Keith Locke

Right to silence cancelled

by Keith Locke

It’s great that the NZ Herald, in an editorial this morning , recognises that “New Zealanders stand to lose some hard-won freedoms under a bill [the Search and Surveillance Bill] moving largely under the radar through Parliament.”

Decoding that sentence, it means we should have taken the Greens and community organisations more seriously when they criticised the Bill. The Herald has had reporters at two sets of Select Committee hearings, in 2009 and 2010, where the criticism the Herald is now raising was aired. The Herald is also aware of the nationwide rallies and protest marches since the Labour government introduced the Bill in 2008.

Perhaps what tipped the balance for the Herald was a realisation that the Bill enables the Police, and a range of other state agencies, to raid their offices and seize documents which disclose their sources. This is done through what are called Production Orders, which requires anyone who has material relating to an offence to produce it, or face a sentence of up to a year’s jail.

Also rightly worrying the Herald are Examination Orders, which require people to answer questions about more serious crime, again under threat of jail. This cancels our traditional right to silence. As an example, Tuhoe friends of Tame Iti could be forced to answer questions because the offence Tame is charged with, belonging to an organised criminal group, qualifies for an Examination Order under this Bill.

The Herald rightly says that the Examination and Production Orders, when applied to the media, do matter to the public. “Important revelations of wrongdoing by criminals, business or political leaders and, crucially, investigating authorities themselves are invariably from confidential sources.”

I would advise the Herald to take a closer look at some of the other oppressive provisions in the Bill, like the surveillance warrants that allow Police to place covert cameras inside people’s living rooms for certain offences. For a summary of the problems with the Bill see my Green Party Minority report in the report back to Parliament from the Justice and Electoral Select Committee.

For further information on the Bill go to our search and surveillance webpage

Published in Justice & Democracy by Keith Locke on Fri, November 12th, 2010   

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