," she said.

Criminal and human rights lawyer Michael Bott said if what Alex Littleton said was correct, Serco had some explaining to do.

"It's bordering on barbaric," he said.

Mr. Bott said the prison company appeared to have breached Section 5 of the Corrections Act - which requires sentences to be administered in a safe, secure, humane, and effective manner.

"It's not a secure environment for prisoners, it's not humane and their treatment of inmates is not effective and it’s in breach of the United Nations standard minimum rules," he said.

Howard League for Penal Reform spokesperson Dr Jarrod Gilbert said prisoners tended to have poor health because their care did not come under the Ministry of Health.

"In 2010, a report was written by the national health committee that recommended that prisoners should come under the Ministry of Health - but that of course hasn't happened.

"Prisons just aren't set up to be hospitals, and it's ambitious at best to suggest that they can look after unwell prisoners," he said.

Radionz.co.nz 28/7/15

 

Disabled Rights

Battle to get wheelchair on ferry

Wheelchair-bound Juliana Carvalho has won her fight to use the Half Moon Bay ferry.

She had been travelling from her home in Flat Bush to the ferry in order to get to work in the city.

However after using the service for two months, she was told by Auckland Transport (AT) that she would be unable to use the ferry because of a safety issue.

AT spokesman Mark Hannan says the ferry facility will be fully accessible after it is upgraded in the next 18 months.

After initially suggesting the train, AT has now proposed that until the new terminal is completed Carvalho will be able to catch the 7.30am ferry from Half Moon Bay.

"The 7am and 8.15am sailings are usually bigger boats and the stairs are needed for boarding," Hannan says.

"The sailing at 7.30am uses a smaller vessel and a ramp is used providing wheelchair access."

Carvalho says although it is "not the ideal" outcome, she is happy to be able to use her preferred mode of transport.

"I love using the ferry. Disabled people face a lot of challenges to get around and get access, and they shouldn't have to go through what I did."

Eastern Courier 14/7/15

 

Employment

Another fail for diversity

Sixty-one per cent of New Zealand employers admit that they don’t have a diversity policy in place for hiring new staff, according to findings in the 2015 Hays Salary Guide, which is based on a survey of 451 New Zealand employers, representing 374,007 employees.

Of those that do have a diversity policy in place, 19 per cent said it is not adhered to. The remaining 81 per cent say it is ‘generally’ adhered to.

“There are many barriers preventing real diversity in New Zealand workplaces, but the failure to put a diversity policy in place is right up there at the top,” says Jason Walker, Managing Director of Hays in New Zealand. “Even if organisations have a policy in place, if hiring managers ignore it then it is mere lip service.

“It still surprises me that despite years of enthusiasm, commitment, policies and strategy development all aimed at improving gender diversity on corporate boards, equality for women still remains out of reach.

“There are many benefits to be gained from a diverse workforce. From increasing the candidate pool and creating a workforce that better reflects your own customer base, to recognising and valuing the varied skills, knowledge, backgrounds and perspectives that people bring to their work, a culture that supports diversity will breed a workforce that is innovative, respectful and solution-orientated.”

“None of these benefits can be achieved however if an organisation does not put a policy in place or embed the principles within its culture,” says Jason.

The Hays Salary Guide includes salary and recruiting trends for over 1,000 roles in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington.

Scoop.co.nz 27/7/15

 

Gender and race discrimination hurting New Zealand financially

White men can lead the way in reducing gender and race pay inequality in New Zealand, says prominent lawyer Mai Chen.

Speaking at a YWCA seminar on pay inequality, Chen said there had been a recent spike in the number of racial discrimination complaints in New Zealand, particularly in Auckland.

Chen, who chairs the Superdiversity Centre for Law, said the intersection between gender and race was "the elephant in the room" when it came to pay inequality in New Zealand.

According to the Ministry for Women there was a gender pay gap of 9.9 per cent in 2014.

New Zealand's ranking in the World Economic Forum gender pay gap list has dropped from 7th place in 2013 to 13th in 2014.

A report released by the Human Rights Commission in June showed that middle-aged white men were paid a median hourly rate of $28.77, two-thirds more than Pasifika women of the same age, who were earning just $17.32.

Of those still stuck on the minimum wage by age 25 or older, 66 per cent were women, the report said.

Many employers were avoiding hiring young migrant workers because they could not see the candidate fitting within the organisation, Mai Chen said.

There was also a lack of cultural education amongst employers and an unwillingness to hire migrants because they were perceived as requiring extra work, she said.

"Discrimination is actually preventing New Zealand from fulfilling its full potential."

Research showed that Asian workers were often overqualified, she said.

"We're wasting a lot of talent in the New Zealand economy.

Stuff.co.nz 28/7/15

 

LGBT Rights

New Zealand first in the world for gender identity information

A new gender classification for people who don't see themselves as just male or female has been developed and New Zealand will be the first to adopt it.

"Gender diverse" will now join the "male" and "female" categories when Statistics New Zealand collects data on Kiwis' gender.

It will also be used by government organizations, but it is still being decided how it will be implemented and used across information collection.

New Zealand Herald 17/7/15

 

Farmers makes changing rooms gender neutral after claim assistant ridiculed shopper

Following a complaint by a transgender shopper who was ridiculed by a shop assistant while trying on shorts, Farmers plans to make all of its changing-rooms gender-neutral.

Spokeswoman Nikki Newton-Cross says the company has reviewed its fitting rooms policies and decided to make its fitting rooms gender-neutral following Mary Haddock-Staniland's experience at their Botany branch in Auckland last month.

Mrs. Mary Haddock-Staniland says she overheard a shop assistant ask colleagues if it was okay to let "half-man, half-woman" in.

Mrs. Haddock-Staniland says she has also lodged a complaint with the New Zealand Human Rights Commission.

The results of this are expected to come out next month.

When the incident was first reported, Mrs. Haddock-Staniland was praised by Human Rights Commissioner Richard Tankersley for going public.

He said what happened to her was not new, but rather highlighted the "bullying and hate" that transgender New Zealanders faced often.

New Zealand Herald 20/7/15

 

National Security Agencies

Spy conference shrouded in secrecy

Despite calls from participants for more openness around our national security, an intelligence summit held in Wellington on Wednesday was closed to outsiders, including news media.

The New Zealand Institute of Intelligence Professionals met at Rydges Hotel in central Wellington for its annual conference with high-ranking government intelligence officials, cyber-security companies and experts discussing issues of public trust, confidence, privacy and intelligence.

Privacy commissioner John Edwards, who was speaking at the conference, said during the lunchbreak that intelligence and security was changing rapidly "and irrevocably" in the wake of US whistleblower Edward Snowden's ongoing revelations about global spy networks, and illegal spying and mass whistleblowing had spawned a "heightened sense of anxiety" in the public around the actions of government spying agencies such as the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) and Government Security Communications Bureau (GCSB).

Edwards said agencies needed to work with as much transparency as an operation allowed.  New Zealand had held on to greater levels of secrecy beyond the needs of what other countries and agencies required, a mindset that needed to change, he said.

Former police commissioner Howard Broad, who as the deputy chief executive of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet is now the country's security and intelligence tsar, also spoke on the need for more openness around spying.

Stuff.co.nz 15/7/15

 

Stop the Spies Campaign Launch

A coalition of groups across the country has come together to call for the closure of the GCSB and the SIS, and for New Zealand to get out of the Five Eyes.

“Over the coming months, the Government will run a narrow ‘Review of Intelligence and Security’ that is widely seen as hobbled before it even begins. We are taking this opportunity to call instead for a future without the GCSB and the SIS,” said Valerie Morse, spokesperson for the Stop the Spies coalition.

“The world is awake to the global spying network operated by the Five Eyes of the US, UK, Australia, NZ and Canada... In 2013 when the NZ state passed its controversial new Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) Act, massive public protests erupted.”

The New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties supports the coalition, which includes peace groups, civil libertarians, tech libertarians, and social justice activists.

Scoop.co.nz 12/7/15

 

Police

Police conducted “chilling” search of Hager's home

The lawyer for Dirty Politics author and investigative journalist Nicky Hager says police conducted an invasive and chilling search of Hager's home during a raid last year.

Hager is seeking a judicial review into the steps taken by police during a raid at his home last October.

The raid was carried out following a complaint from blogger Cameron Slater, who claimed his emails had been illegally hacked.  The emails taken from Slater were then disclosed to Hager, and formed the basis of his tell-all book Dirty Politics.

The object of the police search was to discover the identity of the hacker who had disclosed information to Hager, and during the raid a number of documents were confiscated, including physical records, computers, CDs, phones and USB drives.

Hager's lawyer Julian Miles QC told the court that police actions were "invasive", and described the search as a "raid on the confidential information held by a journalist."

Mr. Miles also told the court the warrant police used, issued by a judge, sought a wider category of documents than just those linked with the hacker and those documents relevant to Dirty Politics.

He said police had been given the right to "hoover" any of Hager's documents and this put the confidentiality of Hager's sources at risk.

Mr. Miles has argued that police should not have applied for the warrant, as the source material for Dirty Politics was subject to journalistic privilege under the Evidence Act.

He said as an investigative journalist Hager has to promise confidentiality to his sources.

The need for journalists to protect the identity of their confidential informants was recognised by New Zealand statue and common law, Mr. Miles said.

Otago Daily Times 13/7/15

 

Police letters warn Facebook drug dealers they're being watched

Police have been snooping on people's Facebook profiles, and using the evidence to carry out drug raids.

The monitoring has been exposed by members of a black-market Facebook group, who complained of receiving letters out of the blue from police, warning them they were being watched.

One unidentified user received a letter from the Canterbury Organised Crime Squad, dated July 15, warning that their membership of a group suspected to be aiding illegal drug deals had been noticed.

They might wish to "review" their membership of the group, the letter suggested, and it had a card for a drug abuse helpline stapled to it.

Police confirmed on Monday that they were monitoring social media pages, and sometimes using the evidence they found to mount raids.

The letter was generating plenty of online debate on Monday about whether police monitoring of social media activity amounted to a breach of privacy.

Privacy expert and lawyer Kathryn Dalziel said people could not have an expectation of privacy on social media when it came to their activity in public groups. Police were entitled to use online posts as an evidence-gathering tool if they suspected crime.

"There are good things happening and bad things happening on Facebook and, if it's on an open group, police are not doing anything illegal by looking at it, then contacting people."

What was less certain was whether police were getting evidence from social media through using undercover officers. Dalziel said police were exempt from Privacy Act restrictions, to a point, when performing law-enforcement duties.

But if they were creating fake profiles to gain access to private posts online, it was possible they would require a search warrant, she said.

Stuff.co.nz 21/7/15

 

SIS and police trawling Trade Me for information on potential criminals

Spies and police are increasingly turning to Trade Me to obtain private information that may relate to criminal activity.

Figures released by the auction site show the Security Intelligence Service and police are requesting growing amounts of information.

The SIS increased the number of its inquiries to Trade Me by almost 50 per cent in the year ending in June, up from 28 to 41, while police inquiries were up 11 per cent, from 1663 to 1840.

Neither the SIS nor Trade Me would provide any details about the nature of the inquiries, citing privacy.

Police said they mainly approached Trade Me for information relating to stolen goods, drugs, firearms and fraud. However, there were a small percentage of inquiries that related to child exploitation, sexual offending, homicide or missing persons cases, and money laundering.

Detective Senior Sergeant Clifford Clark, of the national cybercrime centre, said police approached Trade Me for information only if they considered there was a direct connection between a crime and the site.

NetSafe chief executive Martin Cocker said Trade Me provided a unique opportunity for police and the SIS to obtain "deep" information. "The police and SIS, from time to time, are going to use it, because it can be the best way to find out information."

Stuff.co.nz 23/7/15

 

Commissioner announces routine carriage of Taser by first response staff

Police Commissioner Mike Bush today announced that frontline Police response staff would move to routine carriage of Tasers.

Mr. Bush says the important operational change is about enhancing the safety of New Zealand communities and Police staff, and is backed by detailed research gathered since Taser was rolled out nationally in March 2010.

The decision means the Taser can be carried at all times while on duty by appropriately trained Police 'level one' response staff, the majority of who are frontline officers whose role, responsibilities and likelihood of risk supports having easier access to Taser.

These staff can currently access a Taser from a lockbox in frontline Police vehicles if required.

Approximately 5,500 staff are trained as ‘level one’ responders.

Mr. Bush says the decision is based on research and evidence highlighting the success of the Taser in de-escalating violent situations, and its extremely low rate of injury compared with other tactical options.

"In making the decision, the Police executive has considered almost five years worth of 'use of force' data, which includes analysis of injury rates, numbers of Taser deployments and the ratio of Taser ‘shows’ to actual discharges.

It consistently shows that the Taser is one of the least injury-causing tactical options available when compared with other options, with a subject injury rate of just over one per cent for all deployments.

Scoop.co.nz 31/7/15

Libertywatch June 2015

Criminal Justice

Police & Corrections criticised over prison death

A Coroner has criticised police and the Department of Corrections for their roles in the death of remand prisoner Jai Davis at a South Otago jail.

The 30-year-old died in a prison cell in February 2011 from a suspected drug overdose after arriving at Otago Corrections Facility near Milton with drugs concealed internally.

In his report, Coroner David Crerar said it would be "in the public interest" for the Independent Police Complaints Authority (IPCA) to investigate the role of police in the circumstances of Davis' death. 

He said the IPCA could specifically investigate the receipt by police of information about Davis prior to his admission to the Corrections facility; the actions of police while he was in custody; and the police investigation into the death.

He also recommended the circumstances of the death be investigated by the Health and Disability Commissioner.

Mr Crerar described the actions of Corrections staff at the Milburn facility as "insufficient''.  He also said the police investigation into Davis' death was not "conducted in a timely manner,'' and "cursory and flawed". He panned them for their initial handling of Mr Davis at the time of his arrest and during the subsequent investigation into his death.

Mr Crerar stated that, "Too often during the inquest hearing a witness would state that they could not recall a specific because the death was 'so long ago'. My inquiry has been hindered by the failure of the police to conduct the necessary (and prompt) enquiries into a death as they are required to do.

"The police were requested by me to conduct enquiries and were reminded of their obligations on many occasions.''

Southern District Police today acknowledged the Coroner's findings, saying communication between police, Corrections and the prison had been improved.

Otago Daily Times 23/6/15

 

Disabled

Toddler with cerebral palsy excluded from theatre because of walker

A three-year-old disabled girl was denied entry to New Plymouth's Showplace because of her walking frame.

Cerise Lawn said she took daughter Ariana, who suffers from cerebral palsy and epilepsy, to the TSB Showplace for a play-centre outing but was publicly shamed when told her daughter could not enter the theatre until the walker was ditched.

Lawn said the group had booked tickets in advance and mentioned Ariana used a frame but when they began to enter Ariana was stopped by a female staff member and told to go no further.

Lawn told the woman she was happy to fold down the walker or remove it once Ariana was seated but the staff member would not budge.

"I felt discriminated against. I just want her to be treated equally, she should be treated the same as everyone else."

Venue manager Megan Brown said the situation was unfortunate and apologised for the treatment Lawn received.

"We really do pride ourselves on being a venue for anybody and it's really disappointing for this to happen. It's the polar opposite of what we try to achieve," she said.

"It's rare but we take it seriously, we need to ensure this doesn't happen again."

Brown said the volunteer worker had mis-communicated fire regulations which state "loose furniture," including walking frames, prams or baby capsules, could not stay in the theatre during a performance.

Ariana should have been allowed to use the walker to get to her seat, before it was removed during the performance and returned to her so she could exit, Brown said.

Training guidelines would be looked at in the coming months and how to better deal with similar circumstances in the future would be discussed, Brown said.

In the past the Showplace had worked with a variety of organisations to better understand accessibility concerns and it was also a member of Arts Access Aotearoa's Taranaki network, she said.

Lawn said parents with disabled children wanted them to feel included and no different to other kids.

Taranaki Daily News 5/6/5

 

People with disabilities deserve a fair go at work

Tracking Equalities at Work research released by the Human Rights Commission shows that New Zealand’s disabled population has nearly double the level of unemployment than non-disabled people. Disability Rights Commissioner, Paul Gibson says that it is a human right to work and clearly New Zealand needs to do better in this area.

Disabled people have higher rates of unemployment and lower labour force participation compared to their non-disabled peers at every age and either sex. They also have lower incomes than non-disabled people. Disabled Māori unemployment rate is 17 percent but for disabled European New Zealanders it is 7 percent.

“I am concerned to see the compounding disadvantage of ethnicity and disability. I would like to see Government prioritise achieving human rights for disabled Māori so that they have a fair go like everybody else,” Paul Gibson said.

This research also highlighted the lack of data being collected about disabled people and employment. The Commissioner says that this missing information means lack of measurements, lack of goals for employment, and clearly no decent employment strategy for assisting people with disabilities into work.

scoop.co.nz 29/6/15

 

Education

“Education is a basic human right” - Human Rights Commission

The Human Rights Commission is concerned at allegations officials are trying to access information held by schools to locate and deport students’ family members.

“Education is a basic human right, the most powerful tool we can give New Zealand children no matter who they are, where they live or who their parents are,” said Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy.

“We’re concerned that requiring schools to disclose personal details may lead to children being kept away from school. Education is fundamental to the well-being and development of the child and every child should be able to enjoy their right to an education”.

In 2010, the Immigration Act was changed to enable children without legal immigration status to attend school in order to better reflect New Zealand’s obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Human Rights Commission and various other agencies including the Office of the Children’s Commissioner worked together to help make this happen.

Dame Susan says the Commission is unable to speculate on the lawfulness of the alleged operations that ultimately fall under the jurisdiction of the Privacy Commissioner and other agencies, such as the Office of the Ombudsman.

“Our sole focus here is the potential impact on the well-being of the children. It could have the unintended consequence of those children not attending school for fear of the impact it will have on their family.”

The Commission encouraged officials to work with families and other agencies to resolve these concerns.

scoop.co.nz 14/6/15

 

Legal dispute over Auckland school and Asperger's student abandoned

A legal fight between a secondary school and a student with Asperger's Syndrome has been abandoned in the Court of Appeal, after the court dismissed the appeal "as moot".

The case had centred on a child's right to an education versus a school's right to prevent disruption.

Green Bay High School was trying to overturn a 2014 judicial review that ruled a boy with Asperger's Syndrome should be allowed to return to school.

The boy was expelled after scuffling with a teacher over a skateboard when he was 14, in 2013. The school wanted to keep the child from returning to the classroom.

But the case was ruled moot when it was revealed the student had given up on returning to Green Bay High School, choosing instead to move to Kerikeri where he was being educated outside of mainstream education. 

It was thought the hearing could have had implications for schools nationwide.

While the court agreed the issues raised in the case were important, the Court of Appeal was not the appropriate place to discuss such issues.

"It is well-established as a general principle that appellate courts will not determine appeals where there is no longer a live issue between the parties," the court decision read.

"We accept that issues relating to discrimination against students with disabilities in the education sector are of considerable public importance ... [but] the appropriate process for the resolution of issues of this nature is for them to be raised in the first instance before the Human Rights Review Tribunal which is constituted with its own specialist jurisdiction under the Human Rights Act."

 

stuff.co.nz 5/6/15

 

Employment

Human Rights Commission calls for more equality in the workplace

The Human Rights Commission wants to give women and minorities special treatment to level the playing field in the workplace.

A new report reveals women, Pacific people and the disabled are among the most disadvantaged groups when it comes to pay, employment and leadership positions.

Women occupy just 14 per cent of positions on private boards, and 19 per cent of overall senior management roles.

Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Dr Jackie Blue said the "totally pathetic" numbers were moving at a snail's pace and in some cases going backwards.

She is calling upon the Government to apply special measures to promote under-represented groups into senior leadership positions.  

She also wants the local stock market operator to follow Australia's lead by forcing listed companies to report on their gender diversity policy.

Blue stopped short of calling for a quota system, saying there would be a huge backlash and New Zealand was not ready for it.

She called on each Government department to annually publish plans to eliminate any gender or ethnic pay gaps, which would expose both the best and worst organisations.

The special measures adopted could include internal targets, more balanced recruitment boards, transparent promotion pathways and training to identify unconscious bias.

The Commission's web-based interactive report allows analysis of equality across four key aspects of work, broken down by gender, ethnicity, age, and disability.  

It shows men earn more than women across the board, and Europeans more than other ethnicities.

Middle-aged white men had a median hourly rate of $28.77, fully two thirds more than Pacifica women of the same age earning just $17.32.

Of those still stuck on the minimum wage by age 25 or older, 66 per cent were women.

Blue said the Government needed to implement equal pay for work of equal value by 2020.

stuff.co.nz 28/6/15

 

Housing

Compensation for dead Auckland toddler's family unlikely

Lawyers say a gap in New Zealand law means the Auckland family of dead toddler Emma-Lita Bourne is unlikely to get compensation following their tragic loss, despite a breach of international human rights.

The coroner's report into the toddler's death says the poor condition of the state house in the South Auckland suburb of Otara was a contributing factor to Emma-Lita's death.

Human rights lawyer Michael Bott said under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) everyone has a right to decent housing.

The covenant states everyone has the right to "an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions".

In this case that right was breached, he said.

New Zealand signed onto the ICESCR on 28 December 1978. However, due to New Zealand parliament electing to maintain is sovereignty it can pass laws that are inconsistent with its international obligations, Bott said.

stuff.co.nz 5/6/15

 

LGBT Rights

Tamaki 'not alone in anti-gay views'

A religious expert claims controversial preacher Brian Tamaki is not the only Christian group leader promoting anti-gay views.

The Destiny Church leader has been in the headlines once again after stating at the "Born in the Fire conference" that "gaypower" is the biggest problem facing the world, and is making an entire generation of children bisexual.

"Gaypower, that spirit is so powerful it's changing political institutions and half of them don't even want it, but they're forced to," Tamaki said.

Peter Lineham, a historian of religion at Massey University, believes conservative Christianity is becoming increasingly divided from mainstream society, and is exhibiting "fear, and nervousness, and uncertainty about the way the world's going."

He said some other New Zealand churches are presenting similar anti-gay messages without being called out.

New Zealand Herald 1/6/15

 

Refugee officially a woman in NZ but not for Registrar of Marriages.

Despite being officially recognised as a woman in New Zealand, a transgender Kiwi has been told she cannot use her "female name" to register her marriage, but was told to use her birth name, Luis Alexander, instead of Eliana.

Ms Rubashkyn said she wanted to use Eliana because she wanted her "male identity" to be a thing of the past.

"I guess it's one of those things for people like me ... our past will always come back to haunt us," she said.

Ms Rubashkyn, originally from Colombia, came to New Zealand as a refugee in May last year.

She was issued with a New Zealand certificate of identity stating her gender as "female" although she had not had sex change surgery.

She chose to move to New Zealand only after she received assurance her gender of preference could be recorded in her travel documents without the need for surgery.

A Department of Internal Affairs spokesman said Ms Rubashkyn was asked for her birth name as a matter of record.

"To maintain public trust and confidence in the marriage register we need to link the names of married parties back to their birth name," he said. "This is to ensure we can be certain of their birth identity no matter how many times the person's current name changes."

The spokesman said Ms Rubashkyn's current name and status as bride would be recorded in the department's records.

Asked if Ms Rubashkyn's marriage would be considered a same-sex one, Statistics NZ spokesman Colin Marshall said it depended on what they wrote on their form.

"People self-identify," Mr Marshall said.

"It would depend entirely on what the person wrote on the application forms to marry."

New Zealand Herald 4/6/15

 

Hamilton same-sex couple denied couples deal

A Hamilton gay couple being denied a couples’ two-for-one deal at a raceway park has raised questions over how New Zealand treats same-sex partners.

The incident involved Hamilton couple Amiria Te Nana and her partner Lava Leituala being denied a two-for-one promotion at Hamilton's Daytona Raceway because they were not man and woman.

Te Nana and the group left the raceway and later posted a complaint to the business's website. She received a response stating:

"Look we are very sorry but the promotion is for a spouse or partner, which in our thinking is husband and wife or girlfriend and boyfriend. We have a lot of people who try it on and say they are a same sex couples and they are not. 

"The rule is male and female only end of story. If I let one do it I have to let everyone do it and that was not what the promotion was about."

Human rights commissioner Richard Tankersley said it was unlawful for businesses to treat people differently because of their sexual orientation.

"Anyone who believes that they have been discriminated against in this way may come to the Human Rights Commission for advice", Tankersley said.  

The raceway has since said it planned to scrap the policy and open it up as a "straight two for one deal". The owner said he would also like to apologise. 

stuff.co.nz 18/6/15

 

NZ told to fund more transgender operations

Labour MP Louisa Wall says New Zealand needs to fund more transgender operations.

Ms Wall, who introduced the legislation that legalised same-sex marriage, said the transgender community needed more support than it was currently getting from the Government.

She said more than 60 people were on the waiting list for sex reassignment surgeries, and action needed to be taken.

"These are people who are wanting access to what is a medical procedure, who can't in New Zealand because we don't have the surgeons."

Ms Wall said the Government was supposed to fund three male-to-female operations and one female-to-male operation every two years, but none had been done for three years.

She said New Zealand needed to recognise discrimination on gender identity in its human rights legislation.

Ms Wall said the only legal barriers still facing New Zealand's gay community targeted the transgender and intersex people.

Ms Wall said under the current Human Rights Act it was illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation but gender identity should be added.

"The Crown's position is that it's already in legislation under the definition of sex, but for the community they actually want to see definitions that they think describe them in our legislation."

Ms Wall said New Zealand still had a long way to go to meet the needs of the transgender and intersex community

radionz.co.nz 28/6/15

 

Media

New cyberbully law 'too vague'

New Zealanders will need to be careful about what they post online under a new wide-reaching law, or risk criminal charges over communications deemed deliberately harmful.

Justice Minister Amy Adams has said the criminal provisions in the new law are there for only the most serious cases, and the threshold for prosecution is very high.  Children under 14 can't be charged with cyberbullying and those aged 14 to 16 will go into the youth justice system.

"In Australia, which has had a similar offence for more than a decade, only eight prosecutions of 300 have been for under 18-year-olds," Ms Adams said.

Other provisions are aimed at removing offending material from social media sites as quickly as possible.

A complainant will not be able to obtain any redress unless they can show that the offending digital communication has caused harm. But harm has been given an alarmingly expansive definition by the statute. It is defined as anything that causes a complainant "serious emotional distress.”

This is a broad notion and opponents believe this vagueness in the legislation could mean ordinary internet users could be caught up, or free speech curtailed.

Otago Daily Times 30/6/15

 

Police

Judge critical of police after botched Red Devils gang operation

The case against the Red Devils gang in Nelson was dropped because of possible "serious criminal offending" by police, involving a fake search warrant and arrest of an undercover officer, during the investigation.

The Crown officially dropped the case on Thursday, opting not to appeal a High Court ruling that resulted in all but six charges being thrown out of court because evidence for them was improperly obtained by police.

There were originally 148 charges against 21 defendants, who were patched members or associates of the Red Devils Motorcycle Club in the Nelson area.

Justice David Collins said a fake search warrant and prosecution of an undercover officer during the investigation, known as Operation Explorer, amounted to "significant misconduct" and possible "serious criminal offending".

He said that allowing the trials to continue, based on improperly obtained evidence, would undermine public confidence in the justice system.

Police reviewed their policy and practices following the earlier High Court decision in October 2012, and had implemented changes "to ensure that police and the courts are not put in this position again".

 

Nelson Mail 13/6/15

 

Authority endorses Police in first use of ‘sponge round’

An Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) investigation has endorsed the way in which the Police used a new tactical option, known as a ‘sponge round’, when they were faced with apprehending an aggressive and threatening man.

The sponge round is fired from a 40mm gas launcher. It provides Police with an additional tactical option in dangerous situations. It is intended to incapacitate an aggressive, non-compliant person and will commonly cause bruising rather than significant or long-lasting injury. Until now this tactical option has only been available to the Police Special Tactics Group and a small number of Armed Offenders Squads.

IPCA Chair, Judge Sir David Carruthers, said although Mr McDonald did not sustain any serious injuries during the incident the Authority was asked by Police to undertake an independent investigation given it was the first time the sponge round had been deployed by New Zealand Police.

“Police are now planning to make the sponge round available to all Armed Offender Squad groups throughout the country, which the Authority supports,” Sir David said.

 

scoop.co.nz 22/6/15

 

Grandmother handcuffed after refusing to leave house during flood

Police are defending their arrest and handcuffing of a 67-year-old grandmother who refused demands to evacuate her flood-threatened home in Waitotara.

Another resident, a 69-year-old man said he was elbowed in the head and knocked to the ground when he also told an officer he was not ready to leave his home.

Taranaki area commander Inspector Keith Borrell said police were responding to an emergency and were facing a dangerous situation in darkness as the Waitotara River burst its banks.

He confirmed that one woman was arrested under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002 after refusing to leave her property, but was later released without charge.

Roma Brewer and Dot Bowlin both claimed they were physically assaulted by police after objecting to being forced from their houses as flood waters began to rise on Saturday.

Other residents support their claims, saying police were heavy-handed and should have listened to locals who knew the area and what to expect.

Locals said they were monitoring the river and knew the danger signs to watch for.

Bowlin said she was pleading with police to let her stay at her house, which sits on one of the highest points in the township, so she could keep an eye on her animals when a young officer allegedly threw her to the ground and handcuffed her, aggravating an arm injury.

Taranaki Daily News 23/6/15

 

Privacy

Skoolbag app gaining popularity in New Zealand amid privacy concerns

An app that alerts parents to school emergencies, and tells them the date of the college disco, is gaining in popularity, despite warnings from privacy watchdogs about the safety of the data it collects.

Skoolbag is the brainchild of an Australian parent Andrew Tsousis, who wanted a better way of communicating with his child's school.

It is now used by 34 schools in New Zealand and 2000 worldwide, and provides information on cancellations, school notices, school contact information, timetables, absences and parent contact details.

However, the Australian privacy commission recently warned of the dangers of the inappropriate disclosure of the mountains of data being collected by Skoolbag and apps like it.

The New Zealand Privacy Commission was unable to comment, but privacy commissioner John Edwards has previously expressed concerns about how apps collected personal information without clear privacy policies. He signed an open letter last year that raised fears about "removing the ability for individuals to be meaningfully informed when making decisions about ... their personal information".

stuff.co.nz 16/6/15

 

New Zealand’s privacy law is outdated – expert

New Zealand’s outdated online privacy laws are leaving consumers in the dark and retailers unprepared for changing international standards, a leading cyber-security expert says.

Under New Zealand’s current laws, if a company is hacked or accidentally releases consumers’ personal data (such as personal details, medical history or credit card information) there is no legal requirement that they tell consumers affected.

This means that customers’ personal data, including credit card details, tax information and medical histories, could be being passed around online without their knowledge.

The managing director of Delta Insurance Ian Pollard, says New Zealand’s standards for data-security are falling behind the rest of the world, and this puts New Zealanders are at greater risk of having their personal information leaked.

“New Zealand ranks fourth in APEC (The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum) for cyber attacks, we simply cannot afford to be complacent on this issue,” says Pollard.

Pollard says the USA is currently one of the most advanced legally, with 47 out of 50 states already having mandatory breach notification laws in place, and there are moves towards putting federal laws in place to govern the entire country.

Australia has announced that mandatory notification legislation will be introduced later this year, changing the current status quo where it is recommended but not legally required.

New laws for the European Union are also on the way, scheduled for implementation in late 2015 to early 2016 thanks to updates to the EU Privacy and Human Rights Law.

Existing laws have served New Zealand well, Pollard says, but they are in need of an update to reflect the changing online landscape.

“The New Zealand Privacy Act was written in 1993 to tackle the problems of the time, but the modern cyber-security environment and proliferation of data have grown in ways that were difficult to predict,” he says.

showroom.co.nz 18/6/15

 

Facebook, privacy laws, & impact on the workplace

While Facebook continues to produce evidence for employers seeking to prove employee wrongdoing, a recent New Zealand case demonstrates that privacy settings can’t be ignored.

In a recent ruling, the New Zealand Human Rights Review Tribunal ordered an employer pay an ex-employee a hefty $168,000 after it wrongfully accessed her Facebook page and maliciously distributed its contents to her new employer.

After she had resigned her post with NZCU, the company’s management team caught wind that a picture of a cake decorated with an insulting message to NZCU had been posted on Ms Hammond’s Facebook page, but despite the best efforts of NZCU, Ms Hammond’s privacy settings meant that only Facebook “friends” could view the image.

NZCU pressured a junior staff member, who was a Facebook friend of Ms Hammond, to log into her Facebook account and take a screenshot of the picture for NZCU. Upon receiving the private image, NZCU, then emailed the photo to local employment agencies
 and disclosed the photo to her current employer while placing pressure on them to terminate Ms Hammond’s employment.

In considering these actions, the Tribunal found that NZCU breached its privacy obligations to Ms Hammond that requires an agency that holds personal information to refrain from disclosing that information.

National Law Review 18/6/15

 

Police finally release Banks interview

Police have finally released the formal interview carried out with former MP John Banks almost three years after it was requested.

The three-hour long interview was a key part of the police investigation into allegations Mr Banks had failed to file an accurate electoral return after losing his bid to become the first Auckland supercity mayor in 2010.

Police released a summary of its initial investigation and then affidavits gathered from witnesses, but resisted releasing the transcript of the interview with Mr Banks.

Police balked at providing the interview even after being ordered to by the Ombudsman, Professor Ron Paterson, in December 2013, saying it could interfere with the upcoming private prosecution action. The interview with police was aired in court, but Justice Edwin Wylie refused to allow access to the court file for a copy of the transcript.

The Court of Appeal then threw out the conviction against Mr Banks' case, which also appeared to clear the way for releasing the transcript. Police, which had no role in the case at that stage, said it intended waiting 20 more days in case there was an appeal against the court's decision.

The Ombudsman said Mr Banks had opposed the release with his lawyer, arguing it would encourage "irresponsible commentary".

The Ombudsman said it was not a valid reason for refusing to supply the information when the test to be applied was whether it was in the "public interest", and those standing for or in public office could expect to lose a degree of privacy. He said an MP with legal representation interviewed about "alleged irregularities in respect of electoral funding donations" could not expect a "high expectation of privacy".

"Given the public disquiet about the integrity of the fundraising for the 2010 Auckland Mayoral election, without direct access to Mr Banks' statement, the public will not be adequately informed."

Otago Daily Times 23/6/15

 

Race

Racial bias in mortgage lending exposed

Researchers say they are shocked to find an apparent racial bias by mortgage lenders against Māori people who "look Māori

The Auckland University research has found that a Māori person who rates 5.55 out of 7 on a scale of Māori-like personal appearance is twice as likely not to own their own home as a European-looking Māori rating only 1 on the scale, after allowing for all other factors including income and age.

The effect of personal appearance on home ownership was roughly as strong as the effect of income - a result that shocked the researchers.

"We were absolutely stunned," said psychologist Dr Chris Sibley, who leads the NZ Attitudes and Values Study.

Co-author Dr Carla Houkamau, a social psychologist in the university's business school, said: "It's quite shocking when you are researchers and you are looking at results and you think, no, it can't be right, surely it can't be based on how people look!"

In their paper in US-based open access journal Plos One, they wrote: "What our analyses are picking up on is a statistical signal that is most likely to have been produced by a systematic bias in lending by banking institutions over a fairly long period of time."

Mike Pero, the founder of New Zealand's biggest mortgage broking company and son of a Cook Islands Maori, said: "That would be a fair comment."

"It's totally not what we would want to have as a nation," he said.

"Put it this way: if there's an application, all things being equal, and it was a tight one, if it had a Maori name there as a couple it might be enough [to reject it]. It's probably something that's not written down, but it would be a possibility that that could be prejudice as well.

"You'll never prove it, but I know through my own life, I'm 55 years of age, I know there have been certain circumstances where people prejudge you on your name."

Only 28 per cent of all Maori aged 15 and over owned their own homes in the 2013 Census -- half the European rate of 57 per cent and behind Asians (35 per cent), although ahead of Pacific people (18.5 per cent).

New Zealand Bankers' Association chief executive Kirk Hope said racial stereotyping was not in the banks' or their customers’ interests especially within such a competitive part of the banking sector.

New Zealand Herald 18/6/15

 

Refugees

Call to increase New Zealand’s refugee quota

The Human Rights Commission has repeated calls to increase New Zealand’s refugee quota.

Speaking at the National Refugee Resettlement Forum today Race Relations Commissioner Susan Devoy said:

“In years to come when our children ask us what we did as the world faced its worst humanitarian crisis in history: What will we say to them? Will we make excuses? Will we wish we did something?”

“How can we honestly defend a 30-year track record of doing nothing but the bare minimum?”

Dame Susan says increasing New Zealand’s annual refugee quota as well as providing a flexible humanitarian response from time to time is the right thing to do.

Dame Susan said New Zealand “can no longer play our part on the world stage with mana or with dignity if we do not do the right thing at home: human rights begin at home.”

“We have millions of displaced people in the world – most of them children. This is New Zealand’s opportunity to lead by example as a Security Council member. We must pull our weight as a responsible, humane global citizen.”

scoop.co.nz June 3/6/15

 

Religious Discrimination

Muslim boy denied home stay in Japan

The Human Rights Commission has weighed in on the case of a Dunedin boy rejected for an exchange trip to Japan because he is Muslim.

Sharif Steel, 15, had hoped to spend a year in Japan staying with a host family but his application was rejected due to his religious beliefs

The Human Rights Commission encouraged the New Zealand student exchange organisation to contact their Japanese counterparts and work towards resolving an incident.

"We've been in touch with the organisers of this student exchange programme and encouraged them to engage with their counterparts in Japan to address the problems that have arisen," said Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy.

"We also encouraged them to work with Sharif and his family to resolve this incident.

"Student exchanges are primarily about intercultural education and a key part of intercultural relations is to keep talking and to sort things out."

Religious discrimination in New Zealand is unlawful under the Human Rights Act.

New Zealand Herald 9/6/15

 

Sikh 'embarrassed' after being barred from club over turban

A Sikh real estate agent says he faced religious discrimination when he was barred from a club because he was wearing a turban.

Gurpreet Singh, was prevented from entering the Manurewa Cosmopolitan Club for lunch with colleagues on Tuesday.

Singh and his workmate tried to explain to club staff that the turban was part of his faith and not something he could take off.

"But they said 'No, we have this policy and we are sticking to it,'" he said. "Instead of arguing we just left."

Singh said he was "embarrassed" by the incident. He had been in New Zealand for seven years and this was the first time his turban had caused problems.

"Turbans are recognised in New Zealand as a cultural item. If we go for a passport, or drivers licence, or to the bank, we're allowed to wear the turban."

Singh said he did not think a club or restaurant should be different, and the policy needed to be changed.

He lodged a complaint of religious discrimination with the Human Rights Commission on Wednesday.

This is not the first time the Manurewa Cosmopolitan Club's no-headwear policy has brought it into conflict with religious groups.

In 2009 another turban-wearing Sikh, Karnail Singh, was barred from entering for the same reason. He also complained to the Human Rights Commission, but the Cosmopolitan Club voted to uphold its ban.

The same year a Muslim international student was stopped from dining at the club because she was wearing a hijab, or religious headscarf.

Manurewa Cosmopolitan Club President John Stevens said the rule was not religious discrimination.

"It's just the standard rule we've had in our club for the last 50 years."

Stevens said the rule was put in "to stop people coming in with beanies, with caps, with hoodies and this sort of stuff."

"If they opened it up to one they'd have to open it up to everybody, so they just put in a blanket rule that no headwear was to be worn within the club.

The rule was considered at a club AGM five years ago, after the Human Rights Commission said the club needed to consider changing it. Members voted unanimously in favour of retaining the rule.

Stevens said he would raise the rule again at the next AGM, but that was not until next year.

Prime Minister John Key also weighed in to the debate at a press conference at Auckland's Viaduct Harbour.

He said the Cosmopolitan Club's barring of Singh was "very disappointing".

"I'd like to think culturally we're a very considerate society. People wear turbans because of their religious beliefs ... and I think we should try and be more inclusive of those, and recognising those.

stuff.co.nz 18/6/15

Libertywatch March 2016

Adoption

Calls for urgent reform of New Zealand adoption laws

New Zealand's 61-year-old adoption laws are discriminatory and outdated, according to a new ruling by the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

A Human Rights Review Tribunal decision, which comes after two years of legal battles, has found the Adoption Act 1955 and the Adult Adoption Information Act 1985 contradicts the Human Rights Act and the Bill of Rights Act by discriminating against people based on sex, age, marital status and disability.

The current law stops civil union partners or same-sex de facto couples from adopting. It also places restrictions on single men trying to adopt a female child and stops anyone under the age of 25 from adopting.

The Adoption Act is over 60 years old and no longer reflects New Zealand’s values and practices, urgent law reform is needed,” said Chief Human Rights Commissioner David Rutherford.

“We urge Government to make the necessary legislative changes to remove the discriminatory provisions of these laws to ensure that our adoption legislation reflects societal norms and expectations: reform is long overdue.”  

Hrc.co.nz 9/3/16

 

Broadcasting

Survey's questions about Māori biased - Human Rights Commission

The Human Rights Commission says Kiwis should think before they link to an online survey launched by the state broadcaster that poses leading and biased questions about Māori New Zealanders.

The “Kiwimeter” has been touted by TVNZ as the biggest survey of national identity ever undertaken with thousands of New Zealanders taking part. 

In one question Kiwimeter states “Māori should not receive any special treatment” and asks respondents for their opinions on this.

“This is a leading statement demonstrating a clear bias: Kiwimeter has decided Māori already receive ‘special treatment’ even though they do not explain what this actually means,” said Karen Johansen, Indigenous Rights Commissioner.

“The Treaty of Waitangi settlements process is a judicial form of truth and reconciliation that acknowledges human rights abuses faced by generations of New Zealanders: to describe it as ‘special treatment’ is disingenuous and wrong.”

The Commission states that they support open discussion about national identity but urged the state broadcaster to think carefully about where their leading questions are taking respondents.

Scoop.co.nz 11/3/16

 

Criminal Justice

Poor court cell condition linked to death

Poor conditions at an Auckland court cell contributed to a man taking his own life there, the Independent Police Conduct Authority has found. 

In May last year, police arrested Dwayne Walters for breaching his bail conditions and took him to Counties Manukau police station. Mr Walters had reportedly threatened suicide, but no concerns regarding his welfare were communicated or recorded by any police officer at the station, the IPCA report said. Mr Walters was transferred to Papakura District Court later that morning and remanded in custody after his court appearance. 

He returned to the court cells waiting to be transferred to the Mount Eden Corrections Facility, but just before 4pm that day an officer found the man had taken his own life in his cell. 

IPCA chairman Judge Sir David Carruthers said the cell's poor condition was a "significant contributing factor" in Mr Walters' death. "The cell should not have been maintained in a way that presented this level of risk to occupants." 

The authority found a large number of other court cells throughout the country operated in similar conditions. A review was completed on all court cells across the country and a national programme of work was being developed to ensure all court cells were maintained to an appropriate standard. 

"The authority is satisfied that in response to its investigations, and the concerns expressed, prompt action has been taken by the ministry. The authority anticipates it will be kept abreast of progress and completion of the work programme," Sir David said. 

Otago Daily Times 17/3/16

 

Concern for transgender prisoners raised

New Zealand's prison population is approaching 10,000 inmates, an all time high. To deal with the rise, Minister of Corrections Judith Collins has proposed an increase in double bunking. Placing prisoners in the same cells has advocates afraid for prisoners' safety, particularly transgender inmates.

The lawyer for No Pride in Prisons, Whangarei barrister Kelly Ellis, has said that an overwhelming number of trans-women are kept in men's prisons because they can't afford to change their birth certificates. Alternatively, they can apply to be transferred to a female prison under the 2014 Transgender and Intersex Prisoner policy. However, Ellis said, "While trans-people have the right to apply to go into women's prison, this often goes by the wayside."

Ministry of Corrections chief custodial officer Neil Beales says, "Corrections is committed to ensuring transgender and intersex prisoners are treated respectfully and according to their needs while maintaining the safety and security of other prisoners". Every application for placement in a gender-specific prison is considered on its own merits, but if it's unsuccessful, transgender prisoners are assigned to a prison according to their gender recorded on their birth certificate.

Vice.com 24/3/16

 

Employment

“The right to work in just conditions is a human right”

The Human Rights Commission says New Zealanders’ right to work in just and favorable conditions will become more of a reality with the scrapping of Zero Hour contracts.

“The right to work in just and favourable conditions is a human right, work plays a central role in the quality of life enjoyed by New Zealanders and their families,” said Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Dr Jackie Blue.

“Contracts that require workers to be available without guaranteeing those workers any paid work are unjust and open to abuse. Thousands of low income earners across the country, many of them women, Pasifika, Maori, disabled and younger New Zealanders, will be favourably affected by this important development.”

A parliamentary bi-partisan agreement to introduce a minimum hours of work clause will effectively eliminate zero-hour contracts. In their submission to the select committee the Commission recommended a change that would guarantee minimum hours as well as full minimum wage protection.

“Vulnerable population groups have been more likely to be subject to zero-hour contracts and other exploitative employment conditions. Workers who are constantly concerned about income security perform less well at work and this income insecurity impacts negatively on health,” said Dr Blue. 

“Today’s decision better protects the right of all New Zealanders to work under conditions that are just and favourable.”
New Zealand is a signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Article 7 of which provides that all persons have the right to just and favourable conditions of work;  fair wages and equal remuneration; and remuneration that provides a decent living for the worker and their family.

Scoop.co.nz 10/3/16

 

Freedom of Information

Library blocks tabloid websites

Auckland's Central City library blocked access to The Daily Mail and Daily Star websites on computers available for public use, although other tabloid sites, including The Sun, The Daily Express, The Mirror and the New York Post, were accessible.
Auckland Council's digital and service development manager Greg Morgan said there was no specific list of blocked sites maintained by the council.  Instead, access to websites was only restricted when certain kinds of content were detected by filtering software.  This included "adult content, harmful and stealth content, and hacking content," Morgan said.
If library users thought blocked websites were not objectionable, library staff could provide manual exceptions.

New Zealand Herald 27/3/16

 

Policing

Allegations that New Zealand police racially profile African youth

Police and African community leaders have met after allegations that police are racially profiling African youth.

The dispute arose after the release of AUT University research that claimed African youth felt unfairly targeted and sometimes racially abused by police.

Young Africans told AUT researcher Dr Camille Nakhid that police have stopped them on the streets or in cars for no apparent reason except their colour, beaten them, racially abused them, told them to "go back to your country" and even told them to go back to Mt Roskill when they visited the North Shore. 

Police say while they cannot respond to single incidents without more details, they take cultural concerns very seriously. 

Dr Nakhid posted two questionnaires on Survey Monkey last April and advertised them to young Africans through Facebook and other media. The main survey drew 84 respondents, of whom 31 per cent had been stopped by police and 3.6 per cent had been arrested. She also interviewed 31 young Auckland Africans, including 25 from Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea. 

Only 13,464 people of African ethnicity were counted in the 2013 Census, just 0.3 per cent of New Zealanders. Sub-groups included 1617 Somalis, 1245 Ethiopians and 243 Eritreans, who all came here mainly as refugees from civil wars, many without husbands or fathers. 

Young Africans are not offending at a higher rate than the national average, police say. A spokeswoman said only 12 out of 5000 (0.2 per cent) of the police database of youths aged 14 to 16 identified as African, less than their 0.3 per cent share of the national population aged 15 to 29. 

"Valuing diversity is now one of the core values of the NZ Police and we have a responsibility to encourage and grow the cultural competencies of our staff and actively recruit from all communities," she said. 

The police website lists 13 Maori, Pacific and ethnic liaison officers across the three Auckland police districts and eight in the rest of the country. Only one, in Christchurch, is listed as speaking an African language (Shona), but the spokeswoman said one African officer was also working in Auckland. 

Former Race Relations Conciliator Gregory Fortuin said the police had responded positively since he first raised concerns about unfair treatment of minority groups in 2001. "But if there are individual cases, it should not be tolerated in 2016," he said. 

Police downplayed the research on Friday, with Superintendent Wally Haumaha saying they were "disappointed" with the "unsubstantiated claims". The research by AUT social sciences associate professor Camille Nakhid involved a very small number of individuals aged 16 to 31, some of whom were known to police, he said. "I do not agree with the generalised findings of this report which are at odds with the very positive feedback we receive from our African and other ethnic communities," Haumaha says.

However, African Communities Forum president Kizito Essuman said the researcher findings were shocking and needed to be treated seriously. "Even if there is only one person coming out to share his or her experience about Police abuse on the street, one case is too many at this civilised age.

"These are real stories by real people in our community and cannot be swept under the carpet."

Otago Daily Times 4/3/16 & Stuff.co.nz 5/3/16

 

Privacy

University CCTV watching Dunedin’s student quarter

The University of Otago is planning more CCTV for Dunedin's student quarter, following confirmation it was behind a camera watching a popular party street. 

A CCTV camera, installed on a University-owned building on Albany St in early February, was monitoring Hyde Street.  However many students on the street said they were not aware of the camera, despite the Office of the Privacy Commissioner recommending people be made aware of CCTV, while others expressed concern over it watching their every movement. There was talk on the street about a possible petition to have the camera removed.

Deputy Proctor Andy Ferguson confirmed the camera was one of 18 watching public streets or public walkways, and was part of a network of 400 cameras, most inside university buildings.

The University was planning a proposal to the Dunedin City Council and police to roll out more cameras in public places around campus streets, "to keep residents safe and deter dangerous and antisocial behaviour, such as lighting fires".
That was likely to include the notorious Castle St, with cameras already on nearby Abbey College.

Ferguson said as the Hyde St camera viewed a public place, "we have not needed to notify students directly".
"For residents and people not doing anything unlawful or harmful to others, they have nothing to worry about – we won't be interested. It is simply another tool, another pair of eyes, no different to when a campus watch staff member has seen something that shouldn't be happening on their regular walks around campus.”

Stuff.co.nz 2/3/16

 

Council puts secret listening device in couple's garden 

A Christchurch couple was shocked to discover the city council was spying on their dogs using a listening device covertly placed in their garden.

The move has astounded Jenny and Tim Bennett and a human rights lawyer, who said the couple's right to privacy has been breached. The Christchurch City Council admitted on Tuesday it used the devices and normally sought permission before installing them.  That did not happen in the Bennett’s case.

It has now recalled all listening devices until its animal management officers have received refresher training to ensure they followed correct procedure. The council has 18 devices and has used them for the last five years.

Human rights lawyer Michael Bott said the council's action's were "outrageous" and breached the couple's right to privacy. "It's the sort of thing you would expect by someone from the KGB or more lately the GCSB (Government Communications Security Bureau)."

He said the council's actions seemed "excessive, disproportionate and on the face of it unlawful". He did not know of any statutory power the council would have to covertly place surveillance equipment on someone's property. 

Council regulatory compliance head Tracey Weston said the listening devices were used once all other steps had been taken to determine excessive dog barking.

She said the device on the Bennett's property was the only one placed without permission.

"The council's practice is to only use these listening devices on a property with the permission of the owner."

The device was able to pick up voices, but animal management officers could not recall a situation where they had heard conversations on a recording. The council's policy was to disregard anything heard on the recording other than barking, Weston said. 

Stuff.co.nz 16/3/16

 

Spying

Security Bureau may be given permission to spy on Kiwis' private information

New Zealand's foreign intelligence agency should be able to spy on Kiwis' private communications, a wide-ranging intelligence and security review has recommended. At the same time, a new single piece of legislation to govern both the activities of the Security Intelligence Service and Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) would contain a beefed-up authorisation process, designed to safeguard privacy.

However, that could be overridden in urgent situations where there is a threat to life, or a brief window of time to obtain intelligence critical to national security. 

The Government-ordered review, released today and completed by former Labour Deputy Prime Minister Sir Michael Cullen and lawyer and professional director Dame Patsy Reddy, contains 107 recommendations.

Sir Michael told a press conference that such co-operation between the two intelligence agencies was the intent of the current law. A lack of clarity about what the law permits and recent high profile controversies meant the GCSB had taken an overly conservative approach, which, it is claimed, could lead valuable lines of investigation to being dropped, and ultimately put New Zealanders' safety at risk.

Future reviews will be carried out every five to seven years. Dame Patsy and Sir Michael said it would be likely that in the future a full merger between the agencies could be considered.

Under the single piece of legislation proposed, all of the agencies' activities would require some form of authorisation.  A three-tiered system was recommended, with higher level of scrutiny for activity that is more intrusive or targets New Zealanders.

Tier 1 would require a warrant approved by the Attorney-General and a judicial commissioner. Such sign-off would be required for activities that would otherwise be unlawful and target a New Zealand citizen, permanent resident or organisation.

Tier 2 would require a warrant issued by the Attorney-General for activity that would otherwise be unlawful, but not targeted at New Zealanders or New Zealand organisations.

Tier 3, the lowest level, would need a policy statement issued by the Minister responsible for the agencies after referral to the Inspector-General.

Currently the Minister in Charge of SIS and GCSB approves warrants. Under the new regime and before green-lighting a proposal, the Attorney-General and judicial commissioner would need to be satisfied of a range of conditions. Tier 1 or Tier 2 conditions could be granted "to test, maintain or develop capabilities or train employees for the purpose of performing the agency's functions".

Asked how happy New Zealanders would be to be "guinea pigs" for staff training, Sir Michael said there would be clear and stringent internal protocols.

The tiered process could override the authorisation process if there is an imminent threat to the life or safety of any person, or a delay in obtaining the information is likely to seriously prejudice national security.

The Chief Commissioner of Intelligence Warrants would be notified immediately in such cases, and the Attorney-General and Commissioner would consider an application after the fact, and order any intelligence to be destroyed if the application is declined.

Other new safeguards include allowing non-New Zealanders to complain to the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, and expanding the size of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament to a maximum of seven members.

The review also backed the extension of the Countering Foreign Terrorist Fighters legislation, which is due to expire on March 31 next year. That law, which was rushed through Parliament, gave the SIS greater powers of surveillance. Today's review recommended an additional safeguard, in that any decision by the Minister of Internal Affairs to cancel a passport should be reviewed by a judicial commissioner.

Any access to intelligence held by a foreign partner should still require the appropriate level of authorisation, the report recommended, in order to stop agencies using foreign partners to collect information they could not lawfully obtain themselves.

The report found that, of all the security leads the SIS investigates, about half are received from foreign intelligence partners.
New Zealand gained considerably more from its international intelligence partnerships that it provides in return, the report stated. For example, for every intelligence report the SIS provides to a foreign partner, it gets back 170.

Mr Key, also the Minister of National Security and Intelligence, has welcomed the report and stated that he believed that most New Zealanders would look to the Government to get the balance right between keeping them safe, and inevitable trade-offs with privacy and human rights.

Mr Key also noted that new legislation could be put forward by July, although not all the proposals would necessarily be adopted and the public could have a say through select committee.

New Zealand Herald 9/3/16

Libertywatch May 2015

Assisted dying

Terminally Ill woman acts for right to assisted dying

A woman who has terminal brain cancer has said in a statement to court that she will face a choice between taking her own life or suffering a slow and painful death, if a doctor cannot lawfully help her die.

Lecretia Seales has gone to court for clarification of whether the Crimes Act prevents a doctor from helping her to die without then being charged themselves.

If the court finds it does then she wants it to consider whether a ban on assisted dying under the Crimes Act is contrary to her human rights under the Bill of Rights Act.

Human Rights Commission lawyer Dr Matthew Palmer told the court had the jurisdiction to make a ruling, in response to Solicitor-General Michael Heron, QC, earlier arguing that New Zealand’s constitution meant such changes had to be made through Parliament rather than through a court; Parliament had considered euthanasia three times in recent years and each time rejected a law change enabling it.

But Ms Seales’ lead lawyer Dr Andrew Butler said, in closing, sometimes ethics drove the law and sometimes the law drove ethics.

He said it would be wrong to leave the issue to Parliament to deal with.

“You cannot allow the Crown to come along and say ‘leave it to Parliament to have a debate about it’ when there’s no prospect of such a debate occurring and there has never even been select committee hearings on the topic,” he said.

Ms Seales and her lawyers maintain the case is about her alone, and said they did not want it to become a wider debate about euthanasia.

But Victoria Casey, a lawyer for vulnerable persons umbrella group Care Alliance, said it would effectively legalise assisted dying on demand, leaving groups such as the elderly and the disabled at risk.

Euthanasia was legal in the Netherlands, where 97 people with dementia there had been euthanised in 2013, and there had been a “dramatic” increase in the euthanasia of people with long-term psychiatric illnesses, she said.

“When you combine this with New Zealand’s well-documented problems with elder abuse and the neglect and abuse of the elderly and disabled in care, the prospects are … chilling.”

But Voluntary Euthanasia Society lawyer Kate Davenport, QC, said what Ms Seales wanted her doctor to do by prescribing medicine to relieve an aspect of her suffering could not be classed as either homicide nor assault.

“If what Ms Seales’ general practitioner is seeking to do can properly be defined as treatment, then it doesn’t fall within the definition of the Crimes Act,” she said.  That was particularly so, given it was up to Ms Seales to decide whether or not she took the medicine prescribed.

Justice Collins closed the case by thanking Ms Seales for taking the action and said he would endeavour to make a quick decision.

Radionz.co.nz, 28/5/15

 

Criminal Justice

New body launched to investigate potential miscarriages of justice

Charitable trust The New Zealand Public Interest Project (NZPIP) will launch on June 1. Its panel will investigate potential injustices. Civil proceedings of public interest, including test cases and class action, could also be considered.

The voluntary board consists of sociologist and University of Canterbury (UC) lecturer Jarrod Gilbert, UC dean of law Chris Gallavin, private investigator Tim McKinnel, lawyers Nigel Hampton QC and and Kerry Cook, forensic scientist Anna Sandiford, legal expert Duncan Webb, and founder of investigation firm Zavest Glynn Rigby.

Gilbert said countries including England and Scotland had independent criminal cases review commissions that pursued potential miscarriages. While these organisations were created and funded by Acts of Parliament, successive New Zealand governments refused to establish a similar body.

“We see this as an important absence in our country’s legal system, and so we decided to create one ourselves,” he said.

The initiative was a partnership with UC, and would act as a charitable trust, calling on the help of outside experts, he said.  UC law school students, who would operate under the supervision of the board, working mostly on “pro bono” basis and earning course credit, would also look at cases.

In some cases, the board could apply for legal aid but the organisation would receive no direct funding.

Gallavin said it would be “fairly small with a limited capacity” but in some instances the cases would end up in the Court of Appeal, Privy Council or up for judicial review.

People who felt they have fallen victim to a miscarriage of justice would have forms available to them to fill out and make a referral to the body.  From there, the board would decide on the merit of a case and if it is in the public interest, then decide if it has “got legs”, and finally if they had the capacity to carry out the investigation.

Stuff.co.nz, 19/5/15

 

Jurors to be Facebook vetted

A new company offering to vet the Facebook and Twitter profiles of potential jurors could deter people from turning up in court, a law expert warns.

The company, Jury Selection Services, profiles jurors and gives defence lawyers access to their digital footprints. As well as social media, that can include all publicly available information such as financial status, personal relationships, debt and religious or charity affiliations.

It is the first service of its kind in New Zealand, but University of Auckland law professor Dr Bill Hodge said it was "reasonably common" in the United States where the jury selection process was an intensive part of the defence strategy.

Currently, Crown prosecutors and defence lawyers are given a list of up to 150 potential jurors about five days before a trial.  When jurors are balloted, prosecution and defence have only four opportunities and about 30 seconds to judge whether to challenge a juror.

Before a trial, prosecutors are able to call on police to conduct background checks on criminal convictions and other possible red flags.  Since defence counsel did not have access to those resources, Hodge said the new service "levels out the playing field".

But he warned there were dangers. "If you know that your details are out there for people, it may or may not unconsciously have an effect on the way a juror goes about their deliberations," he said. "It's hard enough to get people to do jury service…It might well find a way for them to seek an excuse to be exempted or excused from being empanelled."

A Privacy Commission spokesman said no laws were broken if information used was publicly available.

New Zealand Herald, 30/5/15

 

Disabled Rights

Deaf Aotearoa applaud NZ On Air funding announcement

Deaf Aotearoa are thrilled with the announcement that NZ On Air will be providing additional funding for captioning on TV One, TV2, TV3 and FOUR.

Independent captioning and audio description service Able will receive $400,000 more in the coming year, allowing it to continue to increase its services.

“Increases to Able’s funding will be hugely beneficial to New Zealand’s Deaf and hard-of-hearing communities,” says Robert Hewison, president of Deaf Aotearoa. “Access to information is the right of all Kiwis, and increasing the quality and reach of the services offered to allow for this is an immensely positive step toward creating a more accessible, inclusive and engaged society.”

 

Scoop.co.nz, 26/5/15

 

Call for equal access for all

A southern disability action group has called on the Southland District Council to ensure everyone has access to its facilities, particularly as the population ages.

CCS Disability Action was one of the submitters at the council’s Long Term Plan hearing on Tuesday, and access co-ordinator Mary O’Brien said a large number of Southlanders were excluded from basic areas of life because of their disability.

“It’s good for us to review how disabled people feel in society. Disabled people are significantly disadvantaged,” she said.

She recommended accessibility be addressed during upgrades and any new toilets the council constructed be made accessible to all people.

She also commended the council’s project to develop the map of Southland showing accessible facilities, labelling it a positive step for accessible tourism.

“Some people are not going to go on the Southern Scenic Route if they can’t see where the accessible toilets are,” O’Brien said.

She also called on the council to review the availability of rural accessible transport, including buses between main centres and townships.

“A safe community includes all it’s members, and good accessibility does benefit everybody,” O’Brien said.

The Southland Times, 19/5/15

 

Education

Claims that school pamphlet “steps over the line”

Papanui High School has hit back at claims students were exposed to inappropriate material after a Christian conservative pamphlet was given out.

It described women who have sex outside marriage as "cheap prostitutes", and says those who have gay sex will face punishment of death and hell.

The Christchurch school's board of trustees’ chairperson Sandy Brinsdon insists the views aren't those of the school.

"It's really important that kids understand a wide range of views that are out there in the community that they're going to come across – that's how we prepare them to be good young adults," she told RadioLIVE.  "It was given out as one of many perspectives of a range of views that society holds. It wasn't done to discriminate or offend anybody – it was to help the students in their learning."

The Ministry of Education said it would be "rare" such material would be appropriate in a classroom setting, and Labour education spokesperson Chris Hipkins said the pamphlet "steps over the line" and should be withdrawn.

The pamphlet is published by United States-based Bible Baptist Publications, and contains phrases such as: "Either you are married or you are not married. If you are not married, yet you have sexual relations, then you are a wicked fornicator."

It was given to 15-year-old students, but its relevance not explained in class until the following week, reports Fairfax Media.

Secular Education Network coordinator Peter Harrison agrees with Mr. Hipkins, claiming the pamphlet's distribution is "essentially against our New Zealand Bill of Rights and our Human Rights Act".

3news.co.nz, 18/5/15

 

Schools to consider gender-neutral uniforms

Schools have been asked to consider offering gender-neutral uniforms as part of new sexuality education guidelines aimed at being more inclusive.

Advice from the Ministry of Education, released yesterday, also suggested schools could review toilet spaces, allow same-sex partners at balls, and be aware of grouping students by gender in sports classes to help a more diverse range of students feel safe.

"While social attitudes to sexual diversity are becoming more inclusive in New Zealand, young people who identify as non-heterosexual still face many challenges in schooling environments…"Young people who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual often feel marginalised and isolated, and experience less inclusive environments in schools," the guidelines said.

Policy additions were based on research saying issues included the sexualisation of young people, particularly girls; the effects of pornography on young people's understanding of sexuality and relationships; and examining the bias that opposite sex relationships are normal.

Gender issues were also prevalent; with a nationally representative survey in 2012 finding that transgender students were a numerically small but important group. Around 1.2% of students report as transgender and 2.5% not sure.

The guidelines said: "School uniforms can reinforce gender norms, so schools may consider offering gender-neutral clothing choices when uniforms come up for review."

Otago DailyTimes, 31/5/15

 

Access to education a “fundamental human right”

A school is going to one of the country's highest courts to fight to keep a child with Asperger's out of the classroom.

Green Bay High School will try to overturn a 2014 judicial review that said the boy - who was expelled after scuffling with a teacher over a skateboard - should be allowed to return to class.

The landmark hearing in Wellington has implications for schools up and down New Zealand, as it pits the rights of schools to prevent disruption in the classroom against a child's right to an education.

The Human Rights Commission, advocacy group IHC, and Crown Law have each successfully applied to join the court action.

The Disabilities Commissioner, Paul Gibson, said it too had become involved because access to education was a fundamental human right.

"This case raises the legal issue of the obligation for New Zealand schools to reasonably accommodate the needs of students with disabilities," he said.

Jen Puah from Aotearoa Youth Law, who is representing the schoolboy in the court action, said the teen wanted to return to the West Auckland school.

But the school had made it "extremely difficult" for that to happen.

Puah said the case reflected a large number of schoolchildren slipping through the cracks, partly because schools were dealing with stretched finances and were unable to meet all the needs of students with behavioural issues.

IHC director of advocacy Trish Grant hoped the case would lead to stronger legislative protection for students with disabilities.  Students with disabilities had the same right as their non-disabled peers to be enrolled and receive an education, but she said there wasn't a law that protected them from being rejected through disciplinary or enrolment processes, or restrictions placed on the time they're at school.

New Zealand Herald, 30/5/15

 

Elections

Online voting trials available for 2016 local government elections

Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) is putting its support behind councils looking at trialling online voting in the 2016 local body elections.

The Associate Minister of Local Government, Louise Upston, confirmed last week that a small number of local authorities will shortly be able to undertake a trial of online voting at the 2016 elections.

LGNZ President Lawrence Yule says that online voting can streamline the voting process.

“The local government sector is interested in being able to offer citizens the choice to vote online,” Mr. Yule says.

“It is easier for many people in the community including those with disabilities and in some cities, online voting has increased the number of people taking part in local body elections.”

Scoop.co.nz · May 20, 2015

 

Gender Identity/Sexual Orientation

Statistics New Zealand is recommending neither sexual orientation nor gender identity be included in the next Census in 2018, but is welcoming feedback on the long-running issue.

Groups from across the lgbti community have been calling for both to be included for years, saying data needs to be collected to identify and address significant health disparities for our communities.

Statistics New Zealand decided not to include such questions in the last Census in 2013, and the previous one in 2006, but says independent research it commissioned supports a need for information on sexual orientation, with growing evidence that members of sexual minority populations are disadvantaged across a range of social well-being, health, and economic indicators.  However it says the census may not be the best way to do this.

“Sexual orientation is multi-faceted in its definition, including elements of behaviour, desire, and identity. It is conceptually difficult to define and measure, particularly given the self-completed nature and limited space of census forms.

“We must also consider data quality and intrusiveness. Many respondents may not answer the question, and although census data may produce indicative figures, these may not be accurate enough to be analysed against other variables or published. Our focus group research identified quality issues and concerns about the accuracy of information people are comfortable disclosing.”

Statistics New Zealand says there is also an emerging need and desire to recognise gender equality, although the potential uses of census data on this are not yet clearly established.

A 2014 report from the Human Rights Commission highlighted the need for visibility as a means of promoting equality and decreasing the likelihood of discrimination.

Gaynz.com, 1/5 2015

 

Human Rights

UN report says NZ must improve in many areas

Significant issues highlighted by the Human Rights Commission have been reflected in the most recent UN report on New Zealand’s human rights performance.

Chief Human Rights Commissioner David Rutherford welcomes, in particular, the report’s attention to the issues of there still being too many Māori people in prisons in comparison to other groups, the number of people with mental health issues and other disabilities in prison, and the need for government to do more to stop violence against women and children.

David Rutherford says the UN review of New Zealand’s performance under the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel Inhuman and Degrading Treatment gives the government the opportunity to reflect and commit to changes that will improve the wellbeing of people.

 “Māori are significantly overrepresented in our prisons. While only five percent of Māori come into contact with the justice system, they make up 50 percent of our prison population,” David Rutherford said.

“Over 60 percent of prisoners have a learning or mental health disability. I believe that better identification of these issues early on will mean the lives of most of these people will stay on track. Many of these people simply shouldn’t be in prison.”

Mr. Rutherford agrees with the UN Committee’s call to government to better fund the Independent Police Conduct Authority and the Office of the Children’s Commissioner.

Scoop.co.nz, 18/5/15

 

Immigration

Concern over access to information held by schools

The Human Rights Commission is concerned at allegations officials are trying to access information held by schools to locate and deport students’ family members.

Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy said, “We’re concerned that requiring schools to disclose personal details may lead to children being kept away from school. Education is fundamental to the well-being and development of the child and every child should be able to enjoy their right to an education”.

In 2010, the Immigration Act was changed to enable children without legal immigration status to attend school in order to better reflect New Zealand’s obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Human Rights Commission and various other agencies including the Office of the Children’s Commissioner worked together to help make this happen.

Dame Susan says the Commission is unable to speculate on the lawfulness of the alleged operations that ultimately fall under the jurisdiction of the Privacy Commissioner and other agencies, such as the Office of the Ombudsman.

“Our sole focus here is the potential impact on the well-being of the children. It could have the unintended consequence of those children not attending school for fear of the impact it will have on their family.”

“This is about the children, it is not about their parents or their family members. Education is a fundamental human right and every New Zealand child has a right to go to school,” said Dame Susan.

Scoop.co.nz, 14/5/15

 

Racism

Kiwis urged to stand up to racist abuse in sports

The Human Rights Commission is urging everyday New Zealanders to stand up to racist sports fans and players.

"Athletes and fans who abuse players because of the colour of their skin have already lost," said Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy, "Their racism belongs in the past and has no place on our sports fields and sidelines."

Responding to allegations of abuse at a rugby game in North Canterbury last weekend, Dame Susan says racial slurs in sport happen and it’s "not good enough to say they’re random or only happen in the heat of the moment."

"All of us - not just officials - are responsible for standing up to people who use racism to try to win in sport. Everyday New Zealanders can make a stand whether they’re playing rugby in North Canterbury, soccer in Seatoun or a 1st XV game in the suburbs," said Dame Susan.

"Sport is a powerful vehicle to push through important social messages and this is a huge area where our sporting bodies can also step up and stand up to racial abuse in sport."

Nz.sports.yahoo.com, 28/5/15

 

Refugees

Amnesty International urges the government to accept more refugees

Amnesty International has urged the New Zealand government to accept more refugees, particularly those from Syria in light of the ongoing war there.

Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy says New Zealand hasn't raised its refugee quota since the 1980s.

"For a country that's renowned for punching above our weight on the world stage, when it comes to taking in refugees, we lag behind the rest of the world."

Tvnz.co.nz, 23/5/15

 

Security Intelligence Service

Tip-offs from public still provide the main defence against domestic terror, rather than widespread surveillance

Rebecca Kitteridge, Security Intelligence Service director, speaking at a Wellington conference on security said that tip-offs from the public still provided the main defence against domestic terror, rather than widespread surveillance.

 “We do not live in a surveillance state where everything you do online is recorded – at least not by the government,” she told the conference.

“Where information suggests that a person may be a threat to New Zealand’s domestic security, we will try to find out more about that person, and either determine that the person is not of interest, or will build an intelligence case that may lead to a warrant application.”

“Many people worry about state surveillance,” she said. “Polling late last year [showed] 29 per cent of respondents thought intelligence agencies might be interested in their personal communications … If that were true, that would mean the SIS would be targeting 1.3 million people and that bears no resemblance to the actual situation.”

Stuff.co.nz, 18/5/15

 

Young People

Parental notification and family planning

The law allowing a teenager to keep her abortion private from her parents should stay in place, NZ Family Planning says. 

Stratford mother Hillary Kieft presented a petition calling for an amendment to the law, to Whanganui MP Chester Borrows on Monday, after her teenage daughter had the procedure done without her knowledge.

Family First national director Bob McCroskie said an abortion is the only medical procedure that keeps parents in the dark, regardless of the age of the young pregnant woman in question. 

“This all effectively means that while a parent has to sign a letter for their daughter to go on a school trip to the zoo or to play in the netball team, they are totally excluded from any knowledge or granting of permission for that same child to be put on the pill or have a surgical abortion,” he said. 

New Zealand Family Planning chief executive Jackie Edmond said while she cannot speak about this specific case, she supported the law, as it stands, around parental notification. 

“The law was put in place for a reason and the reason was young people don’t always feel comfortable talking to their parents around these issues and in fact the parents may have contributed to what happened to that young person.”

Edmond said where possible, those young women are encouraged to talk with their parents, or a trusted adult, by health providers. 

“They don’t always want to talk to the parents. Sadly it’s the way young people are,” she said. 

New Plymouth Girls’ High School principal Jenny Ellis said she can empathise with parents and grandparents who are not kept informed of decisions around termination and contraception, but it is not a black and white issue. 

“We work very hard to get that young woman’s consent to involve the family and we see that as very important.  There are also students where I wouldn’t agree with the parent being informed.”

Taranaki Daily News 27/5/15

Libertywatch November 2015

Children’s Rights

New Zealand adoption laws 'breach human rights'

An adoption action group says the country's 60-year-old law breaches human rights and needs overhauling.

Under the current law, when a child is adopted a new birth certificate is drafted without any mention of the biological parents.

However, Unicef advocacy manager Deborah Morris-Travers has said, "It's important for them to maintain contact with their birth family, but also, as they get older, to have more information about their cultural identity.
 
"It's about the child's right to know who they are - New Zealand continues to have adoption law which breaches human rights."

Ms Morris-Travers said Child, Youth and Family was generally good at telling parents that adopt to be open with children, but said there still needed to be a law change to enforce that.

Dr Anne Else of the group Adoption Action, who has written about the history of adoption, also said the law breached the Human Rights Act and the Bill of Rights Act.

"The act is based on the premise that neither the adopted person, nor the birth family, would ever see each other again," Dr Else said.
"It is entirely orientated around adult interests. The birth mother can sign a consent when the child is 10 days old, which is one of the shortest periods in the world."

She said another problem was there was no requirement for a child to give consent to be adopted, even at the age of 17.

In 2000, the Law Commission published a report suggesting about 100 changes to the law, but to date, none have been imposed.

In 2007, a Ministry of Justice paper to Cabinet stated there were legal and social reasons why adoption laws needed to be changed because it perpetuated discriminatory practice and created a system open to abuse.

Three years later, a Human Rights Commission report highlighted the need to review adoption legislation as too many children were experiencing poverty and poor health, which resulted in poor outcomes in early childhood, which reached into later childhood and adulthood.

Law Society family law chair Allan Cooke said the law lacked regard for children's cultural background and their heritage, which he said was important for Maori and Pasifika groups.

"The other issue for us is there's no way for the voice of the children to be heard in the adoption when it goes through the Family Court," he said.

radionz.co.nz 16/11/15

 

Criminal Justice

New Zealand deports almost 500 'Kiwi' criminals 

A family ripped apart after a relative was deported from New Zealand says Australia is not the only country treating people inhumanely.

South African-born accountant Gavin Jardine was deported in September after serving more than three years in prison for stealing $380,000 from his employer.  A New Zealand resident since May 2008, Jardine appealed his deportation on the grounds his wife and children, who were oblivious to his offending, were settled in the country.

The Immigration and Protection Tribunal dismissed his appeal, stating that the Jardine family’s circumstances were “not exceptional” and they could keep in touch through the phone and internet.

Figures provided under the Official Information Act show that 447 people from 54 different countries were deported after committing a crime between 2010 and August 2015.

An Immigration NZ spokesman said although each case for deportation was considered on its merits, people who committed crimes were the highest priority.

Under the Immigration Act, a person became liable for deportation depending on when the person was granted residence, the date of the offending and the sentence received.

A person who had held residence for more than 10 years could not be deported.

Deporting almost 500 people also came at a cost to the public, with more than $7.5 million spent on removal costs including air tickets for the citizen and security needed to accompany them.

stuff.co.nz 8/11/15

 

Disability Rights

Deaf Aotearoa welcomes increased television captioning 

Pressure group, Deaf Aotearoa are welcoming the announcement of increased captioning by Able, New Zealand’s independent provider of accessible television, as a move toward a more accessible and inclusive media industry.

From February 2016, Prime TV’s NZ On Air-funded shows and some international prime time content will be captioned.  Sky TV has helped make this possible by investing in the equipment necessary to broadcast captions.

"More captioned TV options allow people who use captions more choice for information and entertainment sources," says Deaf Aotearoa President Robert Hewison. 

"While we still have a long way to go before we reach the high levels of captioning that are standard overseas, this latest development shows we’re making real headway, shows the potential for improving accessibility even more."

voxy.co.nz 18/11/15

 

Disabled people find public transport 'too hard' to use 

Disabled people are opting not to go grocery shopping, visit parks or meet friends at cafes because they find public transport too hard to use in our largest cities.
A first-of-its-kind survey by the CCS Disability Action Group has revealed that less than 20 per cent of disabled people in Wellington and Auckland find it easy accessing and using public transport.

Common complaints include buses not stopping for people with wheelchairs and guide dogs, buses being too painful to step on and off because they don't "kneel", poorly designed footpaths making stops inaccessible, and poorly constructed timetables making trips difficult to plan.

As a result, the study found disabled people were partaking in activities such as grocery shopping, visiting parks and meeting friends at cafes or restaurants far less often than able-bodied people were.

The CCS survey also found a common complaint was taxi drivers breaking the law by not collecting disabled people with guide dogs, or overcharging blind people because they can't see the meter.

Disabilities Issues Minister, Nicky Wagner, who was at the forum, agreed more could be done to make transport accessible to disabled people, and said the research would be a great help to Government agencies.

Kevin Eames, from the Ministry of Transport, said the percentage of "accessible" buses across the country had jumped from about 50 per cent in 2009 to almost 90 per cent in 2013, and was expected to improve even further.

stuff.co.nz 30/11/15

 

Police

Controversy over claims police "censored" a researcher

Police apologised to a leading academic researcher after he was banned from accessing police data critical to his work around gangs and deemed unfit to conduct research because of his "affiliations" with them. 

Strategy deputy chief executive Mark Evans, said police had reviewed the comments made by Dr Jarrod Gilbert in relation to the research application made by Independent Research Solutions in 2014 and have since apologised. 
Mr Evans said while other members of Dr Gilbert's team were cleared by police vetting, police accepted that a mistake was made that did not fully take into account the nature of Dr Gilbert's research proposal, and the reason that his links to gangs were likely to show up. 

"I have now written to Dr Gilbert explaining the police position and confirming that there are no issues with him having access to the requested data for this project following further consideration of all the circumstances," he said. 

Dr Gilbert had earlier said "sinister" police research contracts threatened academic freedom.  Basic crime data was withheld from the researchers unless they signed a "research contract" which stipulated a draft report be provided to police.

If the results were deemed to be "negative" then police will seek to "improve its outcomes".  By not agreeing, the team was threatened with being "blacklisted" from any further police resources.

After requesting an explanation for the ban from police, he received only heavily redacted documents.

Mr Evans explained that all academics seeking police data sign a research agreement, which set out police expectations including that research was accurate, balanced and constructive.  

The applications went through a "robust process" to ensure they had "benefits for police", were of good standard, met privacy obligations and the police time required to process them was "feasible", Evans said. 

Police could prevent further access to police resources if a researcher breached the agreement, he said. 

The Green Party called on Police Minister Michael Woodhouse to scrap the contracts, calling them censorship. 

"This is an absolute outrage, it is as though police have never heard of the Official Information Act," Green Party police spokesperson David Clendon said. 

Labour MP, Jacinda Ardern, said, "Whether public interest in withholding the information outweighs the public interest in its disclosure is surely not the issue here.  What is at stake is the ability of researchers to carry out their work. Jarrod Gilbert's work is producing research with practical applications for our justice system."

In going public with the issue Gilbert hoped to raise awareness of the threat police were posing to academic freedom.

"Academic freedom is something we universally support," he said.

"People may have very little concern for me and for my work but they'll be deeply concerned by the implications of this.

"They'll be deeply concerned police are trying to control academic research and veto research findings, which is what their research contracts say they can do."

The row over police exerting controls over research also led to tertiary education minister Steven Joyce endorsing academic freedom and encouraging government agencies to be "as open with their data as is reasonably possible."  

Stuff.co.nz 25/11/15, New Zealand Herald 26/11/15, & Otago Daily Times 30/11/15

 

Human Rights Commission congratulates NZ Police over race bias

The Human Rights Commission has congratulated the leadership of New Zealand Police in acknowledging and working to address unconscious race bias.

“The fact our Police are publicly acknowledging and working to address unconscious bias is significant and something we can all be proud of,” said Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy.

“This work is not new, simple and by no means over. The late Dr Apirana Mahuika helped launch ‘Turning the Tide’, a groundbreaking prevention and education strategy from Police and iwi responding to the disproportionate incarceration of Maori New Zealanders.

"While only 5 per cent of Maori New Zealanders come into contact with the justice system: Maori make up more than 50 per cent of our prison population and 15 per cent of our total population."

Dame Susan said ‘Turning the Tide’ was praised by the United Nations in this year’s review of New Zealand’s performance under the UN Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment.  
“The United Nations agreed with the Commission’s view that ‘Turning the Tide’ could be applied to other areas of New Zealand’s justice system,” said Dame Susan.

Scoop.co.nz 29/11/15

 

Privacy

60 Minutes' disclosure 'highly offensive'

A father, who complained about a privacy breach when a television programme identified his son, has had his complaint upheld by the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA).

Prime Television's current affairs programme 60 Minutes broadcast Mother's Difficulties after the accidental death of a woman's 18-month-old younger son.
Her older son was identified and his full name, accompanied by photos and footage, were shown in the episode.  The boy was also linked with details of his mother's drug addiction and prostitution.

The BSA ruled this information was private, its disclosure was highly offensive and it wasn't necessary to identify the boy.  It also found the programme failed to act in the best interests of the child, even if the mother had given consent.

"Children should be seen as individuals in their own right and not as attachments to their parents. We do not consider in this case that the broadcasts were in keeping with the best interests of [the child].  A cautious and sensitive approach could have been taken, and in our view, ought to have been taken," the BSA concluded.

The BSA recognised the value and public interest in the story but said that was outweighed by the need to protect the son, adding that freedom of expression needed to be weighed against other rights, especially if children were involved.

"In our society and in our law, when there are clashes between rights and when included amongst the rights in clash are the rights of children, the rights of children almost always prevail.

"Children are especially vulnerable. They cannot protect themselves and societies have the most powerful of obligations and reasons to look after their children who are their future," the BSA concluded.

New Zealand Herald 17/11/15

 

Race

All New Zealanders have a right to an opinion

Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy says all New Zealanders have the right to an opinion no matter where they were born.

“Kiwis born overseas have a right to a say over the country they call home, where they work, vote, pay taxes and contribute: overseas born Kiwis are not second class citizens who have fewer rights than other New Zealanders,” said Dame Susan.

This statement followed a row in parliament after an MP disagreed with another MP and told her to go back to her birth country if she didn’t like it here. 

thedailyblog.co.nz 7/11/2015

Bulldog for sale - but only to white people

TradeMe has removed an auction for a bulldog because the owner said he would only consider selling to a white person.

Richard Tunnicliffe had listed the 2-year-old bulldog, which he said would only be sold to an "approved home," adding that the dog will only be sold to “a white person as that's what she's used to."

The advert was removed after the Herald on Sunday contacted TradeMe for comment.

"Listings on TradeMe are subject to the Human Rights Act and you cannot discriminate against someone on a number of grounds including sex, race or age when listings goods or services," a TradeMe spokesperson said.

New Zealand Herald 8/11/15

 

Religion

Religious instruction in New Zealand schools called unfair

A Hindu statesman, Rajan Zed, has said that, instead of focusing on just one religion, all major religions, including Hinduism, should be taught in New Zealand primary schools. The existing religious instruction focused on and favoring one religion was unfair and discriminatory to Hindu children, children of other religions and no-faith. 

Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, argued that opening up New Zealand children to major world religions and non-believers’ viewpoint would make them well-nurtured, well-balanced, and enlightened citizens of tomorrow. It also made a good business sense to know the beliefs of “others” in a global community. Moreover, students should have knowledge of the entire society to become full participants in the society.

Hansindia.com 18/11/15

 

Security Intelligence Service

Security Intelligence Service 'broke the law'

New Zealand's domestic spying agency twice failed to tell the intelligence watchdog that it was undertaking visual surveillance, the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security says.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw said the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) had broken the law both times and its powers needed to be curbed.

Under controversial counter-terrorism law changes passed in 2014, the agency was given powers to undertake visual surveillance of private activity within private property if it suspected terrorist activities.

It was required to provide a copy of any visual surveillance warrant to the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) Cheryl Gwyn as soon as possible.

The IGIS released her annual report this afternoon. It showed that since the law was passed in December, the SIS had twice applied for visual surveillance warrants.

The report said on both occasions the SIS did not initially provide a copy of the warrants to Ms Gwyn's office. They were only identified later when the IGIS carried out its regular review of all of the SIS' warrants.

In response to the "incident", the annual report said, the SIS had changed its protocols to ensure the IGIS was provided with a warrant the day it was issued.

Mr Shaw said the Greens had opposed the extension of SIS powers when they were being passed into law because its spies had a history of breaking the law. "And that is what has happened yet again," he said.

Mr Shaw said the SIS needed proper oversight by a democratically elected Parliamentary select committee.
The law changes also allowed the SIS to undertake surveillance without a warrant in special, urgent cases, for up to 24 hours. This power had not yet been used by the agency, the annual report showed.

Minister for the SIS Chris Finlayson said the SIS was "a human organisation" and there were "always going to be mistakes". The SIS was improving its compliance overall but "they still have a way to go".

New Zealand Herald 4/11/15

Libertywatch October 2015

Armed Forces

Iraqi-born woman told she couldn't enlist

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) told a woman, whose family fled violence in Iraq 23 years ago when she was three years old, that she couldn't enlist because of where she was born.

Warda Jawad, who is now a 25-year-old counselor and Masters student of psychology, had applied for a job as an army psychologist, but was told she could not pass a security clearance despite being qualified for the role.

She complained to the Human Rights Commission, which tried to set up a mediation meeting. The NZDF refused to attend, citing Section 25 of the Human Rights Act, which said a person can be denied employment based on their place of origin where national security is an issue.

An employment lawyer, Anthony Russell, said there was a high threshold for how "security" was defined legally, and it included espionage, terrorism and subversion. However, there was no legal definition for national security, and justification needed to be given for dismissing someone based on their ethnicity.

Since the rejection, Ms Jawad was told that it had been decided she did meet the criteria and her application would proceed, but that was in August, and no one had been in touch since, she said.

The New Zealand Defence Force refused to comment when asked by Radio NZ.

Radionz.co.nz 28/10/15

 

Censorship

‘Into the River’ book ban lifted

The New Zealand Film and Literature Board have lifted a ban on the controversial teen novel Into the River (see Libertywatch, September 2015).

In a majority decision the board said that, although the book describes a number of "unacceptable, offensive and objectionable" behaviours, the board considered that the book "does not in any way promote them", and it no longer considers a ban on under-14s justifiable.

The book's publisher, Penguin Random House, was also delighted with the board's decision.

New Zealand managing director Margaret Thompson said the book's previous R14 rating had denied it the exposure it deserved, and the decision meant the book's intended audience would now be able to access it freely.

"The board's majority decision is a victory for freedom of expression and the right of authors and publishers to deal with the challenging social issues young people face today in high-quality works of literature."

Ms Thompson said the book grappled with important issues, including racism and bullying, that were relevant to young New Zealanders today, particularly teenage male readers.

Into the River would continue to display a parental advisory warning on its cover to help parents assess its suitability for their child.

New Zealand Herald 14/10/15

 

Criminal Justice

Concerns over ‘Three Strikes Law’

There's no evidence the much-vaunted Three Strikes Law has made a dent on crime, a law professor has stated.

More than five years after the law's introduction, Professor Warren Brookbanks, of Auckland University, said, conflicts over interpretation were potentially undermining the new law, and there was anecdotal evidence some judges were forgetting to issue strike warnings.

"Our concern was that it was likely to punish many relatively minor offenders more harshly than they deserved," the Brookbanks said during the inaugural Greg King Memorial Lecture. "I still have this concern."

He said the law was created to identify and punish "worst-of-the-worst" offenders but no empirical data so far vindicated hopes the law would deter offending.

Mr. Brookbanks said he worried the law was an example of "penal populism" in which politicians served their own ends "by tapping into the public's punitive sentiments".

The professor said by April this year, 5382 first strike warnings had been issued and only 76 final warnings, but this didn't mean the law was deterring would-be recidivists.

"Deterrence, if it is effective at all, should operate across the full criminal justice spectrum, not simply once a first strike conviction has been entered."

He said a narrow band of serious offences were producing the vast majority of strike warnings.   Data released in 2013 showed just three offences, sexual assault, robbery or aggravated robbery, and serious assault, accounted for 89.8 per cent of all first-strike warnings imposed.

Mr. Brookbanks said these three crimes accounted for 95 per cent of all second strike warnings during the same period.

"In fact, there could be an argument for reducing the list of qualifying offences, rather than increasing it, as some have advocated, while developing policy for dealing more effectively with the most prolific strike offences."

These comments were in contrast to those of Tauranga's Sensible Sentencing Trust, which this year called for an expansion of the law to cover domestic violence offences.

Otago Daily Times 2/10/15

 

Top policeman says he is 'incredibly disappointed' with faulty breathalysers

At least 79 people caught drink-driving were tested on faulty breathalysers, and that number could grow after a calibration fault forced police to recall all 400 of its latest state-of-the-art devices.

National manager of road policing, Superintendent Steve Greally, has labeled the recall "incredibly disappointing", while lawyers have warned the ramifications could be very serious if someone was found to be sitting in jail because of a faulty machine.

The recall means any drivers who were fined or charged after failing a test on a defective Drager 7510 breathalyser will be eligible to have that overturned.

To date 343 of the 400 devices in use have been tested, with 49 found to be defective, leaving 79 evidential readings in question.

Greally said the defective units only failed by a very small margin, but to avoid any doubt, police would be waiving any fines or prosecutions that may have resulted from those devices.

Auckland defence lawyer Alistair Haskett, who specialises in drink-drive cases, said the police had a potentially serious legal situation on its hands.

"You might have someone convicted of their third or subsequent offence sitting in prison because of a faulty machine."

The Land Transport Act did not allow people to challenge an evidential breath test reading, but this incident suggested the law should change, he said.

The breathalyser issue is not the first time technology has gotten the better of Police this year.

More than $150,000 in speeding fines had to be cancelled in May after a daylight saving error in Wellington's new hi-tech Ngauranga Gorge static speed camera went unnoticed for over a month.

Stuff.co.nz 20/10/15

 

Drones

Christchurch drone operator warned by NZTA after Western Belfast Bypass flight

A drone user who filmed progress of an under-construction national highway was warned by a government agency after posting the footage online.

Christchurch drone pilot Peter Perrim shot video earlier this month of the Western Belfast Bypass.  He had permission from the Civil Aviation Authority and air traffic control to conduct the flight, but did not think he needed consent from the Crown-owned NZ Transport Agency (NZTA), which owned the land.

Several hours after his video appeared on the Stuff website, Perrim said he was questioned by NZTA about how he shot the footage.

He said the agency told him he needed its permission to film the road, and he could face legal action if he did so again without its permission.

New drone rules imposed in August required users to obtain consent from the owners of land they planned to fly over to mitigate safety and privacy issues.

Perrim argued that because he was flying over Crown-land, and because no one was on the site at the time, there were no safety or privacy concerns to justify shutting him down.

Perrim asked NZTA for permission to film the road again, but was denied.

NZTA senior project manager Geoff Griffiths confirmed the agency had spoken to Perrim and that it had denied his subsequent request to film again.

"There are very good health and safety and privacy reasons for exercising discretion over the right to film a work project from the air, as there are with allowing a film crew on site on foot," he said.

"People have the right to go about their work without being filmed and without having supplied permission to be filmed."

The agency had decided not to take legal action against Perrim.

The Press 26/10/15

 

Employment

Poppy seeds cost worker his job

Four slices of toast containing poppy seeds have cost a Whangarei man a job after he tested positive for opiates.

Whangarei's Peter Corkill failed a pre-employment urine-screening test with a "not negative" result before working on-site at the NZ Oil Refinery and his employment with the contracting company South Pacific Industrial ended immediately.

A subsequent test of his urine sample by Environmental Science and Research returned a positive result for morphine. He says the poppy seeds in his toast caused the blip.

"I fully support workplace drug testing but the methods in use leave a large section of society vulnerable," Mr. Corkill said.

Poppy seeds resulting in positive drug tests are not uncommon.  Dr Paul Fitzmaurice, of The Drug Detection Agency, said while poppy seeds themselves did not contain morphine the seed surface could become contaminated with opiates from the poppy plant.

"If you eat the seeds, it's not uncommon that could produce a positive morphine result. If there was a declaration someone has eaten poppy seeds, the lab would test on that basis," Dr Fitzmaurice said.

The Northern Advocate 10/10/15

 

Gender

Gender pay gap grows 19% in one year

The Public Service Association (PSA) expressed alarm at the 19% growth in the size of the gender pay gap, from 9.9% to 11.8%

The alarming growth in the gender gap in median hourly wages, which took place from June 2014 - 2015, was revealed in Statistics NZ’s New Zealand Income Survey.

Richard Wagstaff, PSA national secretary, said "Government must take the lead and set a positive example by ensuring workers they employ and contract are not paid unfairly due to their gender."

"The public service pay gap is even larger than the overall NZ gap, so it is crucial that Government takes this issue seriously.

"It is shameful that more than 40 years after the Equal Pay Act became law, women are still not paid fairly.

Scoop.co.nz 2/10/15

 

LGBT Rights

Judge’s Decision to Send Transgender Woman to Men’s Prison Condemned

Transgender rights group, No Pride in Prisons, is furious that another transgender woman, Daytona Haenga, has been sentenced to time in a men’s prison. Despite an incident while remanded in custody that saw her segregated for her own safety, Judge Warren Cathcart sentenced her to 8 months in a men’s prison.

According to a report by the Gisborne Herald during the sentencing Judge Cathcart stated that her transgender status was merely a ‘life choice’ that should not entitle her to ‘special treatment’.

“Ms Haenga was assaulted while in Corrections’ custody awaiting trial,” says No Pride In Prisons spokeswoman Emilie Rākete. “Corrections repeatedly claim that they are sensitive to the needs of transgender prisoners, but this violence keeps happening.

“Protecting trans women from violence isn’t ‘special treatment’ but a fundamental obligation of the state.

“We already know that at least one trans woman has been sexually assaulted in a men’s prison this year. Because Corrections refuse to disclose how many transgender people are presently incarcerated, we have no way of knowing how often this is happening.”

Stuff.co.nz 14/10/15

 

Official Information Act

Judge orders Trade Minister to review his refusal to release TPPA documents

Trade Minister Tim Groser has been ordered to take a fresh look at a request for information on Trans Pacific Partnership (TPPA) negotiations.

Professor Jane Kelsey and others took Groser to the High Court after he refused to release information to her under the Official Information Act.  It later emerged that Groser had not reviewed the documents he refused to release, in a blanket refusal for information.

On Tuesday Justice David Collins delivered a judgement in which he said there was "no lawful basis for the Minister to withhold, in the way he did, some of the information requested by Professor Kelsey".

Collins added: "It is therefore appropriate for the Minister to ensure officials assess each piece of information requested by Professor Kelsey that is in the possession of the Minister and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) against the criteria in the Act for withholding information".

The decision fell short of a declaration that Groser or officials at MFAT acted illegally in the refusal.

Groser was however given blunt advice from the High Court, instructing him to review his decision "in a way that is consistent with his obligations under the Official Information Act".

Officials will be required to review "each piece" of information requested.

Justice Collins also sounded a more general warning to the wider Government about the way it handles Official Information Act requests.

"[T]he [Official Information] Act plays a significant role in New Zealand's constitutional and democratic arrangements. It is essential the Act's meaning and purpose is fully honoured by those required to consider the release of official information," Collins wrote.

"[T]he orders I have made reinforce to the Minister and other decision-makers the importance of discharging their responsibilities under the Act and promote future compliance".

Kelsey said she had been vindicated.

"The Minister's approach epitomises the contempt for democratic processes and accountability that has pervaded these negotiations," she said in a statement.

However she added that Groser's tactic had been successful. Since the Court heard Kelsey's application, the 12 countries involved in the TPPA have announced an agreement, although the final text of the agreement has not yet been published.

"It's cold comfort that the Minister will have to revisit the request, using a proper process and interpretation of the rules, after the negotiations have already concluded," Kelsey said.

"His unlawful approach in circumventing the Official Information Act appears to have achieved its goal."

Stuff.co.nz 13/10/15

 

Police

Police are monitoring online sites for illegal activity

Police have confirmed they keep a watch on social media for criminal activity such as selling drugs.

A police spokeswoman from Wellington said social media was just one of the many ways that criminal offending could be brought to their attention, and when it was, police took the appropriate action to prevent and disrupt the offending.

This was highlighted in a recent case in Rotorua where two men were charged after using Facebook to sell drugs.

Letters were also sent out recently to a Facebook user from Canterbury police warning them they might wish to "review" their membership of an online group suspected of aiding illegal drug deals.

Manawatu Standard 25/10/15

 

Privacy

Escape sees privacy trade-off

Police will have access to driver's licence photos, there will be more sharing of personal information and possibly greater powers to cancel passports as a result of the convicted murderer Phillip John Smith's escape to Brazil while on short term release from prison.

Thirty-nine changes have been agreed or are being seriously considered after a high-level inquiry showed up an embarrassing chain of shortcomings that allowed Smith to fly to Brazil.

Justice Minister Amy Adams said she agreed with the inquiry, headed by retired High Court judge Dr John Priestley, QC, that there needed to be a "step change" in information sharing between government agencies.

She stated that she was comfortable with any privacy trade-offs, but did want to look closer at a handful of recommendations such as allowing the Internal Affairs Minister to cancel certain offenders' passports.

"I think we have to be very careful before we launch into automatic cancellation of passports and the like ... I don't want to find we go too far in our haste to react to this one situation," she said.

Otago Daily Times 2/10/15

 

Police got Hager data without court order

Detectives investigating the Dirty Politics hacker Rawshark sought the banking, telephone and travel records of author and journalist Nicky Hager without any search order or other legal power.

Court records show Westpac, who have been the government's banker for 26 years, handed over "almost 10 months of transactions from Mr. Hager's three accounts" at the request of detectives investigating the hacking of Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater's email and social media accounts.

Other companies that were asked for Hager's private details told police to come back with a court order, which would have legally obliged them to surrender the information.

Hager's legal teams used police documents to detail how detectives sought information on him from 16 "bank contacts", Air NZ, Jetstar, Spark, Trade Me and Vodafone. The request to Air NZ also sought information about anyone Hager might have been travelling with, the documents show.

Detectives told the companies they needed the information for an inquiry into "suspected criminal offending, namely fraud, dishonest access of a computer system", telling the bank the information would help avoid "prejudice to the maintenance of the law through the detection of serious offending".

The Privacy Act allows those holding personal information to waive the law if there are "reasonable grounds" to believe it would assist "maintenance of the law". There is no sign in the High Court documents of Westpac, or any of the agencies, being supplied with additional information that might assist with the "reasonable grounds" test.

The documents do show the other companies rejected the request without a legal order.  Hager's lawyers said: "Police did not seek production orders for any of this information."

Westpac sent detectives transaction details from December 2013 until September last year, with other personal details.

The police decision to seek detailed information without a legal order appears contrary to the position stated by Assistant Commissioner Malcolm Burgess to the New Zealand Herald last March.

He said then that there were "controls around how information is both requested and provided ... While the Privacy Act provisions can be used to access low-level information, such as basic account details, higher-level data must be obtained through a production order.”

Hager's lawyers told the court there were no reasonable grounds for police to seek information without a legal order and questioned whether such an order would have been granted were it applied for.

Lawyers for the police told the High Court the requests were simply the act of asking for information. They said just because police quoted the Privacy Act exception "did not mean the agency was obliged in any way to provide it".

Westpac defended its decision to supply information, saying it followed internal policy in assisting with investigations into serious crimes. It did not supply a copy of the policy despite being asked to do so.

Media Freedom Committee chairwoman Joanna Norris, editor of The Press, said the work done by journalists was a "safeguard of an open and transparent society".

"I am concerned information of this type was released as a result of this request. The work of journalists should be protected, and the individual rights of any New Zealanders should be protected."

New Zealand Herald 24/10/15

 

Libertywatch September 2015

Censorship

Banning of Children's book

An award-winning book for teenagers, Into The River, has been made the subject of the first interim restriction order on a book under the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act 1993.  The book has been banned from sale or supply under the order issued by the president of the Film and Literature Board of Review, Dr Don Mathieson, QC.

The order took effect when it was issued on September 3 and applies until the full board meets to decide on a permanent classification for the book.  In the meantime, it is illegal to supply the book even to a friend.

The ban came about after the lobby group, Family First, demanded the R14 restriction be reinstated after it was rescinded on 14 August, making it totally unrestricted. Bob McCoskrie, the head of Family First insisted he never demanded the book be banned, merely wanting the restriction renewed.

Bernard Beckett, who was chief judge of the Book Awards the year Into the River was named Book of the Year, said the rating Family First wanted was an "incredibly unhelpful precedent".

Labour's arts and culture spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern says those responsible for classifying books need to be very careful before censoring books in New Zealand and should err on the side of freedom of speech over a ban.

Attorney General Chris Finlayson says the Government should consider reviewing the law around the classification of books after the interim ban on the novel.

Finlayson said the decision to ban the sale and supply of the book for teenagers until a review of its classification was done seemed an "extreme step."  As Attorney-General, Finlayson is charged with Bill of Rights Act vetting of legislation. He said banning a book risked have a "chilling effect" on freedom of expression.

The NZ Booksellers Association has placed a notice on its website warning bookshops that they face fines of up to $3000 for an individual or $10,000 for a business if they supply the book, however the book is still on sale on the Amazon website.

New Zealand Herald 7/9/15 & 8/9/15

Copyright

Illegal downloaders escape punishment.

Just one complaint about illegal downloading has been laid, and upheld, with the Copyright Tribunal this year, compared with four last year and 18 in 2013.

The recording industry says the process, which takes too long and costs too much, is stopping them from holding people accountable.

To be prosecuted for illegally downloading, rights holders, such as film studios or record labels, have to identify an illegal downloader and file a notice with their Internet Service Provider (ISP).  The ISP then passes the notice to the account holder with each notice costing $25. Three notices are required within a 12-month period before a complaint can be laid with the tribunal.  At that point, the complainant has to pay $200 to formally lodge it.

Tech Liberty spokesman Thomas Beagle said the industry had more or less given up on filing complaints because of the cost.

Stuff.co.nz 13/9/15

Disability

Deaf community lodge human rights complaint to get RWC captions

New Zealand's deaf community has gone to the Human Rights Commission to try to get captions for televised Rugby World Cup matches.  Deaf Aotearoa and the National Foundation for the Deaf (NFD) say Sky TV told them that the games would not be captioned on either Sky or the Sky-owned Prime channel, after two years of negotiation with the deaf organisations.

The NFD chief executive said the decision would exclude hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders with impaired hearing from the event.

"We are talking a huge quality of life issue," she said. "Marginalisation leads to lack of social status.

"We didn't have access in the last Rugby World Cup. We said to them we need captioning. This time round they still haven't done it. It's quite unbelievable that they would even think it's okay this time round."

The deaf groups have asked the Human Rights Commission to investigate the issue.  They have also called on Broadcasting Minister Amy Adams to "address this matter with extreme urgency".

Sky TV government relations manager Chris Major told the groups that it had proved impossible to build a connection with the agency that provides captioning for TVNZ, Able, in time for the cup.

"Captions are not being provided by the host broadcaster on the global RWC feed, so would need to be created in NZ," Ms Major said.

"There is currently no facility between Able and Sky to create a live captioned feed, Able is currently only funded to do live captioning for one broadcaster, TVNZ.

Broadcasting Minister Amy Adams said the level of captioning for free-to-air programmes had more than tripled over the last decade.

"NZ on Air funds Able to the tune of $2.8 million per year to caption TV and audio programmes and currently 100 per cent of prime time TV programmes are captioned," she said.

"However I understand the technology required to caption live television is not readily available in New Zealand…I encourage broadcasters and other providers of content to continue to their work to overcome these technical difficulties so we can improve accessibility for deaf and hard of hearing people."

New Zealand Herald 1/9/15

No to Online Voting a Major Blow for Disabled People

Clive Lansink, National President of Blind Citizens NZ, has expressed his concerns after Christchurch and Dunedin Councils pulled out of a trial of on line voting in the 2016 Local Elections.

Lansink said, "It would be a major blow for disabled people if New Zealand rejects the chance to trial online voting at next year’s local government elections."

Blind Citizens NZ have expressed their hopes people will objectively assess and compare any risks associated with online voting and urge New Zealanders to embrace the chance to move towards a more inclusive society in which there are new ways to cast your vote with confidence, which meet the needs of blind people and others who are shut out.

Eight councils including Wellington, Porirua and Palmerston North have agreed to pursue the trial at next year's local body elections.

scoop.co.nz 11/9/15

Employment

Doctor threatened with disciplinary action after protest

The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (CTU) has called for the threat of disciplinary action against Whanganui doctor Chris Cresswell to be retracted following his arrest during a Trans-Pacific Partnership protest.

Dr Cresswell, in scrubs and a stethoscope, sat on the roof of the car of Whanganui MP Chester Borrows during a visit to Whanganui by Deputy Prime Minister Bill English.  Police arrested him but let him off with a warning.

Cresswell told the Wanganui Chronicle he was in his work clothes to emphasise that doctors were concerned about how the TPP would affect the price of medicine.

He later received a letter from the Whanganui District Health Board expressing concern at his "recent views" as reported in the Chronicle, and asking him to attend a meeting.

Chief Medical Officer Frank Rawlinson said he respected Dr Cresswell's rights to engage in public debate on a topic relevant to his profession. "I do, however, reserve the right to discuss with Dr Cresswell the effects that his very public behaviour may have on the DHB," Dr Rawlinson said.

CTU secretary Sam Huggard said the DHB must retract its threat. "Gagging anyone from raising genuine concerns about the TPPA is unacceptable."

Wanganui Chronicle 18/9/15

Gender

New Zealanders have high awareness of gender inequality

New Zealanders have high awareness that more needs to be done to get equality for women, research released by the National Council of Women of New Zealand says.

The survey of 500 people found only 32 per cent of New Zealanders believe men and women are ‘treated equally’ in business, while 46 per cent felt there was equal treatment in the workplace.

Health (72 per cent) and education (68 per cent) systems were seen to have the most gender equality, followed by the courts and the justice system (59 per cent), social settings (57 per cent) and government policies and programmes (54 per cent).

Just over one-half (55 per cent) said New Zealand does ‘better on gender equality’ than most other developed countries. Yet there is still an underlying belief that men have ‘more opportunities’ than women in a range of settings, including the armed forces, politics, professional sport, the workplace and in senior management.

Scoop.co.nz 18/9/15

Number of women holding top roles in top companies declines

A Human Rights Commission 'Tracking Equality at Work' report has found the number of women in senior management positions in the private sector has declined in this country from 31 per cent, to 19 per cent in the last year.

Newstalkzb.co.nz 29/9/15

Human Rights Tribunal

Tribunal rules in favour of dental technician who refused HIV patient

The Human Rights Tribunal has cleared a dental technician, who refused to treat an HIV positive patient, of any wrongdoing.

New Plymouth's Aarron Jacobsen lost his claim that his rights were breached when technician Tom Zhou turned down a denture consultation based on his medical history.

The tribunal decision explains that when Jacobsen visited the business, he was asked how long his teeth had been out and whether he had any serious health problems, it was at this point he disclosed he was HIV positive.

Jacobsen told the tribunal Zhou's attitude changed instantly, and he was then told "I can't do any work with you with HIV".

In the decision released this week, the tribunal said Zhou's belief he was not skilled or experienced enough to take on the case, due to his limited clinical experience, was a significant factor.

The Tribunal said, "On the simple and straightforward facts we have concluded Zhou properly recognised there was a real risk that if he took on Jacobsen as a client, he would be acting well beyond his then experience and skill levels, thereby exposing Jacobsen to potential harm.

"In his evidence, Zhou also referred to his training which taught that it was best, initially, for a clinical dental technician to treat patients who did not have health problems.

"We take this to be a reflection of the consumer's right to have services provided in a manner that minimises the potential harm to, and optimises the quality of life of, that consumer.

Jacobsen declined to comment as he planned to appeal the decision.

Taranaki Daily News 9/9/15

Police

Facebook page sharing police activity

A Palmerston North mother is defending her right to post information online heard on a police scanner, despite police saying they are assessing the Facebook page. 

The page was created to share information about police activity obtained using police websites, news articles, information supplied from the public and a police scanner. 

However, the legality of the page is unclear, with the woman who created it saying the page isn't doing anything wrong by reporting on information said over a scanner, and that, "Listening to a scanner is legal... but it's illegal to act upon the information…I only share what I hear and what anyone with a spare couple hundred [dollars] who can afford to purchase a scanner could hear, too."

According to the Radiocommunications Act 1989, it is an offence to reproduce radiocommunication or information derived from that radiocommunication, knowing that the radiocommunication was not intended for that person.

This includes making use of the information, reproducing it, or disclosing the existence of the radio communication.

A police spokesperson said Central Police were aware of the page and were assessing its content. 

They noted it contained information from a variety of public sources.

"The legality or otherwise depends on a wide range of circumstances.

NetSafe operations manager Lee Chisholm said, "We do see quite a bit of this sort of thing, there have been pages that warn people of police radar spotting...and that's certainly not illegal."

The page did not seem like it would breach Facebook's own terms and conditions, and Chisholm said it would be up to police to decide if this was indeed illegal activity or not. 

Manawatu Standard 9/9/15

Refugees

New Zealand is to take extra 600 Syrian refugees

The Government relented in the face of public pressure and has agreed to open the borders to an extra 600 people fleeing war in Syria.  A further 150 Syrians will be welcomed as part of an existing annual intake of 750 refugees.

The emergency package comes in response to a tide of refugees fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa and will cost around $50m.  Prime Minister John Key says that's about all the country can cope with, for the time being.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse announced the emergency package. A review of the quota - which hasn't lifted in three decades - will still take place in mid-2016.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees screens and selects refugees. Immigration New Zealand officials will travel to Lebanon next month and then again in December. The first 100 refugees will begin arriving in January next year, and then again in March and May.

Amnesty welcomed the "life-saving" step that will make a "genuine difference" to 750 people, however, executive director Grant Bayldon called on the Government to immediately bring forward a review of the quota of refugees New Zealand currently admits.

"At 90th in the world on per capita intake of refugees, New Zealand is well out of step with all its major allies. As well as the emergency intake the government has announced, we need to see a permanent increase," he said.

"The government should be asking how much, not how little, we can do to help save innocent lives. Doubling our refugee quota is the least we can do after 28 years without an increase."

Stuff.co.nz 7/9/15

Call for NZ to up residency quota for Pacific climate victims

75 Kiribati citizens are granted New Zealand residency every year under the Pacific Access Category, but New Zealand's Human Rights Commission says New Zealand has a moral responsibility to increase the quota of Kiribati people granted residency each year in the face of climate change.

An i-Kiribati man, Ioane Teitiota, was recently deported from New Zealand after he lost an appeal to be declared a climate change refugee, leading to the Race Relations Commissioner, Dame Susan Devoy, saying that more I-Kiribati, Tuvaluans and other environmentally threatened Pacific Islanders should be given residency, and that this is a way for New Zealand to show leadership, empathy and humanity as a developed Pacific nation.

Radionz.co.nz 25/9/15

 

Media release: Council refuses to take part in farcical submissions process for Countering Terrorist Fighters Bill

Media Release
27th November 2014

The New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties refuses to take part in the submissions process around the Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill.

Thomas Beagle, Chairperson, "Giving people just two days to make a submission is farcical. It's a parody of proper consultation and New Zealand's democratic process."

Any group wishing to submit on such a Bill needs enough time to read the proposed legislation and prepare a considered response. There is normally a process of talking to members and circulating a draft. Many civil society groups are run by volunteers who do this work in their own time, fitting it in around family and jobs.

The Council believes that the select committee process is a valuable part of our democracy. Laws are often significantly improved by submissions and the work of the committee. It is clear that there is no intention of this being true for this Bill.

The lack of consultation and consideration is particularly disturbing when the main changes of the bill, expanding the surveillance powers of the SIS, do not seem to be closely linked to the stated aim of the Bill. It also comes at a time when the actions of the SIS have been shown once again to be unwise and an abuse of power. 

Furthermore, we cannot see any need for this legislation to be so rushed. While the aim of the Bill may be admirable, there is no justification for this unseemly urgency. 

Thomas Beagle, "We refuse to help legitimise this fake consultation by taking part in it. The Government should withdraw this Bill until such time as it can be properly considered in accordance with normal practice."

 

The full text of our anti-submission is attached.

Contact

Thomas Beagle
Chairperson, NZCCL
021-805040
thomas@nzccl.org.nz

File attachments: 

NZ spies deny public relations blitz

The SIS and GCSB both deny creating a communications plan/media strategy for the 2015 Intelligence Review. Apparently the wave of public appearances around the time when public submissions closed (feature in the Listener, radio interviews, newspaper articles) was all just a coincidence.

They go on to say that communications strategy for the GCSB and SIS is handled by the NSC (National Security Communications) team which is part of DPMC (Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet). Both the GCSB and SIS have staff seconded to the NSC as part of their membership of the NZIC (New Zealand Intelligence Community).

We did receive a copy of the NZIC Communications Strategy 2014-2017 (PDF 3.5MB), apparently still in draft a year after it was written, that did talk about their communications priorities as they attempt to build "trust and confidence" and awareness of "the value we add".

The problem of spy agency PR

This may all look pretty innocuous to you - after all, don't all government agencies try to justify their existence while arguing for more money and resources? And we do support the intelligence agencies doing a better job of communicating what they do.

However, we get worried when we see the intelligence agencies trying to justify their own existence or demand more powers or money to do the job they think they should be doing.

Any person might feel justifiably annoyed when a government agency uses the money granted them by taxpayers to lobby to get even more of it. The particular problem with intelligence agencies is that their own requirements for secrecy mean that they can't point to what they do in the way that other agencies do - children educated, criminals arrested, health indices improved.

Rather they tend to talk up the potential dangers that they claim to be defending us from, with the Director of the SIS making meaningless claims like "... in my view the situation is a little worse than a year ago". Too often this ends up as government funded fear-mongering that actually makes us feel less safe than we really are, adding to our insecurity.

Secondly, decisions about funding the intelligence agencies are also fundamentally political decisions. They tie in with judgements about what threats exist, which countries we ally with, and which countries we treat as potential enemies. Our democracy can't afford organisations with spy powers like the SIS and GCSB getting involved with political decision making.

We believe that the SIS and GCSB should not be involved in public lobbying.

 

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".

Andrew is a partner at Russell McVeagh since 2007 after being a Crown Counsel for siz years. Andrew previously lectured in a number of subjects at Victoria University of Wellington. He is general editor of Brooker's Equity and Trusts in New Zealand (2003) and a co-author (with his wife, Petra) of LexisNexis' New Zealand Bill of Rights Act: A Commentary (2005)

All are welcome.

NZCCL Chairpersons Report 2014

NZCCL in the 1980s

I have been involved with the Council for Civil Liberties on and off for more than thirty years.

n the 1980s the organisation was very different from that of today. We used to meet in the lounge of Hugh Price. Hugh was the Treasurer and very meticulous. He was also the expert on the SIS, and had vast numbers of files on that organisation hidden in the upper recesses of his attic. Indeed, so complete were those files that the SIS had itself once or twice consulted him to verify their own data.

The Council then consisted of seven or eight people. Jack Shallcrass was the president, and Nat Dunning took the position of chairperson. I was responsible for a magazine that was published twice a year. The issues seemed to be categorised, with a different spokesperson for each: police; prisons; Maori issues; constitutional issues; health,welfare and education; security and secret service. Some of the specific matters we addressed included national identity cards; file sharing between government departments; the Official Secrets Act; the need for a police complaints authority; the use of remand and parole; and the various interpretations of the Government Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

 

Modern Day Challenges

The world of civil liberties is a very different place today. Though one or two battles have beeen won – we now have an Official Information Act and a Privacy Commission, an Independent Police Conduct Authority, a Human Rights Commission and the BORA – the powers of the police have been greatly increased, file-sharing between government departments is almost without restriction, public participation in government decisions and activities has been greatly constrained, and the BORA has been ignored or bypassed. Our secret services have been greatly enhanced through the development of the GCSB and file-sharing on a massive and automated scale with other members of the Five Eyes network, as well as through coordinating the activities of the spy agencies with the police and armed forces.

Probably the two biggest concerns that have occupied the Council over the last two or three years are the growth of electronic data gathering and sharing, and the role of the police in gathering information about and tracking the movements of people and vehicles. These two concerns have constituted a direct and dire threat to people's civil liberties, and ultimately to our democracy and sovereignty.  In the name of the Council, Thomas Beagle has become a major and clear voice in both these areas. He has advocated a clear pathway for retaining an open internet free from interference by government or private business interests – in other words for extending the concept of free speech without fear or constraint. He has spoken in many forums about the dangers of government data gathering. He has investigated the use of cameras and other tracking devices by the police, and the linking of those with public and private security cameras.  

The extensions of all these powers are often done in the name of national security or to counter terrorism threats. However both these reasons have been shown time and again to be fabricated to enable the government, and other governments in the Five Eyes network, to create an environment of fear and distrust that enables those governments to deny people their civil liberties and democratic freedoms. The truth, borne out by history in Nazi Germany, many South American countries, and other states around the world, is that increasing power to the police, the army and secret services leads to the silencing of opposition voices, the repression of minority views, and the rule of self-interested oligachies.

 

Why we do have something to fear

Although the argument is always put that people who have done nothing wrong have nothing to fear, that has been shown again and again not to be the case. In the United States many of the prosecutions under anti-terrorism laws have been of animal rights and conservation groups. In England there has been a plan in place to develop profiles of every citizen and to track the movements of every vehicle. This combined with increased powers to seize cellphones at random and copy the data from them, has been used to target a range of organisations opposed to government policies. We actuallyhave everything to fear.

'Terrorism' is a weasel word. While there are huge threats to world peace at present, these have largely arisen as a result of America's intervention in other countries' affairs to counter so-called terrism threats at home. The further the war against terrorism stretches the more terrorism seems to increase. Under Obama the US has now used drones and other interventions to initiate antiterrorism activities in more than 75 countries around the world, many of them seen as allies of the US. These killings are done without proof, without public scrutiny, without trial, without any safeguards to determine right or wrong, and often clearly targetting people innocent of any political motives. Who are the real terrorists?

Actually what is happening is that the public has been misled about the causes, nature and extent of threats to the security of New Zealanders, and the consequent increase in data collection and information sharing. The information gathered is largely not to counter terrorism but to remove any threats to their neoliberal political and economic agendas. Many of the changes initiated over the last few years to reduce environmental laws, to realign laws relating to food products, to facilitate business interests over civic interests, to take away from local bodies their responsibility for the wellbeing of their citizens, to remove public consultation measures – the huge raft of legislation that has been passed is designed not to protect citizens but to control them and reduce their influence on government policies.

 

The Trans Pacific Partnership

The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement makes all this clear. It constitutes the biggest single threat to our participative democracy and our sovereignty. This is not only because of its secrecy, the primacy of business interests over government policies, the right of corporations to sue governments and the ability of congress to require changes to the laws of constituent governments even after the agreement has been signed. It is not only because of the ability of business interests to  flout environmental and social and economic protections. It is because the assumptions underlying it are themselves inherently undemocratic, in that they contain no consideration of  the rights, desires and needs of individual people, and see them as objects of exploitation rather than the fabric of humanity.

The Council for Civil Liberties has played its small part in the fight against the TPPA. I have myself participated in groups trying (successfully, I might add) to persuade local governments that the Agreeement is very much against their best interests. We have over the last couple of years tried (with considerable effort and little success) to persuade the national government to pay more attention to their responsibilities regarding the Bill of Rights Act and civil liberties themselves. We have intervened in many ways on behalf of people who believe their human rights have been denied them, and given our views on a range of issues, often at short notice and with limited information.

 

Wellington Community Justice Project

We once again give thanks to the team of student volunteers from the Wellington Community Justice Project, who this year have undertaken a study of legal issues relating to overstayers in New Zealand. The two leaders if the project, Fayez and Varshini, have also been participating in a number of the meetings of CCL, and I would welcome them to continue to take an active role in civil liberties affairs.

 

The future

At the start of this year we changed our meeting structure so that all our committee meetings were open to anyone with an interest in civil liberties. This new structure has been quite successful, with a number of people becoming active members. It is timely as changes are coming, and the Council needs to play a unique and vital role in the defence of not only civil liberties but New Zealand's democracy and sovereignty in the coming years.

As for me, it is time for me to hand over my role to a younger person, more capable of negotiating their way through the world of the future. There are so many more adept, capable and concerned people around that I am sure the Council will grow in strength and influence in the years to come.

 

Batch Hales

Chairperson, NZ Council for Civil Liberties

Monday 10 November, 2014

 

NZCCL Public Lecture and AGM - 6pm, Nov 3rd

The New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties will be holding its AGM followed by a public lecture.

 

Public Lecture

The Importance of Protest by Steven Price

A look behind the scenes of the Valerie Morse flag-burning case - how the law in NZ and elsewhere protects protesters and whether it goes far enough.

Steven Price is a Wellington barrister and law lecturer specialising in media law and member of the Supreme Court defence team for flag-burner Valerie Morse.

6:30pm

Thursday November 3rd

Mezzanine Meeting Room

Wellington Public Library

All welcome. Free entry.

The lecture will be followed by tea and biscuits.

 

Annual General Meeting

The lecture will be preceded by the NZCCL's AGM at 6pm. Visitors and new members are welcome.

 

NZCCL monthly meetings now open to public

The Committee of the NZ Council for Civil Liberties has decided to make its monthly meetings open to anyone who wishes to attend.

A typical meeting includes:

  • Discussion of the various projects that members are engaged in
  • Chat about the civil liberties issues of the day
  • Responding to correspondence 

If you wish to bring up a particular issue, we ask that you communicate this by email to the secretary@nzccl.org.nz beforehand.

 

Time and Place

The meetings will be held at St Andrews on The Terrace in Wellington, typically on the second Wednesday of the month at 12:30. An entry will be put into the events section for each meeting as it comes up.

The next meeting will be at 12:30, Wednesday March 13th.

National Security vs Personal Privacy

Cynthia Laberge was the 2008-2009 InternetNZ Senior Research Fellow in Cyberlaw at Victoria University of Wellington. 

The Introduction to her research on the topic of To What Extent Should National Security Interests Override Privacy in a Post 9/11 World? (published December 2010) follows.  This paper uses international discussion of these issues to inform the New Zealand position.  It discusses how the balance might be found between security and privacy.  This is a complex question and this paper provides a comprehensive guide to what needs to be considered in that balance.

 

Introduction

  • If a bird has two legs, and a man has two legs, a man must be a bird. 1   
  • If a man is suspected of being affiliated with terrorists, he must be a terrorist. 2

Is this where we are headed? In the name of stopping terrorists are we compiling data on innocent people who share a similar profile as those on our "most wanted" lists, and treating them the same?

Since 9/11, the world has become obsessed with terrorism. Understandably so. We expect our governments to protect us, at a minimum from foreseeable acts of violence. It is an onerous commission. But in its zeal to do the right thing, are governments actually doing more harm than good? And in the name of security, are we complicit in sacrificing liberty?

The security/liberty debate is not new. It has been ongoing since the time of Cicero at least 3:

Though liberty is established by law, we must be vigilant, for liberty to enslave us is always present under that very liberty. Our Constitution speaks of the 'general welfare of the people.' Under that phrase all sorts of excesses can be employed by lusting tyrants to make us bondsmen.

But with the law unable to keep pace with technological advances, are we letting technology determine how best to protect us? With oversight and accountability at an alltime low, are the technological programmes that are being put in place to combat terrorism effective? And if so, at what cost?

Regional, national and global databases, containing records on everything from finances and vehicle ownership, to DNA records, are booming. Investment in technologies to analyse and crossreference data in those databases is also booming. The securityrelated goal: to stop the next terrorist attack. Governments justify this previously unprecedented accumulation of data on the grounds that they are faced with an unprecedented threat. If this is true, does it also justify the unprecedented secrecy surrounding our governments' activities?

This paper is an attempt to chart the path we are currently on in balancing national security with privacy and, ultimately, liberty by giving an overview of the cooperative efforts, privacy and counterterrorism laws of four countries (the United Kingdom, United States, Australia and New Zealand) and four international institutions (the United Nations, the OECD, the Council of Europe, and the European Union), and the technologies employed in the fight against terrorism (used predominantly in the United States). It makes no predictions, nor does it presume to present an indepth analysis of privacy or counterterrorism laws, which have already been covered in depth elsewhere by experts.

What this paper attempts to do is provoke thought and stimulate discussion on the direction that the West (primarily) is taking to fight the "scourge of international terrorism." 4 And to posit what role we can play in holding government accountable for protecting our security, without unduly sacrificing our privacy, and thereby our liberty.

Read the full article.

 

Footnotes

1.Professor John Haven Mental Philosophy: Including the Intellect, Sensibilities and Will (Sheldon and Company, New York, 1862) at <www.archive.org>. The original quote reads "All birds are bipeds, no man is a bird; therefore no man is a biped."

2. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Office of the Secretary, Privacy Act of 1974 (US) 5 USC § 552a Public Law No 93579; Customs and Border Protection Advanced Passenger Information System Systems of Records (23 August 2007) 72 Federal Register 163 4834948353 <www.edocket.access.gpo.gov>.

3. Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman orator – 106 - 43 BC

4. Resolution on threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts UNSC Res 1377 (2001)  <www.un.org>.

 

 

People's Review of the Intelligence Service 2015

It's the final day for submissions to the Government's Intelligence Review.

To mark the day, and as a reaction to the inadequacies of the official review, the Stop the Spies coalition has released the People's Review of the Intelligence Services.

The People's Review is built on submissions collected at public meetings in Wellington, Auckland, Dunedin and Christchurch. Topics of the submissions included issues of privacy, oversight, the effect of surveillance on society, the lawfulness of the agencies' activities, NZ's membership in the 5 Eyes network and whether having the GCSB and the SIS was even desirable and what the alternatives could be. 

The NZ Council for Civil Liberties is a member of the Stop the Spies coalition.

 

Police censor political website

As discussed on the telephone a short time ago, this is a request from the New Zealand Police to close down the website greencross.org.nz which is hosted by your company.

Why are the NZ Police calling a web-hosting company in order to try to get a website closed down? The email continues:

On Friday 8 July 2011, Mr. McKee was arrested by police and charged with drug dealing offences relating to the sale of cannabis. ... Mr. McKee has used the website to facilitate committing these offences against the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975.

 

Site closed down - but comes back

These quotes are excerpted from an email sent by Detective Sergeant Sam Paroli to Openhost, the company that provided hosting for the Greencross domain name. Openhost then instructed the site administrator to stop the service "as soon as possible".

So the Police were successful, they managed to get the website taken down as the result of a phone call and an email.

However, the site administrators then moved the domain name and site to a US-based hosting company and the Greencross website is still available. (Note that while this means that the Police can't strong-arm the hosting company, there is nothing stopping them from charging the site owners if they truly are breaking NZ law.)

 

Is the Greencross website illegal?

The Greencross website is the online presence of the Medicinal Cannabis Support Group of New Zealand Inc. We have examined the site, which contains:

  • articles and information about a variety of ailments that marijuana is effective for
  • testimonials from members about how the use of marijuana has given them relief
  • links to articles and relevant organisations
  • a membership application form
  • a call for a change to New Zealand's marijuana laws to make it available for medicinal purposes.

We cannot see anything on the site to indicate that it was being used to facilitate crime. There is nothing on the site that would enable anyone to supply or obtain marijuana. There appear to be no forums where members could arrange their own private deals. Rather, the site is calling for a change in the law to make marijuana available for medical purposes.

To be sure that nothing dodgy was going on, we asked Mr McKee if any changes have recently been made to the website. His response: "No I did not make any changes to the content of the web site."

We also asked Detective Sergeant Sam Paroli in what way the site was illegal, but he refused to answer on the grounds that the matter was before the courts. This would appear to be incorrect as, to the best of our knowledge, no charges have been laid over the website.

 

Minister of Police

FInally we asked the Minister of Police, Judith Collins, whether she thought that the Police should be involved in trying to censor political websites. She refused to comment, claiming that it was an operational matter and that any questions should be directed to the Commissioner of Police. The Commissioner of Police has not responded to our queries.

 

Our opinion

Whatever your opinion about using marijuana for medicinal purposes, it seems clear to us that there is nothing illegal about calling for a change in NZ's marijuana laws and that there is nothing illegal about the Greencross website.

We are disturbed that the Police believe they have the power to shutdown a political website. Political speech, like that on the Greencross website, is generally agreed to be so important to our democracy that it is one of the most protected forms of freedom of expression. The actions of the Police are in contravention of the NZ Bill of Rights Act, that guarantees the right to freedom of expression and freedom of association.

We hope that this overreach by the Police is an aberration committed by an over zealous police officer and that it will not be repeated.

 

Police control of information is anti-democratic and must stop

The NZ Council for Civil Liberties is deeply concerned about the revelations from Dr Jarrod Gilbert today. In his article in the NZ Herald, he asserts that the Police:

  • Have banned him from accessing "basic and uncontroversial" police data because, as a crime researcher, he has associated with criminals.
  • Assert that they can control who sees and uses data.
  • Demand the right to "improve" or block the publication of research reports. (See the research contract.)
  • Reserve the right to blacklist researchers at their discretion.

The Police hold a lot of power in our society and our need for transparency and oversight is accordingly great. Their actions are contrary to the principles of open government and the Official Information Act and must cease immediately.

We are even more concerned that multiple people in the Police hierarchy have conceived of, approved of, and applied these policies. By blocking transparency and seeking to control what is said about them, they have demonstrated contempt for democratic government. They have shown that they are not fit to hold their positions.

The Police Minister must take strong action to fix this problem and clean the rot out of the Police.

 

Police defend censorship of website

Back in August 2011 we wrote about the New Zealand Police censoring the Greencross site - a website arguing for the legalisation of marijuana for medical uses. The police claimed that the censorship was because the website was breaking the law, but refused to identify any law that was broken and have not laid any charges or applied for a court order to get the site closed. We said:

Whatever your opinion about using marijuana for medicinal purposes, it seems clear to us that there is nothing illegal about calling for a change in NZ's marijuana laws and that there is nothing illegal about the Greencross website. We are disturbed that the Police believe they have the power to shutdown a political website.

We followed up with the Police Commissioner, who forwarded our letter to Russell Gibson, District Commander of the Central District. His response is bizarre:

My responsibility is to enforce the law as devised by Parliament. It is neither appropriate nor helpful for me to become involved in a debate regarding political issues.
From my perspective I am satisfied that Detective Sergeant Paroli was working within the boundaries of the law and his motivation was simply to close down a site which assisted/encouraged offending against the Misuse of Drugs Act.

The police defence

The District Commander starts by saying he doesn't want to get involved in political issues - but that's exactly what his staff member has done by shutting down a political website.

He then tries to defend the action taken by his staff member by making a very weak link to the Misuse of Drugs Act. (We note, for the record, that the Act does not make it illegal to call for changes in New Zealand's drug laws). By doing so he completely ignores the fact that the police are not the right people to be making censorship decisions and trying to shut down freedom of expression in New Zealand.

If District Commander Russell Gibson doesn't want to get involved in political issues he should make it clear to this staff that censorship of political views is not part of their job description.

Police censorship

We stand by our original position that the police's attempt to get the Greencross website shut down was an inappropriate use of powers that they do not and should not have. We are disappointed that police leadership do not recognise this and have defended the actions of the officer involved.

Praise for Privacy Act revamp - but fears too

The Government has announced that it will repealing the current Privacy Act, passed in 1993, and replacing it a new one, partly based on the the Law Commission's 2011 report.

Note that this will be a repeal and re-enactment rather than merely an amendment, so we can expect the changes to be significant.

The government's press release calls out the following changes:

  • Mandatory reporting of data breaches to the Privacy Commissioner and in some cases directly to the people affected.
  • New offence of impersonation and existing fines increased.
  • Privacy Commissioner to be given more power including the ability to issue compliance notices.
  • Technical changes to make the law easier to understand along with a requirement for the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to issue more advice and guidance notes.

The accompanying Q&A document (PDF) contains more information about these changes. It also adds that there will be new guidelines and responsibilities about storing and processing data overseas.

Data sharing

The most interesting section is about data sharing. It references the changes made in 2013 to allow more data sharing and includes the line: "The reforms will also allow government and businesses to efficiently and effectively use information to deliver services and grow the economy."

This seems to imply a significant rebalancing of some of the principles in the Act to allow further data sharing without explicit permission from the people who that data is about.

The NZ Data Futures Forum recently held a breakfast meeting in Wellington where they seemed confident that, as they put it in their discussion paper, "An approach based principally on data ownership will become increasingly unworkable". This is because "informing people about data collection may not always be possible in the new environment" and "it is impossible to ask for consent for unanticapated innovative data uses at the time data is collected".

In other words, we won't be able to do whatever we want with the data if we have to ask people's permission before we collect it (Privacy Act principles 2, 3 & 4) and before we use it for purposes other than what we collected it for (Privacy Act principle 10).

Comment

Overall these changes to the Privacy Act look very good. We think it's great that the Privacy Commissioner will receive these additional powers, that there will be more advice and guidance, that issues with overseas storage & processing of data will be clarified, and that there will be some form of mandatory data breach reporting.

However we are concerned that the changes to the Act may go beyond this. The intention to repeal and re-enact indicates that we can expect major changes and we wonder just how far these will go in rewriting the principles to make data sharing easier for business and government. It would be sad if the Privacy Act finally got some teeth at the point that the principles that guide it are watered down.

We look forward to being involved in the consultation process and will be reviewing the bill when it is released.

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.

 

IGIS - Inspector General of Intelligence Services

Unsurprisingly the IGIS didn't have much to say - it's not really her call as to what the agencies publish. However, she did say:

While ultimately it is for the GCSB and the responsible Minister to decide which of the Bureau's internal documents to make public, my approach when reporting on inquiries is to make public as much information as possible, consistent with national security and the specific constraints contained in the IGIS Act 1996.

See the full-text of the IGIS response (PDF).

 

SIS - New Zealand Security Intelligence Service

Their response started by talking up the SIS's desire to be more transparent and mentioning some of their efforts to do so, before giving us two reasons for them refusing our request.

Refusal reason 1 - Legal privilege

They then claimed that the first reason they couldn't publish internal legal advice is that it is subject to Crown legal professional privilege. "Firstly, our internal legal advice is subject to Crown legal professional privilege and that privilege may only be waived with the consent of the Attorney-General." There is apparently no desire on the part of the SIS to ask the Attorney-General to waive this.

However, this seems to conflict with 4.68 in the Cabinet Manual, at least for Official Information Act requests: "Where a request is made under the Official Information Act 1982, the decision on release must be made by the Minister or chief executive who received it. The Attorney-General (through the Crown Law Office) should be consulted about the request."

Reason 2 - National security

The letter went on to claim that legal advice is asked for only in specific cases and the advice contains the details of those cases, therefore it can't meaningfully be revealed. Apparently the NZ SIS already understands all the relevant laws well enough that it doesn't see a need to seek more general analysis.

Oversight

Finally the letter talked about the oversight mechanisms for the SIS including the courts, the IGIS, the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee, and the Ombudsman, Privacy Commissioner, and the Audit Office.

See the full-text of the SIS response (PDF).

 

GCSB - Government Communications Security Bureau

After apologising for the tardiness of their response, the GCSB also stated their commitment to appropriate openness. However, they then had something concrete to say:

One way GCSB is currently working to do so is by proactively declassifying policies that may be of interest to the public.

These can currently be found in the News section of the GCSB website and include the following:

See the full-text of the GCSB response (PDF).

 

Conclusion

While we still have real problems with the overall purposes and methods of the intelligence agencies, we do believe that it is possible to make useful incremental improvements. One of those is ensuring that the agencies are subject to appropriate democratic oversight and this requires the maximum possible transparency.

Stripped of the happy-talk, the SIS's refusal to comply with our suggestion was obviously disappointing. As the GCSB has shown, it is possible to publish policy documents that include interpretations of the agency's controlling law.

As for the GCSB, they have made a start and this should obviously be encouraged. However, the real test will be if they start publishing policy and legal opinions around more controversial topics such as the treatment of metadata.

Record keeping and human rights

“...the concentration of power and the subjection of individuals will increase...in the same proportion as their ignorance.” 

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Part II, Book IV

The complaint about Immigration New Zealand from the New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties to the Chief Archivist, which is posted on this website, has highlighted the importance of being vigilant about the activities of government to ensure full records are created and maintained.  The complaint stems from the recent news story about Immigration New Zealand issuing a directive to its workers not to record (i.e. omit) any information or rationale that may lead to extra paperwork and be subject to scrutiny in judicial review or complaint to the Ombudsman.

Open and democratic government

Limited access to information helps to breed corruption in a government, and laws giving access to information are designed to counter this.  These laws promote honesty in government through accountability and transparency by providing the citizens with a legal right to obtain full and accurate information about the activities and decisions of their government.  This in turn increases democracy, and confidence in the governmental process.  The right to information is a fundamental requirement for citizens to be able to fully understand government policies, which in turn can help to create a more informed public who can then more ably take part in the democratic process and, ultimately, can better hold a government to account. 

The importance of freedom to information is recognised internationally.  The Law Ministers of the Commonwealth declared in 1980  “public participation in the democratic and governmental process was at its most meaningful when citizens had adequate access to official information”.[1]  In 1995 the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression noted that “the right to seek or have access to information is one of the most essential elements of freedom...”.[2]  In 1999 the Law Ministers of the Commonwealth adopted principles that considered the right to know and freedom of information to be a human right. 

Openness and NZ law

Here in New Zealand the Official Information Act (OIA)(1982) states that one of its purposes is to encourage the more effective participation of people in the making and administration of laws and policies, and promoting the accountability of Ministers and officials.[3]  The Bill of Rights affirms the right to seek, and receive information.[4]   The Declaration on Open and Transparent Government, which was approved by Cabinet on 8 August 2011, stated, “building on New Zealand’s democratic tradition, the government commits to actively releasing...data”.  In noting that access to information is a right not a privilege, the declaration recognised that the government holds data on behalf of the New Zealand public, and that releasing it encourages more involvement in government decision-making.[5]

Openness without record keeping is pointless

However without the government creating and maintaining full and accurate records regarding their activities and decision-making, any law guaranteeing access to information is worthless.  An accountable and effective record-keeping programme is essential to the provision of access of information to the public.  In the Declaration of Open and Transparent Government it was recognised that the data and information that the government holds on behalf of the public must be open, trusted and authoritative, and well managed.  This has been highlighted by the case of the Immigration New Zealand directive not to record information.  This directive directly contradicts the Public Records Act 2005, which states that one of its purposes is to enable the Government to be held accountable by “ensuring that full and accurate records of the affairs of central and local government are created and maintained”.[6]

Even with strong legislation in place that guarantees the public access to information, if there is no proper creation and management of records then government simply cannot provide access to the information that citizens may request.  If governments do not maintain these records then they cannot be transparent in their actions or held accountable for those actions, in effect rendering any freedom to information acts toothless.


[1]Promoting Open Government: Commonwealth Principles and Guidelines on the Right to Know’ background paper for the Commonwealth Expert Group Meeting on the Right to Know and the Promotion of Democracy and Development, London, 30-31 March 1999.

[2]Report of the Special Rapporteur, Promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, UN Doc. E/CN.4/1995/31, 14 December 1995, para. 35.

[3]OIA Part 1, Section 4

[4]Part 2, Section 14

[6]Part 1, Section 3

Report: Alternatives to Prison by the Community Justice Project

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of imprisonment in the Western world, while people are increasingly becoming aware that prison is often ineffective at limiting crime and rehabilitating offenders.

This report considers alternatives to imprisonment and makes a number of recommendations about how New Zealand can improve its justice and corrections systems in order to reduce crime, help offenders and save money.

The full report is attached to this post (PDF format).

In addition participants provided short opinion pieces relating to particular aspects of their work:

Management Courts by Juliet Bull

Principles of Youth Justice by Juliet Bull

The Need for Rehabilitation by James Beaumont

 

Wellington Community Justice Project

The Wellington Community Justice Project is a student-led society at Victoria University of Wellington. The Project has twin aims

  • improve access to justice and legal services in the community
  • provide law students with an opportunity to gain practical legal experience.

It pursues these goals by establishing community-based volunteer projects, working with various existing organisations that share similar goals.

In 2012  participants in the programme undertook a project for the NZ Council for Civil Liberties, looking at alternatives to prison. In the study they considered a range of alternative courses of action, drawing evidence both from within New Zealand and overseas.

Our thanks to Morgan Coates, who managed the project, Juliet Bull, James Beaumont and Alexandra Cooper who together undertook the research and report.

Links

Wellington Community Justice Project

Justspeak

Rethinking Crime and Punishment  

 

File attachments: 

Report: NZ Bill of Rights - Continuing the conversation

This was an informative seminar hosted on the 3rd June 2014 by the Attorney-General, Hon Chris Finlayson QC; a very welcome continuation to the Conversation on New Zealand's constitutional arrangements. The three speakers had very different bill of rights experience.

 

Professor Stephen Gardbaum from the University of California Law School's focus was on the relationships of the branches of government in the constitution.  Gardbaum thought that looking at how the judicial, executive and legislative branches respond to each other's decisions on human rights issues provides a useful lense. He used as an example, the responses to some well-known, though not recent, court decisions, to say that the other branches of government had responded positively to these decisions by the courts on Bill of Rights issues.  

Gardbaum noted that the high number of section 7 inconsistency reports in New Zealand, and the failure to have the issues addressed in the legislative process, is not good. Gardbaum favoured incremental change and expressed the view that New Zealand is not ready for constitutional supremacy.

 

Joanna Davidson spoke about her experience in the State of Victoria with its Charter of Rights.  A difference between Victoria and the NZ model is that in Victoria the reporting function is with the agency promoting the new legislation.  Davidson said that this decentralised approach has the advantage of ensuring awareness of rights issues across the State government agencies.  The risk to consistency is met by having a special team in the Justice Ministry take a second look at reports.  Other features were statements of consistency that were less legalistic and encouraged debate on how the policy measured up to human rights standards.  Davidson said it appeared that provided the agency had given proper consideration to human rights, the legislation would be upheld by the courts. 

Davidson noted that the focus of the Charter was on the widely applicable rights to privacy and  autonomy, in the context of home and family, rather than on the rights of unpopular groups such as prisoners, sex offenders and over-stayers.

 

Dr Tom Hickman suggested it was time for New Zealand to exhibit more of the bold reforming action of 25 years ago, and enhance judicial powers in relation to the Bill of Rights Act.  Hickman argued that clarifying that the courts may issue a declaration of inconsistency is weak and a waste of time.  Specifically he was concerned that going to court with the prospect of getting, at most, a declaration of inconsistency was a disincentive; effectively a successful plaintiff is denied a remedy and there is no accountability effect.

Hickman appeared to be recommending giving the courts power to suspend legislation or set an expiry date, with the legislature having the option to expressly confirm the inconsistency of what it had enacted.

 

One of the questions to the Panel was whether the lack of public interest groups in New Zealand prepared to take court action or be involved in supporting litigation on human rights issues was a problem.  The panel agreed that it could be, especially with access to legal aid now very curtailed.   

 

Thanks to the Law Foundation for the opportunity to hear three informed speakers present their thoughtful and relevant perspectives on how the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act might be strengthened.

Resources: NZ Intelligence & Security Bill

The Government has just announced the introduction of the NZ Intelligence & Security Bill 2016. This is a complete replacement of four existing laws based on the recommendations of the Intelligence Review.

This article is a collection of links to the current and proposed law, the reports, and articles and commentaries about the changes.

The government summarises the new Bill as:

The key aspects of the Bill are that it:

  1. Creates a single Act to cover the agencies and their oversight bodies, replacing the four separate acts that currently exist.
  2. Enables more effective cooperation between NZSIS and GCSB, enhancing their effectiveness while still ensuring there is appropriate transparency and accountability around their activities.
  3. Strengthens oversight of the activities of NZSIS and GCSB.
  4. Introduces a single warranting framework for intelligence collection activities and tightens up the authorisation framework for granting warrants.
  5. Brings NZSIS and GCSB further into the core public service increasing accountability and transparency.
  6. Clarifies arrangements for the use of cover and assumed identities and immunities.
  7. Sets out the role of the National Assessments Bureau in legislation for the first time.

Articles, commentary, and press releases 

(Most recent first - last updated 9th September 2016. Email submissions to thomas@nzccl.org.nz or tweet to @civillibertynz)

Gehan Gunasekara: Spy bill lacking some robust privacy protection - NZ Herald

Audrey Young: Keeping the balance for security agencies - NZ Herald

Maori Party cautiously support intelligence and security bill - Maori Party

Intelligence and Security Bill good effort, but scrutiny needed - Human Rights Commission

Security or privacy - what matters most? - Radio NZ

Why do the Greens hate the squirrels so much? - Kiwipolitico

We don't need the GCSB - No Right Turn

NZ spy agencies bill flies over first hurdle in Parliament - NZ Herald

New legislation for spy agencies clears first hurdle in Parliament - Stuff

Initial reaction to the Security & Intelligence Bill - NZ Council for Civil Liberties

Green Party to oppose invasive new spy legislation - Green Party press release

'Curate's Egg' security legislation far from ideal - United Future NZ

InternetNZ will be a voice for the internet on new Intelligence Bill - InternetNZ

Gordon Campbell on the new legislation for the spy agencies - Gordon Campbell

The good and not so good of the new GCSB Bill - Office of the Privacy Commissioner

Against anti whistle blower laws - No Right Turn

Proposed GCSB Legislation ruggling party leader's feathers - Newstalk ZB

The Soap Box: Whether we like it or not, spies are an integral part of Govt - Newstalk ZB

New spy laws need to strike balance - Labour - Radio NZ

New law targets people who leak classified information - NZ Herald

Against domestic spying - No Right Turn

Post cabinet press conference - Intelligence & Security

New spy laws introduced to Parliament - Radio NZ

Proposed new spooks law hands GCSB power to spy on New Zealanders - Stuff

Better balance needed in Intelligence Bill - Labour Party press release

Intelligence and Security legislation introduced - Government press release.

Timeframes

First reading (introduction to Parliament) - Thursday 18th August 2016

Select committee submissions due - Friday, 7th October 2016

Select committee deadlines, second and third readings all unknown at this time.

Source documents

Text of the NZ Intelligence and Security Bill

The four laws the Bill is replacing:

NZ I&S Bill - Regulatory Impact Statement (pdf)

NZ I&S Bill - Disclosure Statement 

Intelligence Review - Intelligence and Security in a Free Society (pdf)

 

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.

 

Difficulties with the case

This case involves 5 sentenced prisoners and, as persons directly affected by the 2010 Amendment, it was appropriate that they initiated the legal proceedings. The applicants deserve considerable credit for their tenacity in spite of several challenges along the way, including considerable uncertainty about what result might be achieved even if their challenge was successful.

The existence and retention of citizen's rights deserves to be of paramount importance. In recent years there have been numerous instances where those rights have been eroded, and there has been remarkedly little objection on the part of ordinary New Zealanders. Who can overlook the reality that tens of thousands objected when a proposal to cut the number of snapper that a recreational fisherman could catch?

 

Relevance of rights

Rights are important for all new Zealanders, and it is an interesting comment on the collective psyche when it is left to prisoners to initiate a challenge.

Even the Attorney-General drew Parliament's attention to the conflict when the Bill was under consideration. However, that too was discounted.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect is where to from here for the Government? Even uttering the observation that Parliament has no obligation to rectify the situation tends to suggest a continuing arrogance and indifference. It is a sad commentary when Ministers resort to “pulling rank”. While Government has been ceded the right to do something, by itself that does not make the action right.

 

Our position

The NZ Council for Civil Liberties strongly supported a change in the law at the time of the 2010 Amendment.  That change, however, was to urge the return of the right to vote to all prisoners, rather than the reduction proposed in that Amendment, and subsequently found by the High Count to be wanting

This is the same direction that the European Court of Human Rights has taken in recent years, and it is time for New Zealand politicians to look afresh at this issue and come to a different conclusion. To sleepwalk through the legislation once is disappointing; to be woken up and then go back to sleep again is reprehensible. We are all human beings and entitled to be treated with dignity and respect, even when some of us err.

This decision is a challenge to Parliament's integrity. It must address the declaration by the High Court promptly and return the right to vote to all prisoners. This will bring New Zealand's legislation into line with that which now prevails in Europe and honour the rights contained in the NZ Bill of Rights Act.

Round-up: Search & Surveillance Bill

A round-up of what people are saying about the latest version of the Search & Surveillance Bill.

The report of the Justice & Electoral Select Committee claims that major changes have been made to the Bill since the poorly received earlier versions:

When the bill was referred to us, we noted there was considerable disquiet from the public about the powers it would confer on enforcement officers, particularly those working for non-police agencies.

The overwhelming message we received was that the bill as introduced did not strike the correct balance between the competing values of law enforcement and human rights and that greater protection of civil liberties was needed. Therefore we have significantly redrafted this bill.

The report includes a minority view by Keith Locke of the Green Party, who while supporting the amendments don't believe they go far enough:

The Green Party is worried about moves in the direction of a surveillance State contained in this bill, with all its provisions for visual and audio surveillance, tracking people, and intercepting their communications. ... The advance of digital technology means that all the mentioned forms of surveillance are now cheaper and easier for the agencies to use, and the targets of surveillance are less likely to find out.

Perhaps the most offensive surveillance warrant is the one allowing State agents to trespass a home and install a covert video camera in a family's private space. Serious criminality is not so rampant in this country as to justify such an extreme intrusion on people's privacy.

In summary, the Green Party does not believe the supporters of this bill have explained why, at this point in our nation's history, we need to give such extra powers to Police and other State agencies, and in the process erode hard-won civil liberties.

Labour also include a minority view in the Select Committee's report, agreeing with most of the Bill but opposing extending production and examination orders from the SFO to the rest of the Police:

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is currently the only State agency with the power to issue examination orders and production orders. The SFO has taken to using those powers too frequently, rather than relying upon conventional investigation techniques and warranted searches in all but exceptional cases where the use of these orders is justified. This is an example of how when extra powers are given to an arm of the State that agency can utilise them more frequently than Parliament intended.

Unless further restrictions on the use of such power for both the SFO and the police are agreed by the Government, we will oppose this extension of powers to the police.

A NZ Herald editorial points out that the Search & Surveillance Bill takes away hard-won freedoms:

No changes this important should be made simply to make the state's job easier. Any assumption that authorities know best and the innocent have nothing to fear have a fug of authoritarianism about them. They sit poorly with a Justice Minister and Government nominally in favour of the rights of the individual.

Jonathan Temm, President of the Law Society is also concerned about the removal of the right to silence:

We believe the right to silence is an important fundamental legal right, and any time there is an erosion of that right, it has to be on very strict and balanced terms. You need to do that in a controlled and balanced way and not just part of a kneejerk populist reaction because you think it's worth votes.

Michael Bott, human rights lawyer points out the downside of removing the right to silence:

The right to silence exists because historically the state abused its coercive power to extract information, which was often unreliable. (paraphrase)

The EPMU argues against provisions forcing journalists to hand over documents and reveal the identity of sources. These powers are currently only available to the Serious Fraud Office and were recently used against the National Business Review and are extended to all Police by the Search & Surveillance Bill.

If we don't protect the freedom and independence of the media from state agencies then we are no better than dictatorships and other abusers of citizens' democratic freedoms.


Have we missed your article? Send your submission to thomas@nzccl.org.nz

Secret trials by stealth

The New Zealand Law Society has pointed out that last-minute changes to the Health & Safety Reform Bill brings in secret court hearings.

The provisions will allow a person to be tried and convicted of a criminal offence without seeing all the information relied on by the Crown and without the right to be present (or to have their representative present) during all the proceedings. This is inconsistent with the fundamental right to a fair trial, the Law Society says.

The Law Society further points out that because these provisions were added at the last minute there has been no Bill of Rights vet and no chance for public consultation.

We share the Law Society's concerns and find that this is an unacceptable breach of the rights guaranteed to New Zealanders in the NZ Bill of Rights Act including:

Everyone who is charged with an offence has, in relation to the determination of the charge, the following minimum rights:
(a) the right to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial court:
(c) the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law:
(e) the right to be present at the trial and to present a defence:
(f) the right to examine the witnesses for the prosecution and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses for the defence under the same conditions as the prosecution:

These rights are vital to the fairness of our justice system. The thought of being convicted for a crime where you never get to see or challenge the evidence used against you is abhorrent.

We remain opposed to secret laws, secret courts, secret witnesses, and secret evidence. Secrecy should not be allowed to override justice.

Speech: It's about power, not privacy

Speech given by NZCCL chairperson Thomas Beagle to the Rotary Forum - The Privacy Security Dilemma.


I'm not here to talk about privacy, I'm here to talk about power.

It's become increasingly clear to me that privacy, while important, is not a sufficient lens with which to look at the changes that are happening as human society digitises itself.

As someone who has been involved in political activism around privacy and technology, I've often been called on to explain why privacy matters. If you've done nothing wrong, you've got nothing to hide, right? 

Now I can rebut that statement in a number of ways but it still kept coming up. Eventually I realised it was the word "privacy" that's putting people wrong. 

When people think about their own privacy, the emotion they tend to think about is shame. It's the feeling they get when something they want to keep secret is revealed to people who matter to them, such as their friends, family and community.  But this emotion doesn't really apply when it's an impersonal computer or a distant bureaucrat - so an argument against the surveillance society based on privacy fails to resonate.

 

The digitisation of society isn't just about privacy. Modern technology is changing more than that. Nearly everything we do creates data, and this data is increasingly being collected, stored, aggregated, and analysed. Every year we think of new ways to use it, or have it used against us. 

When companies collect information about us and then use that information to manipulate our behaviour, is this not an exercise of power?

Digital optimists talk about "the power of big data to change lives" - but what is often missed is who are the people who get to wield that power, and who get to have it wielded against them?

And when governments gather more and more information about people, what does this do to the balance of power between the rulers and the ruled?

 

We know that people behave differently when they know they're being watched. This can be seen online, with more and more studies talking about the chilling effect of surveillance on people's willingness to speak out, to question orthodoxy, even just to seek out contentious information. 

Maybe it's safer not to say anything controversial in case it comes up when you apply for a job in the future. Maybe you shouldn't tell your doctor the truth, in case the government grants itself the right to access your medical records. Maybe you shouldn't blow the whistle on the corrupt behaviour you discovered.

This is about power. It's people using information about us to influence and control our behaviour in ways that suit their needs and not ours.

And it's also important to note that it's not just the reality of spying and surveillance that damages our society, it's our perception of them. It's the feeling of being watched and tracked at all times, the uncertainty that comes from not knowing what someone else knows about us, the fear that something we do or say today might be used against us in the future. 

You can see this privacy vs power dynamic at work when you consider the intelligence agency's self-serving logic that just collecting data doesn't amount to surveillance, it's only surveillance when the data is analysed or looked at by a person. 

This makes a certain superficial sense when we're thinking about personal information in terms of privacy and shame, but its a very different story when we think about power.  It's the equivalent of someone saying "Oh, we've copied your personal diary but you've got nothing to fear, we're just going to keep it forever and read it if we ever want to."  Your knowledge of this acts as a constraint on your behaviour.

 

And this brings me to civil liberties. 

I became involved with civil liberties because I believe in democracy, and government by the people.

But I also understand that while "the people" might be powerful, individuals are often quite helpless against the government's might. Furthermore, there is a tendency for even democratic Governments to accumulate more and more power over the people who elect them. 

Civil liberties are a response to this dynamic. They're a set of constraints that we impose on our government to protect individual rights and thus help preserve our democracy. 

But when information is power, and when government agencies are increasingly collecting, storing, and analysing information about people, the balance of power tilts from the people towards the government. 

Some people try to say we should be more afraid of big companies than the government. But corporations don't have much power over us really. Corporations can't cut your benefit, put you in jail, take away your driver's license, or deny you the ability to travel overseas.  And corporations can't compel others to share their data with them.

It's government use of information, and the desire to collect more of it, that I see as the threat to our freedom. 

 

And this is where the recent Intelligence Review fell down so badly.

I'm not going to go into the recommendations now, but in a review that contains the line "The need to maintain both security and the rights and liberties of New Zealanders has been at the forefront of our minds." there is a surprising lack of analysis of what those rights and liberties might be. 

It failed to consider how changes in technology are not only changing the scope of surveillance but also the ramifications of it. 

It failed to consider the dynamic where we see a continual expansion of surveillance powers just because it's possible.

It failed to consider that the only thing stopping us from living in a future panopticon, where our lives are an open file, are the constraints we choose and the limits we enforce.

And it also failed to consider the costs imposed on us from living in a surveillance society. Costs such as the discouragement of whistle-blowers, the impact surveillance has on the integration of immigrant communities, the erosion of freedom of expression by the quietening of political participation.

Instead the focus appeared to be on improving the "efficiency and effectiveness" of the intelligence agencies, neglecting the fact that some of these "inefficiencies" are actually constraints deliberately put in place to protect our freedom.

 

We also need to look at the reality of surveillance and spying. Nicky Hager many years ago, and Edward Snowden much more recently, both said that the major concern of these spy agencies is not what we would think of as security, but is economic and diplomatic in nature. That the spy agencies are not primarily designed to protect citizens, but to advance commercial interests and project power.

Is there any better example of this than New Zealand spying on "friendly" nations in the Pacific, passing on the captured information to Australia and the US so that they can take advantage of them in trade and fishing negotations? 

 

In closing, I've talked a bit about privacy and quite a lot about power, but I also want to touch on security.

We often see people trying to frame these debates about spying and surveillance as a battle between security and privacy. There is an idea that we can adjust some sort of balance between them until we find the setting that's just right.

But we need to look at the reality of the New Zealand situation. Our last terrorist incident was over 30 years ago. Even our most recent "scary headlines" published when the spy agencies were doing a bit of a PR blitz, turned out to be about something as terrible as people voluntarily leaving Australia. We are not currently seriously threatened by security issues and anyone who claims otherwise is probably just applying for a larger budget.

Earlier I said that privacy is a feeling - well, security is also a feeling. And when it comes to security, I am a lot more worried about the threat of our very real security services, both now and in the future, than I am about hypothetical terrorists.  

We need another Intelligence Review. A better one. One that goes beyond a desire to streamline and improve the status quo. One that's prepared to look at the costs of surveillance and not just the rather over-hyped benefits. One that's prepared to wrestle with the issues of what we can and cannot control as we digitise our world. One that gives more than just lip service to civil liberties and our democracy.

Thank you.

 

Speech: The corrosive effects of spying on New Zealand’s democracy

Freedom of expression

I’m involved with the NZ Council for Civil Liberties because I’m a fan of democracy. It’s common these days to sneer at democracy, but I believe it’s still the best way we’ve found to organise ourselves on a large scale.

But democracy relies on civil liberties, and in particular, the liberty that underpins it is freedom of expression.

This is not just the right to speak, it’s also the right to listen, to find out things, to share information, to exchange views with others. It covers ideas and speech in the mainstream and it also covers radical ideas, new ideas that challenge us, ideas that are at the time obviously ridiculous.

Like the right of women to be treated as equal with men, or for homosexual people to be able to love each other without persecution, or for people to be able to follow the religion of their choice.

Talking to each other

Freedom of expression gives us the right to talk about these things to each other. To persuade each other that these new ideas are correct and that we need to change our society and our laws to match. And this, to my mind, is what democracy is about.

But freedom of expression is a delicate thing. Not everyone is prepared to risk their reputation or their job or their liberty to say what they know is right. People fear that speaking up will get them in ‘trouble’, even though they sometimes find it hard to define exactly what that trouble might be.

Government surveillance and spying

And this brings us to government surveillance and government spying.

We all know that more and more data is being collected about us by companies and governments. We’re aware of the increase in surveillance cameras, of the ability to track our movements through mobile phones, of the use of social media to monitor our behaviour. The surveillance society appears to be a natural outgrowth of the digital revolution.

But the revelations of Edward Snowden and the publicity around them have made us all realise just how far this surveillance is going. The stated desire of the NSA and the Five Eyes network is to “collect it all”. All the phone calls. All the text messages. All the snapchats, whatsapps, tweets, emails, blogs, etc.

Paranoia

And with this awareness has come well-founded paranoia.

While the average Kiwi is of little interest to the intelligence agencies, the average Kiwi still knows that their information is being collected. Even if it’s not being collected in New Zealand, the Southern Cross cable that connects us to the world is well penetrated and the information collected there is available to New Zealand agencies through Five Eyes information sharing.

Perception of spying

The reality of how much government agencies are spying on any individual probably doesn’t matter as much as the perception that they might be.

Because when people know they’re being watched they behave differently. I want to give two real world examples of what that means.

Police photos

Some years ago the NZ Police started turning up to political demonstrations with a camera and would overtly take photos of the people involved.

I was told this by someone who stopped going to demonstrations because they didn’t like it. They weren’t breaking the law - they were not only doing nothing wrong, they were actively trying to improve the society that we live in. They couldn’t quite articulate what made them stop – but they were put off democratic participation by state surveillance.

Customs discussion

My second example is that recently I was participating in an online discussion with someone about Custom’s request for the powers to demand passwords at the border. We were chatting about it when they suddenly said “I’m not sure I should be participating in this conversation. I travel a lot and I don’t want to singled out for extra attention.” And then they dropped out of the conversation.

Both of these examples are of political speech which is regarded as the most protected by the right to freedom of expression. And yet the existence of government surveillance was enough to stop it cold.

You could argue that these two people were being overly paranoid but maybe they’re just already thinking about the long game? Those photos and that internet discussion are going to be on a database for the rest of their lives. Who wants to gamble that the world and NZ won’t become more totalitarian over the next 10 or  20 years?

The mere existence of spying causes a chilling effect on public participation in political activity.

Activism

Spying also undermines political activity carried out by groups. Even innocuous activist groups in New Zealand have been spied on by police informers and most also assume that the SIS spy on them as well. The requirement to protect New Zealand’s “economic security” covers a multitude of sins.

Spying harms political groups by reducing trust amongst members. It has also led to problems with spies trying to radicalise groups to maintain their threat level and therefore the spy’s income. And, of course, discovery of a spy can easily lead to the breakup of a group through disillusionment and increased paranoia.

Activist groups play an important role in introducing ideas into our society. Government spying on them is an attack on freedom of association and thereby weakens our democracy.

Whistleblowing

Another valuable outlet in a democracy is whistleblowing. This is where someone sees that the government is doing something illegal or immoral and exposes the wrongdoing to the world.

It would be nice to think that whistle-blowers would be rewarded for their service to society, but all too often they lose their job, and the gratitude of society doesn’t extend to helping them find another one.

It’s no wonder that whistle-blowers often wish to remain anonymous and journalists put in a significant effort to help them remain so – but in a surveillance society this is getting harder and harder. You can get all the advice in the world about secure email and leaving your phone behind and wearing a broad-brimmed hat for the cameras, but just one slip is enough to reveal your identity when the public relations hits the fan.

How many potential whistle-blowers are there in New Zealand who feel that they can’t reveal bad behaviour because of the fear of being caught?

Civil liberties overseas

And while I’m from the New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties, I want to mention the effect of New Zealand’s spying on democracy and civil liberties overseas.

We’ve always known that the GCSB’s main role is to spy on countries in our part of the world on behalf of the Five Eyes, but the Snowden files revealed more about the indiscriminate way the captured information is handed over to them.

This info can then be shared with governments in other countries if it’s seen to be in the interests of one of the Five Eyes. But this isn’t always going to be in the interests of the people in these countries, who might be fighting for democracy or better government.

How many pro-democracy and anti-corruption campaigners has the GCSB’s information caused to be jailed, beaten up or killed in the countries we spy on?

Not just spying

So far I’ve been talking about the way that spying and surveillance undermines freedom of expression and democracy, but the way the agencies are run also cause problems.

Cold war mentality

The spy agencies are creations of the cold war. They were created by people who feared that the scourge of communism might sneak into our homes and possess an unsuspecting populace.

That was not a security issue, that was a political issue, the fear of an idea.

While the SIS now claims to be only concerned with “security threats” it is still a political spy agency. It’s just had to change its vocabulary from “communism” and “fifth columnists” to “terrorism” and “extremists”. It still judges people based on their politics, sorting them into acceptable and unacceptable.

I don’t believe that the government in a democracy has any business worrying about people’s political beliefs. Our government should be focusing on preventing criminal actions, not policing ideology. Anything else is a threat to our rights of freedom of thought and freedom of association.

Managed networks

The spy agencies are also subverting the technology we use to communicate.

One of the things that amazed me about the GCSB law changes in 2013 was the sheer extent of the power grab by the GCSB. They asked for, and received, oversight and control of all the significant telecommunication networks in New Zealand. You run a telephone company or internet service provider and want to buy some new equipment? You’ve got to get permission from the GCSB.

Google thought this was so unworkable that they closed down a new research network they were setting up in New Zealand and moved it to Australia.

What sort of country are we, where we give the spies the right to control our telecommunications industry to ensure that they can keep spying on it? We’re told it’s for security, but how can we trust security advice from an agency whose very purpose is to break that security so that they can spy?

As far as I know, this level of control is unprecedented in any similar democracy although other governments are doing their best to catch up.

The secrecy problem

Finally I want to turn towards the problem of secrecy and oversight.

We’re proud of our open democracy in New Zealand. We’re proud of our Official Information Act that says that government has to tell us what they’re doing, even if the OIA is steadily being undermined.

The transparency of government is what allows us to provide meaningful oversight and to make informed decisions when it comes to voting.

But the spy agencies insist that the work they do is too secret, that to allow even the smallest degree of transparency will threaten the security of New Zealand.

The intelligence agencies even want to be able to present secret evidence in court that the person accused of the crime can’t be told. Being convicted based on evidence that you can’t even hear let alone challenge is a gross attack on our right to a fair trial.

This secrecy obsession applies not only to their spying but to nearly everything about what they do and how they work.

Oversight

Oversight is provided by the Inspector General - appointed by the government. Unfortunately much of her work also has to be kept secret too so we’re meant to just trust her.

But I don’t trust the government and nor should I. This is why we have transparency and the Ombudsman and an independent judiciary and elections – because governments are fundamentally untrustworthy because they’re made up of people.

The existence of secretive organisations that we’re not allowed to examine undermines the workings of our democracy.

The Intelligence Review

I’ve listed a number of ways that spying and spy agencies can and do damage our democracy. Will the Intelligence Review be looking at any of these issues in any depth?

On the plus side, the terms of reference for the review asks “whether the legislative frameworks are well placed to protect NZ’s security while protecting individual rights”.

But the choice of reviewers shows that the government doesn’t want any boat-rocking or insightful analysis. We’ve already seen public comment that reveal that they see their role as making minor tweaks and accommodations. There’s a chance we’ll end up with a few trivial improvements, but nothing that cuts to the core of these problems.

 

More importantly there’s not going to be any serious analysis of whether the existence of these agencies are justified in terms of the damage they do to our society. The NZ Bill of Rights says that our rights and freedoms can only be limited when the need for it can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

But where’s the justification for the intelligence agencies? Where’s the justification for the millions we spend on keeping over 500 people employed by them? Where’s the justifications for the laws that support their spying on people both here and overseas?

The future

We’re heading into a world where there are no technical limits on the extent of surveillance and spying. We will be able to, to use the NSA’s words, collect it all and analyse it all. Our government will be in a position to know everything about us.

I don’t want to live in this world.

But we don’t have to do this. We can choose to impose our own limits. We can choose how much spying we accept in our society. We’re a democratic society and we can choose to maintain that democracy.

Rather than a rubber-stamp review, we need to take a real look at the future, and whether these agencies and the mindsets they represent are appropriate to the type of society we want to live in.

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:

  • That there needs to be more clarity around which agencies are subject to the Act.
  • That there is no need to create new categories of documents or information that are exempt from the Act.
  • They support the idea of making decisions on a case-by-case basis (rather than having inflexible rules) but believe there needs to be more guidance in the Act and from the Ombudsman.
  • That the Government should be able to continue to hide the advice it receives in order to ensure it is "free and frank".
  • They continue to support "commercial sensitivity" as a grounds for withholding information, but acknowledge that there is sometimes a public interest in commercially sensitive data being released. They have asked for submissions on how this could be done.
  • There is a discussion of privacy issues in relation to the Act, noting that the 1993 Privacy Act was passed 9 years after the OIA. They note some issues with the different approaches taken by the two acts, but recommend no changes.
  • That the grounds for refusal "that the information is or will soon be publicly available" should be tightened up so that it will apply less often and that the information must actually be released soon.
  • They note that "maintenance of law" is overused as a grounds to refuse the release of information, with some agencies using it to hide information about ongoing investigations where disclosure might hinder the investigation. They then recommend that this should be added as a separate grounds to refuse release.
  • They ask for comment on whether it should be possible to refuse to release information to protect cultural matters (as is currently provided for in LGOIMA).
  • There is a discussion around the definition of "public interest" and whether the test is being properly administered (some grounds to refuse release can be overridden by the public interest). They recommend making changes to clarify this.
  • There is a large section talking about requests and the resourcing difficulties in responding to them. It makes an odd distinction between legitimate requests and "fishing expeditions" that seems to have no basis in law.
  • They suggest establishing that certain requesters can be declared to be "vexatious" and their requests ignored.
  • The current timeframe of 20 working days is seen as reasonable, with the suggestion that more complex requests should find it easier to have the timeframe extended.
  • They suggest that the problem of requests being transferred back and forth between Minister and Department can be resolved by clearer guidelines and that improper or untimely transfers should be a new grounds for complaint.
  • They recommend that the regime for charging for OIA requests should be clarified and ask for input.
  • They raise the topic of "reverse freedom of information complaints" where someone can complain if information was released improperly and ask for comment.
  • They recommend removing the right of Cabinet/the city council to veto the release of information requested by the Ombudsman in response to a complaint. 
  • There is a discussion of proactive disclosure - the idea that government departments should publish information before it is requested. They note that this practice is increasing and should be encouraged, but do not suggest making substantive changes. There is a note that this should be reviewed in three years.
  • They recommend against publishing a list of OIA requests and results as is done in some other jurisdictions.
  • They see no need for further harmonisation between the Public Records Act and the OIA.

The Law Commission has asked for submissions before Friday 10th December 2010.

The gaping hole at the heart of the Intelligence Review

The need to maintain both security and the rights and liberties of New Zealanders has been at the forefront of our minds.

If your report into the intelligence services has a title like 'Intelligence and Security in a Free Society', surely you've got some obligation to put a bit of effort into the "free society" part?

The most disappointing aspect of the Intelligence Review is the lack of consideration of what human rights and civil liberties in a free society look like and how they might be weakened by government spying. 

The introduction does include some discussion of human rights but not in any concrete terms. Rather, it takes a depressing view that elevates personal security above all other rights, "Security is a prerequisite to a free, open and democratic society in which individuals can go about their lawful activities without undue interference with their rights". This is a position that we reject - we refuse to give up all of our freedoms just because someone claims that we'll be safer if we do so.

The review includes quite a lot about possible threats (we note the last terrorist attack in NZ was 30 years ago) and makes some claims that government surveillance can keep us safe, but where's the discussion of the costs of spying, not only financial and strategic, but also political? 

  • Just how much does government surveillance, or the perception of it, reduce political involvement and discourage whistle-blowers?
  • What damage is being done to the integration of immigrants into New Zealand by the blatant and heavy handed spying on their communities?
  • At a time of dropping civic involvement, do we want to strengthen the idea that government is something that is done to people rather than by people?
  • How can political exiles be sure that their attempts to encourage democracy in their home countries won't be spied on and passed to their governments? 

More importantly, how is this all changing in the digital age when more and more data is being made available for surveillance? What will it mean if we keep going down this path of improving the "efficiency and effectiveness" of the spy agencies just because we can?

You won't find any answers by reading the Intelligence Review because they just haven't bothered considering it. But this lack of consideration hasn't stopped them from recommending major changes to agency scope (turning the GCSB into a domestic as well as internationally focused agency), new warrant authorisation schemes, and tweaks to oversight regimes.

The lack of thinking about these issues results in statements like: "The debate about how best to balance the need for security and the privacy of individuals will continue for as long as both are seen as essential to a free society."

The use of the word "privacy" completely undermines the importance of the debate. Civil liberties and human rights aren't just about privacy - they're about power. They're about maintaining the proper power relationship between government and the governed in a democracy. Government agencies collecting, storing, and analysing information about people tilts the balance of power from the people towards the government. It weakens our civil liberties and thereby weakens our democracy.

Why has the review failed so badly in its consideration of what a free society is?

One clue might be in the list of 54 entities (individuals, agencies and groups) consulted by the authors of the review. There were a range of spy agencies, government agencies, individuals, and independent-but-limited govt bodies - and exactly one fully independent group with a rights focus, Amnesty International. Where are the others? Somewhere in the unpublished list of those who submitted but the reviewers didn't think it worth speaking to?

We'll have a lot more to say about the content of the Intelligence Review recommendations, but with such rickety foundations it appears that the review is just another failure to properly engage with the realities of spying in the modern age.

 

United Nations Committee Against Torture - Shadow Report

In March 2009, NZCCL former President, Tony Ellis lodged a Shadow Report, below, with the United Nations Committee Against Torture for their formal consideration of New Zealand's Fifth Periodic Report under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The Committee Against Torture considered the Reports in May 2009, and in its Concluding Comments, below, made numerous recommendations which have wide-ranging implications for the New Zealand Government.

File attachments: 

United Nations Human Rights Committee - Shadow Report

In April 2009, NZCCL former President, Tony Ellis lodged a Shadow Report, below, with the United Nations Human Rights Committee for their formal consideration of New Zealand's Fifth Periodic Report under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

File attachments: 

United Nations Special Rapporteur

In 2008, the New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties and its former President, Tony Ellis lodged a complaint with the United Nations Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers against Elias CJ, Tipping J and Blanchard J and the New Zealand Supreme Court and Court of Appeal.

WCJP - Management Courts

Part of our Alternatives to Prison series by the Wellington Community Justice Project.

 

Management Courts

by Juliet Bull

Within the criminal justice sector, the United States is more often associated with incarceration than innovation. Nevertheless, New Zealand should follow America’s lead with the establishment of management courts.

Management courts are a special type of court which emphasise the rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders. The late prominent defence lawyer Greg King has advocated for the adoption of such courts in New Zealand, after seeing their operation in the United States. They are similar in principle to the drug courts recently established on a five-year pilot in New Zealand, in which offenders will be offered extensive rehabilitation and support alongside ongoing alcohol and drug testing. These courts are an important development considering that 80 per cent of offending in New Zealand occurs under the influence of drugs and alcohol, or to feed an addiction. However, this pilot does not go far enough and should increase in scope. King envisaged a holistic court which addresses the whole litany of problems associated with typical offenders, where alcohol and drug addiction can be addressed alongside mental health issues and a lack of education and skills training.

The Courts would have wide authority to develop a personalised programme to suit offenders’ needs, operating both at sentencing and upon release from prison. At sentencing, the Court would impose conditions conducive to rehabilitation, like attending drug treatment, while also imposing punitive conditions like community work alongside measures designed for public safety like curfews. Where operating upon release from prison, the offender would already have been punished through their imprisonment so the Court’s focus would be primarily to rehabilitate and reintegrate the offender.

The current system is desperately in need of reform. New Zealand judges are poorly equipped to oversee compliance with the sentence they impose - after sentencing, judges are typically disassociated from the case. Another problem is the limited range of conditions that courts can impose when sentencing an offender. Defendants are often subject to far fewer restrictions with their actual sentence than they were whilst on bail.

Management Courts address these issues by giving judges broader discretion to impose a sentence suitable to the particular offender, and by encouraging the provision of on-going support through a core team of individuals including the judge, case manager and treatment provider. Judges should talk directly with eligible offenders in a supportive way, to congratulate their progress and ensure they are staying on track. Sceptical? So was Greg King, until he saw in person the dramatic effect that such praise had on offenders.

New Zealand cannot afford to dismiss these innovations as ‘soft on crime’ and continue down the fiscally unsustainable path we are on. Simply imposing longer sentences does not change offending patterns once offenders are released from prison - which they eventually will be. We cannot keep throwing money at the same failed policies while hoping that something will change. Instead we must reduce our high rate of recidivism by adopting policies geared towards rigorous rehabilitation and supervision, policies which are proven to promote change within offenders.

 

WCJP - Principles of Youth Justice

Part of our Alternatives to Prison series by the Wellington Community Justice Project.

Principles of Youth Justice

by Juliet Bull

New Zealand’s innovative approach to youth offending should be incorporated into the wider criminal justice system to reduce our ever-increasing prison population. While the prison muster for adult offenders has been rapidly increasing to fiscally unsustainable levels, New Zealand imprisons far fewer youth offenders than in the past. Despite this change, the rates of youth offending have not increased.

New Zealand desperately needs to re-evaluate current sentencing practices. Our rate of imprisonment is the second highest in the world, with the Department of Corrections on track to become the largest government department in the country. The International Centre for Prison Studies described New Zealand’s sentencing practices as an example of ‘what not to do’. Current incarceration trends are not viable long-term: on average, it costs $90,000 to keep a single prisoner incarcerated for a year. Reforming our current policy to reduce massive spending on imprisonment is particularly important given the current economic climate and the spending reductions seen in other government departments.

The problem is that our current sentencing policy has shifted, under both Labour and National governments, too far towards punishment and retaliation (a sure way to win votes) with too little attention paid towards reducing future offending. Changing this focus is not about being ‘soft on criminals’ or to say they shouldn’t be punished – they should be. It’s about asking how we can reduce the rates of future offending. What better way to support victims of crime than to prevent them from becoming victims in the first place?

Reform of the youth justice system in New Zealand provides an example of this necessary shift in focus. The 1980s reform rebalanced sentencing policy away from a more punitive outlook, to asking why the offending has occurred, what the problems and needs of the particular offender are and how they can best be addressed. The sentencing of youth offenders is governed by the principle that imprisonment should be a last resort. Instead, youth are dealt with by alternative processes like the Family Group Conference, where offenders meet with their family, the police and sometimes the victim. The conference includes discussion of the impact of the offending on the victim and the formulation of a plan which can include community service, making reparation payments and apologising for their actions.

There is no reason why the principles which have worked effectively in the youth justice sphere should not be applied more widely, particularly in less serious, non-violent criminal offending. In a survey of Family Group Conference youth justice co-ordinators, 88 per cent believed that the conferences could be used effectively with adult offenders, including some who believed the process could be even more effective with adults that young people.

If we adopted the principles which govern youth justice – taking time to determine why offending has occurred, what problems need to be addressed, encouraging restorative justice processes and seeking personalised punishment for the particular offender, where imprisonment is a last resort – we could reduce our rate of imprisonment as we did with youth offenders in the 1980s. The $90,000 annual savings could be directed to drug and alcohol rehabilitation, jobs and skills training or other policies which increase the opportunities for offenders and reduce the likelihood that they will return to prison. We cannot afford to continue throwing money into prisons with the same appalling results; instead, we should rebalance our sentencing policy and priorities in line with youth justice reforms. Only with a focus on promoting change within offenders can we hope to reduce offending in New Zealand.  

WCJP - The Need for Rehabilitation

Part of our Alternatives to Prison series by the Wellington Community Justice Project.

 

The Need for Rehabilitation

By James Beaumont

A key central theme in modern story telling is the idea of good and bad. In numerous crime dramas the hero will foil a criminal’s plot, with the ‘bad guy’ going to jail as a result.

Unfortunately reality is not always quite as black-and-white as this. It is easy for those of us fortunate enough to come from a privileged background to laud the penal system for the ‘just deserts’ it gives out to felons. However, it is rare that we actually think about life on the other side of the bars and the circumstances that lead to offending. It is easy to conceptualize prisoners as ‘bad guys’, when in fact many of them are regular people who have been forced into a life of crime by complex social problems.

Studies have found that a large percentage of prisoners suffer from drug or alcohol abuse. In addition to this, a majority have substantial literacy problems. What this illustrates is that prisoners are not necessarily bad people, it is more that they are individuals who are completely unequipped to function in society. Placing these individuals in prison only exacerbates the problem. Prisons are notoriously brutal environments, with strength and ruthlessness being the main prerequisites for survival. It seems unusual that we can carry an expectation that prisoners will be somehow reformed when they exit. How can they be expected to become law-abiding citizens when they have been placed in an environment that only adds to their problems?

The traditional counter-argument to this is that putting wrongdoers through prison will ‘scare them straight’. In other words the experience of prison is so horrific that convicts will never want to offend again and risk going back. What this ignores is that human behaviour is often moulded by experience rather than by any sense of logic. For example, as I can attest, many if not all students enter the year with lofty ambitions of top grades. However, it is only the few students who benefit from a strong work ethic that actually achieve these grades. One might be aware that it is the logical choice to prepare for class, but this does not mean that it will win out over the lure of a laptop or television. The mind of a prisoner works in much the same way. A convict might be aware that abstaining from drugs and alcohol is the correct choice but it is another thing entirely to actually avoid them.

Our current prison system gives the appearance of upholding the virtues of protection and justice. However in reality is simply a façade that gives the appearance of dealing with the problem. If prison is really meant to make society a safer place for law abiding members of the community, then why is there so little focus on the type of person that comes out of prison. We might argue the goal of prison is to punish but surely taking away a person’s freedom is punishment enough. If we are to create a prison system that actually enhances society then we need to think about how we can teach criminals good habits so that they have the ability to successfully integrate upon release.  

Why are we encouraging the police to break the law?

As the agency responsible for upholding the law it is obvious that the police have a duty to operate within the law.

It is now public knowledge that the police in New Zealand have been illegally using video surveillance for some years.

The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court's decision in the Hamed case is fairly scathing of the police's deliberate flouting of the law. The Chief Justice wrote:

In circumstances where the police officer in charge of the inquiry knew that there was no authority to be obtained for such filmed surveillance, the deliberate unlawfulness of the police conduct in the covert filming, maintained over many entries and over a period of some 10 months, is destructive of an effective and credible system of justice.

However, even after writing these stern words the Supreme Court's decision went on to say that this illegally obtained evidence could still be used in court if the alleged crime was sufficiently serious.

The fix-up law

The Government's reaction was to propose a law that would not only allow the police to keep using video surveillance, but would also retrospectively grant them permission, legitimising their past illegal behaviour. The outcry against this led to the law being watered down somewhat, but it still gave the police the power to legally do what they had been doing illegally.

Why obey the law?

The question has to be - why should the police follow the laws around search and surveillance when:

  1. the courts will accept the illegally collected evidence,
  2. no one in the police will be punished for breaking the law,
  3. if the police do it enough, the government will pass a law to make it legal.

Isn't this missing the point of having limitations in the first place? Aren't we just saying that the police can do whatever they like unless it is expressly prohibited?

In our society it is the people, through Parliament, who get to decide the law and not the police. If the police set themselves up as superior to Parliament and Parliament acquiesces we risk the slow slide into becoming a police state.

Tainted evidence

The police probably don't think they're bad people for breaking the law - after all, they're trying to catch criminals. Indeed they see themselves as the good guys, doing what has to be done to keep people safe. The fact that the courts can accept the evidence provides tacit permission for the police to continue with their illegal behaviour. Catching and convicting criminals is incentive enough.

If the courts rejected this evidence this would remove the incentive for the police to break the law. This is the actual situation in the USA where all illegally obtained evidence is excluded under the "fruit of a poisonous tree" doctrine.

Of course this can lead to the situation where police misconduct can end up in a criminal escaping conviction. However, we already accept this in New Zealand. The main difference here is that instead of a hard and fast rule we leave it up to the judge to decide based on section 30 of the Evidence Act. This already says that the judges should consider "the nature of the impropriety, in particular, whether it was deliberate, reckless, or done in bad faith" but it seems clear that they are not giving sufficient weight to it.

We believe that this law should be changed so that deliberate police misconduct leads to the evidence being excluded. Anything else will just encourage the police to keep operating outside of the law.

Punishing the police for breaking the law

If the police have been engaging in wilfully breaking the law - why have the police officers involved not been charged or punished? If the courts accepting illegally obtained evidence is an incentive, the lack of any punishment when caught means that there is no reason not to break the law.

The police have legal powers that other people do not. This surely means that are to be held to a higher standard of behaviour, to ensure that these powers are not abused. When they are abused there needs to be repercussions that will discourage others from doing the same. Moreover, it is unacceptable for people with this lax attitude towards obeying the law to continue working in the police force. The proper

Conclusion

The current situation is unacceptable in a democracy. The police are tasked with upholding the law and shouldn't be breaking it instead. We need to remove the incentives to them breaking the law and ensure that they are punished when they do.

We believe that the law be changed so that evidence is automatically excluded where the police have deliberately flouted the laws in the collection of that evidence.

We further believe that members of the police who deliberately break the law should be charged and, if convicted, lose their jobs. Criminals, even though well intentioned, have no place in the New Zealand police force.

‘Three Strikes’ legislation

The Sentencing and Law Reform Bill 2009 advocates that a ’Three Strikes’ policy is introduced in New Zealand. This policy would provide an automatic prison term of 25 years without parole for a third offence (excluding minor offences). The Bill advocates sentences out of proportion than the crime committed and focuses on punishment rather than rehabilitation. The policy advocated in the Bill has only little potential effect in protecting the community, and would lead to many people being constrained in prison to no good effect either to them or to the community.

Kim Workman QSO, Director of the "Rethinking Crime and Punishment" project describes the Bill as having 'the effect of de facto life imprisonment for three serious offences," according to the article published in a 2009 issue of the LawTalk below.

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