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Govt Attacks Right To Silence

Written By: - Date published: 10:02 am, November 11th, 2010 - 12 comments
Categories: law, Media, national/act government - Tags: ,

Whilst the Search and Surveillance Bill has been massively scaled back in Select Committee, with most of the more egregious attacks on Civil Liberties removed, it does still remove the Right to Silence, an important part of our legal system for, ooo, centuries.

As Russell Brown puts it (cached link, Public Address is down right now):

First, people being investigated by police over serious fraud-related offences or gang crimes will no longer have the right to remain silent. Second, it will be an offence – punishable by up to a year’s jail – to refuse to hand over information relating to certain serious crimes

Amongst other things it will cause a chilling effect on journalistic freedom.  The EPMU (which represents journalists) and the NBR are in rare agreement, as they fear journalists having to give up their sources – a vital component to a free press.  The SFO already have some powers along these lines, and the new bill specifically mentions financial crimes (along with anything gang-related) amongst those who give up the right to silence – so the NBR are acutely aware of their loss of rights.

Whilst further efforts are needed on that Bill as it goes through its second and third readings, the government has introduced a new attack on the Right To Silence.

The new Alcohol Reform Bill also removes the right – and National’s own Attorney General, Chris Finlayson, can’t see why.  People caught with alcohol in banned areas will be compelled to tell the police about anyone else connected in any way to the offence – all very vague, and massively over-reaching the needed powers.  Police will also be able to arrest them, despite the fact that it is only an infringement offence that can be dealt with on the spot.

On top of that, if police stop you, you will have to prove that what you’re carrying is NOT alcohol as the onus of proof is reversed, and you are guilty until proven innocent.  How many people carry around a chemistry kit to show that their drink is non-alcoholic?

Once again this government is showing its authoritarian streak.  As with sacking E-Can, the Canterbury Earthquake Bill and numerous other examples, their first resort is: more power to us and authority – that’ll fix the problem.  The people cannot be trusted.

12 comments on “Govt Attacks Right To Silence”

  1. cardassian 1

    Not sure why they want the alcohol one.

    However the other one is a no brainer, Nact don’t want a free press. They want a press that cost a bottle of wine and publishes what they want them to.

  2. Tiger Mountain 2

    Good on those that have made an effort on changing the S&S bill so far.

    No more “right to silence” if it passes, so to what extent one wonders will the “bacon squadron” be allowed to go to enforce co-operation from people being questioned. Will a non committal answer be accepted? e.g. Sorry officer can’t help you with that. Will physical coercion be permitted? Denial of a lawyer, use of toilets, threats etc. I mean the cops do that already including bugging prison interview rooms according to a lawyer friend.

  3. Jenny 3

    This latest legislation is continuing a trend in this direction, with other legislation in a similar vein passed over the last few years. History warns us that if you keep giving unaccountable state forces more and more power beyond the reach of democratic check and balance, these state forces become a law unto themselves. Almost inevitably these powers will be used and even abused. When this happens, civil society and political leaders are faced with making a hard and often personally punishing stand, or go with the flow.

    So slowly does a democratic state slide into something completely unrecognisable from where it started.

    It is far better and safer not to hand such powers to the state in the first place.

    The opposition parties should stand up in the House and promise to repeal this piece of legislation on being returned to office.

    Will our opposition have the guts to do it?

    I hope so.

    • Colonial Viper 3.1

      Time for a roll back of recent increases in state power such that the principle that state power is designed to protect the people is observed. Not the principle that it should treat the people as the enemy of the state.

    • Bored 3.2

      Jenny, unfortunately this type of legislation has been tacitely accepted by both major parties, they hacve fallen into line with the US requirements since before 9/11. Why the hell we comply, queue for security at airports etc is beyond me, we dont question hard enough.

      The authoritarian streak runs very deep in the NZ psyche, we are no where near as rebellious as our Aussie neighbours. Punishment takes precedence over persuasion, I see it everyday in the way my workmates operate.

      What happens between the ears of National Party (and a lot of Labour) MPs is quite disturbing. If you were to ask them, “are you an authoritarian?” and “do you think this Act will ever be enforced?” most would say, “no, actually I have not really given it any thought”. Which would indicate the preconditioning of the NZ psyche to accepting these things without question.

      • Deborah Kean 3.2.1

        “The authoritarian streak runs very deep in the NZ psyche, we are no where near as rebellious as our Aussie neighbours. Punishment takes precedence over persuasion, I see it everyday in the way my workmates operate.”
        Absolutely correct! Captcha = obviously! Tee hee
        Deb

      • The authoritarian streak runs very deep in the NZ psyche, we are no where near as rebellious as our Aussie neighbours.

        Parts of Australia maybe. Certainly not WA or Queensland or SA. And my (admittedly limited) observations in other states suggests it probably isn’t true of anywhere but NT, and maybe Tasmania in some respects.

        Police powers are already further advanced. They already carry guns. They’ve been exposed time and again as corrupt. And still the prevailing sentiment is “you’ve got nothing to fear if you’re doing nothing wrong”.

        I’d say it has more to do with both countries having had it too easy… neither was formed out of a revolution where anyone had to fight for their rights. And thus they’ve been taken for granted and their gradual erosion is seen as no big thing.

  4. randal 4

    you only have to look at the tight underpants crowd, cleaner than clean crowd in power at the moment to see that they’re afraid of anything and everything.
    this sort of legislation is for frightened people out of their depth.
    they are trying to crack peanuts with sledgehammers and refuse to trust the community because they have alredy torn the guts out of it.
    this is the brave new world.

    • Bored 4.1

      Frightened people is part of the whole thing..”we need protecting from the big bad spooky images of terrorists” etc that come out of corporate central. Its bloody sad we sink to this level of paranoia so quickly.

      Now if we follow it to a logical conclusion we must be the enemy because we need to be treated this way to protect the state from….who? Must be us.

  5. freedom 5

    and what was that event again, the one that prompted the current progressive global crackdown on civilian freedoms? What was the event that dictated to the govenments of the west that every citizen is guilty untill incarceration proves otherwise and our rights no longer stand for anything?

    What was the event that so many said doesn’t affect anything in New Zealand, and had so many at the time saying they would give up some of their liberty for freedom?

    Did you really think it was not going to escalate to this, and worse is still to come…?

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