Four developments of note

Four recent developments we think are worth noting.

Harmful Digital Communications Act bar for "harm" lowered

Ex-judge David Harvey explains the recent decision by the High Court to overturn the decision by the District Court that the complainant had not suffered serious harm.

Whatever you think of the law overall, the decision by the District Court did seem to set a much higher bar to proving harm than Parliament seemed to intend.

Ombudsman fires shot across the bows of OIA legal privilege refusals

No Right Turn notes that the Ombudsman will be requiring MPI to release a summary of legal advice they used to justify a decision, rather then letting them hide behind s9(2)(h) of the OIA.

This is much closer to our understanding of how this clause is meant to work – as a protection for ongoing legal action, not a way to blanketly refuse the release of anything that might count as legal advice.

First charges under the "no protest at sea" law

Stuff reports that Russel Norman and two other activists have been charged for protesting against the oil industry at sea. They are the first to be charged under the new law.

This law change to limit the exercise of freedom of expression at sea was a great disappointment to us. We will be interested to see how the courts interpret it in light of the NZ Bill of Rights.

Privacy Commissioner says planned govt collection of data goes too far

In a strongly worded statement, Privacy Commissioner John Edwards has attacked the government's plan to force social service providers like Women's Refuge and Rape Crisis to provide identifiable data about their clients. He says that "There is a real risk that the new arrangement will deter some people who are most in need from seeking support or assistance".

These policies, as part of the wider government's efforts to push big data analytics, have attracted significant criticism and we hope that this will force a rethink. 

The recent flaws found in the data collection mechanism have demonstrated both some of the shortcomings with the government's approach and the lack of competence in handling it.