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Judith Collins – thoughtless idiot

Written By: - Date published: 11:34 am, December 14th, 2008 - 28 comments
Categories: activism, national, police - Tags: ,

Nothing is quite as important to a democracy as activist groups that engage in peaceful protest for change. In the past these are the groups that have worked for extending the franchise (including to woman), establishing the rights of workers in employer/employee relationships, the abolition of slavery, campaigned for sewerage systems and clean water reticulation, established the SPCA, opposed apartheid, opposed involvement in wars, etc, etc

These days these are some of the groups carrying on that great tradition. They include Greenpeace and other environmental groups, groups campaigning for animal rights, groups campaigning for beneficaries, groups campaining against GE, groups campaigning against open-cast mining, and groups campaigning against US bases in NZ.

Now, like me you may not agree with some of what these groups are campaigning about. However they do have a right to campaign openly and without fear of malicious harassment by the state. If they do something that breaks the law, then they should should face the law. Sure they need to be monitored but unless they start doing things that are dangerous to the public, then the normal course of the law should apply,

However this has often not been the case. We appear to have a new police minister who doesn’t understand her role in making the public feel secure about the police.

Police Minister Judith Collins said: “This government wants to ensure [the police] have the tools and the support they need to keep the public safe.

“From time to time it may be necessary to use paid informants. I think most New Zealanders would find it reassuring that the police are out there keeping a watch on the whole community. That’s what they’re there for.

“I trust the police to exercise sound judgment and professionalism when deciding where and when to use paid informants.”

Perhaps she should ask exactly what the police have been doing with the current protest groups. Police ministers have little control on the police apart from their budget, and providing one of the few interfaces that the public has into that organization about what is acceptable to the public. However Judith appears to wish to give them a blanket defense.

To my knowledge parts of the police have been abusing the legal systems to harass protest groups. They have used spurious charges regularly that get thrown out by the courts. Most protesters in NZ can show you a large list of charges that have been dropped or failed to met the tests of the court. Intelligence units of the police have used these types of charges to obtain search warrants for intelligence gathering activities because there are no penalties for them to do so even when the charges are thrown out, overturned or dropped. Now it turns out that they have been using paid informants not only to gather information, but also to assist and incite the very activities they are working against.

None of these activities have any realistic repercussions for the Police apart from the increasing unease amongst the young and involved about the police. Having a police minister who isn’t prepared to examine the role and actions of the police just removed one of those protections. That is the action of a thoughtless idiot of a politician.

28 comments on “Judith Collins – thoughtless idiot ”

  1. George 1

    oh i get it now, this is why we ware only just having a beat up on old news.

    because we have a new (National, in case we all forgot) police minister. silly me for thinking you might just be outraged against the police.

    Welcome to the job Judith, i wish you well in a difficult role. Here’s hoping you don’t get ambushed by any more of predecessors decisions. these will be used against you when you don’t get outraged by them, as people like Anthony Hubbard and Nicky hager try to whip up sentinement on news too old wrap fash n chups in

  2. lprent 2

    No if Goff hadn’t answered differently, then I’d have slammed him as well. As it is I think his response was a bit limp, but he will want to find out more.

    Judith came out with a blanket defense of the police – ie no discussion or debate. That is unacceptable in the liaison position between the police and the politicians. The police are largely independent of the political system.

    I’ll be looking at all politicians responses to this news (including the ones who have no opinion).

  3. spot 3

    LP – re. your post – what does that then say about the role of crown solicitors and prosecutors?

  4. lprent 4

    Well that is the interesting thing.

    Most offenses brought against protestors are under the summary offenses act. As far as I’m aware these are done exclusively by the police.

    The more serious offenses under things like the crimes act are done by crown solicitors.

    However these are effectively legal contractors that the police instruct. ie they do not make the decision on what cases to bring forward. Same with the prosecutors as far as I can tell. I think that they are really just crown solicitors (never been in a case involving them).

    As far as I can see, the police are the only body that decides if a case is to proceed.

    What is a Crown Prosecutor?

    The Crown Prosecutor is the lawyer who presents the case for the Crown or Government. They are responsible for laying any charges that a person may have to stand trial for in a Court and then presenting to the Court all of the evidence that may be relevant to the charge. The Crown Prosecutor has the burden of proving the charges beyond reasonable doubt, and for this reason, they will present the case for the prosecution first, and before the defence lawyer presents the case for the defendant. Like a defence lawyer they may make a speech at the beginning and the end of the trial. In summary, they are there to present the case for the prosecution but they do not decide whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty.

     

  5. spot 5

    “As far as I can see, the police are the only body that decides if a case is to proceed”

    Way outside my knowledge, but someone here will know.

    Not sure you comment (above) is correct – did David Collins not recently refuse authorisation to press charges under that Terrorism Supression Act, and bascially scupper that whole case (in a legal/procedural sense) ?

  6. lprent 6

    Yes but that is the Solicitor-General. I don’t think that most cases go up to that exalted level for approval.

    They usually require a judgment on if the case is possible under the law. Therefore it will usually only happen with new law.

    Similarly I believe that the SG takes action for cases that affect the legal process. Like the publishing of evidence gathered for a court case

  7. ieuan 7

    Are you guys running a contest on who can come up with the most emotive headline?

  8. spot 8

    LP – probably right.

    Need someone to give us a run-through of getting warrants, laying charges, depositions, actual charges and where (if) there is any discretion exercised by solicitors/prosecutors.

    Probably, as you note, a lot to do with seriousness of charges, or applicable law.

  9. lprent 9

    ieuan: She is my niece. Rob Gilchrist was her boyfriend. This guy has been welcomed into my family.

    Are you suggesting that I should be angry about that? And that I should not spill some of that anger on to a minister of police that clearly doesn’t understand her role between the public and the police?

    But more importantly, the role of the police needs to be looked at in NZ. That has become increasingly clear over the last decade or so. At present they have considerable power, and have shown a limited ability to wield that with the appropriate discretion. I’d be happy to organize material to highlight that for the incoming minister.

  10. I am a little disappointed that it has taken a change in government to make you wake up to what the cops are up to. For a decade or more they have been pushing for more powers and have been given just about everything they have asked for.
    I want a change in management at the top and a full corruption commission set up to investigate the role that the previous government played in pressuring police management to squash investigations and refuse to lay charges. We could roll an inquiry into what this special investigations group is up to as well.

  11. lprent 11

    bb: I’ve been pushing this at various level since 2004. However it always runs into a blank wall of there being no actual forum to discourse with the police about policy. I even have a partially written website / blog here that I wrote in 2005/6 on the issue – but never had time to put up.

    The previous government as far as I’m aware hasn’t been doing anything of the sort. The operational matters for the police are completely under their own jurisdiction. The politicians role is to provide laws that the police think that they need and to provide funding for specific new roles.

    The police independence in NZ is almost legendary. What I think we need is a look at the interface between the police and the public. I feel that the police probably have archaic management practices, an arcane internal structure, and a internal culture that is diverging from the rest of society.

    With the exception of the specific role of the Minister of Police as a channel for public concerns, I don’t think that this is particularly political. It is a public issue.

    I’m sure it will become political, however I’d like to do whatever I can to prevent that.

  12. ieuan 12

    ‘ieuan: She is my niece. Rob Gilchrist was her boyfriend. This guy has been welcomed into my family’

    So this guy was sending the police information about the the activities of the groups that your niece was involved in. I can see why you are angry.

    Probably as angry as the National Party MP’s that were secretly taped by someone pretending to someone they weren’t or all those Hollow Men who were attacked by Nicky Hager with emails sent by a National Party insider……hang on didn’t Nicky Hager write the piece in the Sunday Star Times about the police using informers?

    Pot, kettle…black

  13. lprent 13

    ieuan:
    Were those things done by part of law enforcement? One that there are few remedies for apart from outright rebellion?

    No they were done by individuals who were not paid by my taxes, and who are capable to being pulled up in front of the courts if they broke laws. Care to tell me where I find the laws on police informers or their handlers?

    Why don’t you compare apples with apples?

  14. Pascal's bookie 14

    For me the most disturbing part is this; from the The activist who turned police informer story:

    In Gilchrist’s case, within the protest groups he has been an outspoken advocate of radical action such as illegal break-ins. During protests he has used a radio scanner to monitor police communications and often took the role of “police liaison” for the protest organisers.
    At protests, Gilchrist was often the one taunting police, says Mark Eden of Wellington Animal Rights Network, who regarded Gilchrist as a friend. “If it didn’t involve adrenalin and confrontation, he wasn’t interested,” Eden told the Star-Times.
    “He was always interested in who was keen on illegal actions and would often make it known that he was keen to be involved in anything illegal or undercover. On a few occasions he would take people out for a drive and sit outside a factory farm or an animal laboratory and encourage them to talk about planning a break-in or other illegal activity.
    “He would be really pushy and persistent about planning illegal activities and then would suddenly lose interest, claiming it was too difficult or that he was busy. He was always keen on planning dodgy stuff, but on the occasions when we did break the law [for instance, an open rescue of battery hens] he would always have an excuse and pull out at the last minute.”

    Here Gilchrist arguably crosses the line from observer/informant to agent provocateur. And this is where ieuan george and the others fall down.

    Even if we accept that these groups were dangerous enough (hah) to need surveillance, any action taken as a result of Gilchrist’s provocations and encouragement is tainted. How can natural justice be served by charging people who committed action as a result of; or with the active provocation of; an unofficial, but paid, state agent?

    Gilchrist received a weekly payment if I understand the story. That would have placed him in a position of needing to come up with intel regularly. I’ve got very little sympathy for him, (The nonpolitical Mrs. bookie read the story and said “what a little shit”), but his position put at the very least psychological pressure on him to come up with the goods regularly. The chances of such an agent moving from observance to provocation is too fncking obvious. If we really must have paid informants, they should be on a pay for intel basis surely, not a wage.

    If his role in provocation came out during any trial, would his cover be blown, or would he ‘take a deal’ and get a slapped hand for a sentence? How safe would those convictions be? How healthy is that for our justice system?

    Anyone who thinks this is ok, doesn’t get it.

  15. lprent 15

    For anyone who thinks that crossing the police is without risk, then try looking at the case that the ludditejourno highlighted in the UK – Sally Murrer and police surveys.

    I’d be interested in looking at that raw data on satisfaction with the police as well. Especially by age group.

    Generally I’d have to say that being around this apartment block and being the point of contact for years for the police that I like the job that most police do.

    But there is a considerable difference between the satisfaction I have with front-line cops doing the cleanup after burglaries, car thefts, domestics and some of the ones from the TPU (team policing unit). The latter always feel like they’re wired on something.

    My contact with the TAU (threat assessment unit) with Rochelles “intimidation by loitering” case was that they weren’t interested in anything except the search warrants, trying out new forms of charges, and causing as much of a problem as possible with material seized. It was pure harrassment techniques as far as I could see.

    The TAU were also technically incompetent. After 3 months and a lot of pressure, we managed to get the computers back. The computers came complete with malware all over the system. The dickheads had turned off the security systems while they were on the net. Half of the loose boards had been fried because they hadn’t bagged them correctly when they collected them. It was over a year before she got her video camera back. Of course this was in the middle of her computer and media courses, so I consider that to be simple harrassment as well.

    The police aren’t a monolithic force. There are police that are good and police that should be put under a lot stronger controls by their hierachy – they act like cowboys above the law.

    This last episode looks like it comes from the cowboy wing

  16. Rex Widerstrom 16

    Pascal’s bookie

    Here Gilchrist arguably crosses the line from observer/informant to agent provocateur.

    This happens every day, and is more often then not done by serving police officers not just some misguided thrillseeker like this Quisling was.

    From the undercover officer who offers a minor drug user heavier drugs hoping they’ll start using and introduce the officer to suppliers to the uniformed officer who spends all day in chat rooms pretending to be a child.

    Were it up to me I would make it impossible for the Police to lay any charge in which there was an element of entrapment required to get the accused to commit the offence.

    Yes, the pot smoker might have tried P on his own. Yes, the guy in the chat room might have made inappropriate suggestions to a child on his own. But they also might have thought the better of it.

    We’re moving dangerously close to a world in which we can be convicted of crimes based on what we think or believe, or even our merely repeating what someone else has said or done.

    In Australia a man has recently been prosecuted for reposting a video – one posted hundreds of times by other people on other sites – of a man swinging a baby. His home was raided after he posted the clip on Liveleak and he was charged with using the internet to access and publish child-abuse material.

    When the Police can take such outrageous action under cover of the hysteria about child abuse, or in this case “terrorism” – hysteria they’ve played a major role in creating – countries need politicians who’ll defend their rights, not facilitate their erosion.

    Ironically, it’s the previously totalitarian countries of the world will soon be those where the population is granted a degree of freedom – because, paradoxically, of their increasing lawlessness.

  17. sad 17

    ieuan, that is so deluded a comparison. how could you imagine that citizens exercising their legal right to protest- and doing so because they have ethics and morals they stand by every day- being infiltrated for ten years by the police who are charged with protecting our society is some how the same as the National party being caught out telling lies?

  18. Johnty Rhodes 18

    michael cullen – lying prick about the state of the books.
    This is more important than a few kaftan wearers bing infiltrated by the cops.

    Why don’t you ask Clark’s old bitch Howard about why this continually happened? Nothin like the left beating up on the left.

    Nout to do with Collins I am afraid.

    [lprent: Simple abuse is really useless in making your point. Incoherence even less so.
    Who is Howard? You’re referring to the e-leader across the ditch?
    As I said in the post, none of this has to do with Collins historically – except that she made a statement that was in conflict with her current role as Police Minister. At the very least she should have said she would be asking questions of the commissioner. ]

  19. Bill 19

    Rex.
    “We’re moving dangerously close to a world in which we can be convicted of crimes based on what we think or believe…”

    Didn’t ‘thought crime’ arrive a couple of years ago? I can’t remember all details, but from memory, it was alleged a couple of guys had planned a kidnapping. They had dug a cellar.

    Anyway. Although no kidnap actually took place they were convicted of kidnapping.

    By the same logic. If I put on a coat that has a pocket that could be construed as being a poachers pocket and walked into a store + lets say I had voiced a desire to own some item stocked by the store that I couldn’t afford = theft?!

    Seems so, if my memory serves me right.

  20. Rex Widerstrom 20

    Bill

    I recall that “kidnapping” case. I had a vague idea they were done for conspiracy, but even so that still proves your point.

    In that case I’d like to confess to conspiracy to murder… most of my clients, especially when I’ve been working flat out all weekend rather than enjoying the 36 degree scorcher and I know they’ll still call tomorrow saying “aren’t you finished yet”. I’ve gone so far as to imagine drowning them in the pool I haven’t had time to get into, so clearly I need the tender ministrations of the TRG and a good tasering.

    Your shoplifting analogy is also appropriate. In fact if you loaded your poacher’s pocket and they saw you doing it, there’s plenty of common law precedent that says if they grab you while you’re still in the store they’ll lose their case because they can’t prove beyond reasonable doubt that you were going to go through with your plan… that you wouldn’t have chickened out and paid for the stuff.

    But apparently if you go home go into a chat room and criticise the government of the day, implying you may take some protest action against them, you’re a suitable target for a bit of entrapment.

    Thankfully Mr Plod is usually so clumsy anyone with half a brain knows when they’re being monitored. Over here in WA a man suspected of being the Claremont serial killer found police were bugging his office (in a government department, no less) when the equipment came crashing out of the roof and struck another worker on the head. Then he found his home was under surveillance when a resident publicly complained that police using the hall opposite weren’t paying the water rates yet seemed to be making good use of the toilet!

    If they weren’t so dangerous they’d be funny.

  21. ianmac 21

    My memory of Judith Collins is when in Parliament she made some sneering face twisting rotten comments about Bensen-Pope. What a nasty image!
    The second was just before the 05 Election  when she was presenting the same sneering response during an interview on Maori TV about Maori perspective. I can’t think of any other MP who has acted with such visible spitefulness.

  22. higherstandard 22

    Lynn

    Why is Judith Collins a thoughtless idiot for ” asking Commissioner Howard Broad to explain claims that an anti-terrorist unit spied on protest groups, saying she would be concerned if law-abiding activists were under surveillance.”

    Is it just because she’s not from your political party ?

  23. IrishBill 23

    HS, assuming she follows through with this and the response is made public then she is to be commended.

  24. lprent 24

    hs: I just saw that.  Link.  And no – if Annette King or George Hawkins had said what she did on saturday, then I’d have lambasted them as well.

    If you read my post, then this is the action that I said she should have done in the first place. The problem was that her initial response was effectively a blanket defense of the police.

    Bearing in mind the level of trust that we place in the police in operational matters, the minister of police  is one of the few people who is capable of asking questions of the police. My post was about her response in the SST which ignored the obligations of the police minister to the public.

    It is good to see that she is now following the path that her post obligates.

  25. Tane 25

    Lynn, did you see this?

    All that grandstanding from John in the media about how he’ll get to the bottom of it, then Collins just says “I met the police, they tell me it’s all good, what am I supposed to do?”

    Poor.

  26. lprent 26

    Tane: I heard Howard Broad on the radio.

    Actually that is pretty much all that she can do. However the question had to be asked. That puts the obligation on Howard Broad to find out what exactly is going on.

    HB was a bit disingenuous about talking about complaints to the IPCA. What exactly do you complain about? Effectively it is a policy not any particular officer. I’ll have to have a read of the IPCA rules and point out some of the deficencies

    I’m at home today with a dose of delhi belly (I wish I hadn’t eaten whatever it was). The gurgling is a bit alarming

  27. gobsmacked 27

    Coming soon, to a news bulletin near you:

    Minister Judith Collins defends police investigation of Associate Minister Pita Sharples

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0809/S00315.htm

    Well, you’ve got to keep an eye on these dangerous radicals.

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