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.