Nat kneejerk over Waihopai 3

Written By: - Date published: 12:52 pm, March 22nd, 2010 - 17 comments
Categories: john key, law and "order", Spying - Tags:

Simon Power, could you sit John Key down for ten minutes and explain our legal system to him?

Last week a jury of 12 New Zealanders found that the ‘Waihopai 3’ were not guilty on charges of burglary and willful damage.

Now, John Key is hinting at a law change. On Breakfast, he said:

“If that ruling was to stand does that set a precedent and if so does the law need to change in New Zealand like we changed the law around provocation?”

Oh dear me.

In our legal system, judges decide matters of law and juries decide matters of fact. The judge’s job in this case was to decide whether convictions were legally possible on the interpretation of facts as presented by the prosecution. It was the jury that decided the actual facts did not meet the legal test, and so the accused could not be convicted. So what law exactly does Key want to change?

And, no John, this case does not set a precedent for two reasons.

1) There is no novel finding of law. That’s what a precedent is: in a set of circumstances that haven’t come up before the judge decides how the law should be interpreted and other courts are bound to follow. But there was no new legal interpretation in this case. What’s got everyone excited is the finding of fact by the jury, which does not have precedent value because it is based on the unique facts.

2) the court was a district court. Even if the case did include a new legal interpretation, no other court would be bound to follow it. Courts are only subject to precedent set by higher courts, and district courts are the bottom of the ladder.

No precedent, no law to change.

It’s kind of scary the way the Right has reacted to this decision in such a heavy-handed manner. Not only is there this kneejerk reaction of looking to place yet more stringent laws on the population (which do little to change behaviour, just ask the boyracers still hooning around in their uncrushed cars), there are rumblings in the Nats of placing further restrictions on jury trials because, they think, juries can’t be trusted to make the ‘right’ decisions.

Anti-democratic elitism at its worst. But what did you expect from National?

17 comments on “Nat kneejerk over Waihopai 3”

  1. Mac1 1

    Some governments don’t like the people because they fear their votes. Authoritarian personalities don’t like not getting their own way, having the world be as they want to to be, run as they want it to run. Authoritarian governments like this one with anti-democratic credentials (for example, see the Supercity and ECan ), will react in this way. Authoritarian governments led by leaders ignorant of the law of course would react as Key has done. And now the anti-democratic tendency is shifting south to the Waikato.

  2. Winston Smith 2

    Don’t be so disingenuous Marty ‘Blithering Idiot’ G.

    You know perfectly well that Key is referring to the law that permits a claim of right defense to be used.

    Although there’s no legal precedent set by a jury, the outcome of this case ensures that the motive of “moral necessity” advances ahead of the law. It encourages every crackpot to put the defense that their complete disregard for other people’s property is some form of symbolic action taken on sincerely held moral grounds against whatever target they take aim at.

    FFS, even your own godhead Sir Hullen referred to the Waihopai as a “senseless act of criminal vandalism” – or don’t his views count any more?

    • IrishBill 2.1

      Someone with your handle encouraging the government to change the law because 12 citizens interpreted it in a way you don’t like is the most ironic thing today.

      And when you use phrases like “your own godhead Sir Hullen” you just let us all know what a nasty misogynist little wingnut you are.

      • Winston Smith 2.1.1

        it’s still a “senseless act of criminal vandalism’ Irish – you can’t deny that

    • Marty G 2.2

      “the outcome of this case ensures that the motive of “moral necessity’ advances ahead of the law”

      No it doesn’t because there is no precedent.

      funny, I very nearly used a ‘big brother’ image as the thumbnail. of course, here we have winston smith in the denouement of the book, he has learned to love big brother with all his soul.

  3. Peter 3

    The rantings on this issue have truly perplexed me, 3 men found not guilty by a jury of their peers.

    Simple really..

    As to our Tories, well , they always do a good knee jerk reaction..

  4. But think of all the money that you could save. No legal aid, much fewer Judges. To establish proof all you would need to do is have a quick word with the Senior Sargent at the local police station and get him to make the call.

    Of course the jail population would increase exponentially but at least all of the “bad” people would be off the street.

    Except for the white collar criminals of course.

    • Sam 4.1

      And we all know that white collar criminals are not really criminals, they are just victims who haven’t had the law changed for them yet so they can continue what they’re doing, such as avoiding tax.

  5. vto 5

    Look, Key is just being a politician and grabbing an easy headline over this issue.

    Which is the sensible thing for a politician to do (for better or worse). That is what they do don’t you know. Especially as huge chunks of the population simply shake their head at this court decision. You know, quite deliberately damage anothers property and then conjure up some wank defence and get away with it… It doesn’t sit with the populace. Key is simply grinning at that.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.1

      Actually, I think you’ll find most of the populace are fine with the court finding of not guilty in this case.

  6. sk 6

    Given the lack of comment from Mr Key, it would seem he is quite happy with Mr ‘Madoff’ Versalko’s six year – out in four – sentence. If any legal outcome has cried out for a gov’t response in the last few weeks it is that one. But, of course, the NZ press is full of commentary about a what a great bloke Mr Versalko is, so no need for Mr Key to care

    • vto 6.1

      Yes, and how much do you think this Versalko has buried in his backyard for digging up in 2014?

      • Rich 6.1.1

        Neat way to avoid asset confiscation really. Give the money to a friendly prostitute to stash away, split it when you get out.

  7. Thankyou Marty G for a straightforward and factual piece of information. I watched the whole trial and reported on it for scoop. One could tell the evidence was unfolding in favour of the defence, and Mr marshall, the prosecutor, was unable to shake their testimony or conviction during cross-examination.

    At the same time the owner of the property, GCSB, was not called to give evidence and their absence, and their unwillingness to talk about what the base does, told against them.

    I was starting to feel inferior, coming from Australia where our justice system, and our social values, are not as civilised and fair as Aotearoa. Until I saw the media and political response to the verdict where people who really should know better just made up fiction about the verdict because their ignorance of the trial and its issues was pristine. Suddenly I feel much better about Australia.

    I’m told that today, the GCSB budget was increased from $47 million to $72 million, and media filming the HQ were told NOT to by these puffed up, dangerous and ineffective spooks

  8. SPC 8

    Fear of the decisions of juries and voters, is the beginning of government paranoia about losing the consent of the people – and such paranoia is not a good look for those safeguarding our way of life and democracy via spying on us.

    On the case, the jury allowed their defence argument – given the judge left the legality of it to be decided by the Court of Appeal, they just passed it on to the experts. IMO the jury had a suspicion, that moral cause was their real argument (the elephant within the room), but were unable to argue it within the legal system.

    As no one was able to present any evidence about what is done and how it is done and who decides what is done – the secrecy of the operation and its unaccountability was effectively placed on trial be the defendants.

    No threats exist to us and we only participlate in Echelon to help the US/UK help others (and themselves – they have self-interests at stake) as Security Council powers. Ceding collective security in the wider world as a role for the USA/UK to determine alone without any accountability, or constraints on the way they operate, is the issue here.

    But to spy on everyone, to enable surveillance on what may be threats to someone somewhere, is a dangerous principle if one cares about the civil liberties of people outside of this country.
    Imagine if we applied the same logic to domestic security, would police surveillance all communications in the off-chance of identifying any planned crime or past crime activity.
    It’s not as if we even know what the focus of the surveillance is, and what is done with the information for example the EU includes people who think corporate US has benefited (at their expense).

    As to the government and people believing what they are doing is right and therefore it is OK – tolerating the degradation of this land by dirty dairying without regulation, allowing mining of our conservation lands, transferring a billion dollars to the richest amongst us while we run a budget deficit asking struggling family workers to take a pay freeze and cutting access to education. This is wanton destruction of our environment, dispossesing families of financial security and denying the young educational opportunity … that’s criminal damages.

  9. Jenny 9


    John Minto makes the telling case that the New Zealand media who are usually very quick to give the whole paparazzi sensationalist treatment to criminal jury trials, thrusting microphones and cameras in witnesses and defendants faces and even chasing them down allies to get a comment. These same journalists taking particular care not to leave out the smallest, grisly or disgustingly obscene detail, the only possible purpose being, to basely titivate morbid and prurient interest in the case they are reporting.

    In sharp contrast, this same media machine gave the most shallowest coverage of the Waihopai evidence possible, short only, in my opinion, of censoring the whole thing.

    On appearances it seems that New Zealand journalists and editors instinctively know the invisible line not to cross, to not offend the government, the military, the security services and vested interest.

    All MSM commentators, yes all, ignored the vital evidence (pardon the pun) of the smoking Gun.

    Though ignored by the media, the testimony given by Katherine Gun was probably the most singular testimony heard at that trial.

    But did we hear a whisper of her name anywhere, from the reporters following this case?

    According to Minto, it was Gun’s evidence which convincingly damned, in the eyes of the jury, the whole Waihopai enterprise as part of a criminal endeavour.

    Did the erstwhile honourable members of our fourth estate, no matter their position on the political spectrum, hold any views at all, on Katherine Gun’s evidence?
    Presumably they did and still do.
    But because of the policy of collective self censorship followed by these sheep, we will probably never know what their views on this evidence are.

    The whole MSM ignoring the trial, reported the jury finding in isolation. Just think how much copy they could save if they treated every other jury trial in the same manner, newspapers would certainly be a lot smaller.

    The New Zealand Main Stream Media, left and right, should either grow a spine or, hang their collective heads in shame.

    Thank God for the alternative media and the internet

    • Jenny 9.1

      P.S. to the above comment:

      I can’t help wondering if our MSM, in their efforts to protect the establishment supporters of The War on Terror from further embarrassment, will continue the same slight coverage at the upcoming Urewera trials, that they gave to the Waihopai 3 jury trial.

      If they think it would serve these same interests better, rather than ignoring the trial, an alternative strategy the MSM could choose; would be to abandon fairness and balanced reporting altogether and switch to the sort of right wing hysterical media beat up we saw them employ around the Electoral Finance Act.

      Hysterical media coverage

      A media campaign of scare mongering and hysteria around the Urewera trials would steer the electorates gaze away from the government’s failure to deal with the economic crisis caused by the recession. Scape goating and anti terror war mongering, in an election year, would be all to the benefit of the Nats and Act and also encouragement to other right wing trends in the government and the state.

      I wonder, from which of these two examples of covering a story recently exhibited by our MSM will they choose from, when it comes to the Urewera trials?

      The silent treatment?

      Or, hysterical fear mongering?

      I would like to take this opportunity to challenge the men and women of our Main Stream Media outlets to consider a third strategy. Would you men and women of the MSM, journalists and editors alike, like to consider abandoning partizan political bias, and/or self censor ship and return to open, fair and comprehensive reporting.

      Time of course will tell which option you choose.

      Remember as I hinted at above, the alternative media and the internet are snapping at your heels.

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