Written By: - Date published: 8:47 am, September 4th, 2017 - 42 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, bill english, crime, democracy under attack, drugs, election 2017, making shit up, national, paula bennett, police, Politics, same old national, spin, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags:
Things must be getting desperate in the Beehive. National has announced a good old tough on criminals policy. But the announcement did not go as well for them as they could hope and serious questions about Paula Bennett’s competency have arisen.
First of all the details. Drugs are bad, gangs are bad, therefore the Government is going to tough on gangs. From the Herald:
National is defending its hardline new anti-drug measures, saying the serious criminals and gang members they target have “fewer human rights than others”.
The party has today unveiled plans to reduce drug addiction by introducing hardline anti-gang measures and funding more places in rehabilitation centres.
National leader Bill English and police spokeswoman Paula Bennett announced the $82 million package at a drug treatment centre in Te Atatu.
Of that total, half would be spent on creating 1500 additional drug treatment places and funding education and prevention services.
The other half would be invested in a crackdown on gangs and drug dealers.
That includes giving police new powers to search the cars and houses of gang members at any time to check for firearms.
There would also be higher penalties for manufacturing and distributing synthetic cannabis – from two years to eight years. Penalties would not rise for possession.
There would also be new measures to stamp out drug distribution domestically and internationally. Compulsory police vetting will be introduced for anyone working at ports, mail centres or airport baggage centres.
Bennett’s rhetoric, that some people have less human rights than others, is really unfortunate. One of her tweets was even worse.
scum gangs that peddle drugs don't deserve protection. They have zero regard for the harm they cause.
— Paula Bennett (@paulabennettmp) September 3, 2017
Her understanding is also questionable. Because there already is power for the police to conduct warrantless searches of houses and cars for arms. Section 18 of the Search and Surveillance Act 2012 says:
18 Warrantless searches associated with arms
(1) A constable who has reasonable grounds to suspect that any 1 or more of the circumstances in subsection (2) exist in relation to a person may, without a warrant, do any or all of the following:
(a) search the person:
(b) search any thing in the person’s possession or under his or her control (including a vehicle):
(c) enter a place or vehicle to carry out any activity under paragraph (a) or (b):
(d) seize and detain any arms found:
(e) seize and detain any licence under the Arms Act 1983 that is found.
(2) The circumstances are that the person is carrying arms, or is in possession of them, or has them under his or her control, and—
(a) he or she is in breach of the Arms Act 1983; or
(b) he or she, by reason of his or her physical or mental condition (however caused),—
(i) is incapable of having proper control of the arms; or
(ii) may kill or cause bodily injury to any person; or
(c) that, under the Domestic Violence Act 1995,—
(i) a protection order or a police safety order is in force against the person; or
(ii) there are grounds to make an application against him or her for a protection order.
(3) A constable may, without a warrant, enter a place or vehicle, search it, seize any arms or any licence under the Arms Act 1983 found there, and detain the arms or licence if he or she has reasonable grounds to suspect that there are arms in the place or vehicle—
(a) in respect of which a category 3 offence, a category 4 offence, or an offence against the Arms Act 1983 has been committed, or is being committed, or is about to be committed; or
(b) that may be evidential material in relation to a category 3 offence, a category 4 offence, or an offence against the Arms Act 1983.
The actual policy talked about giving police powers to search the cars and houses of people who are subject to new Firearms Prohibition Orders. This is a rather big detail for Bennett to ignore.
National has gone into a bit of a tail spin and this morning on Morning Report Bill English said that Paula Bennett had misspoken and did not mean what she clearly said and tweeted. He also confirmed that he did not correct her at the time she made her comments even though he was standing next door to her.
I am pretty confident that if these changes were made then the Courts would rule they are inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. The last attempt, Tau Henare’s attempt to take away rights of most people in prison to vote was ruled to be inconsistent with the Bill of Rights.
This policy is also arbitrary. Why only target gang members, why not all persons with records of serious offending? And why only Arms offenders? Why not other offences such as assaults on children, or benefit fraud?
Jarrod Gilbert has captured the essence of the problem in this article in the Herald. His conclusion aptly describes how troubling Bennett’s comments are, and what she should do.
We are rarely challenged by human rights in New Zealand on easy issues, we are challenged by difficult ones. That is when our commitment to them is tested. If we are prepared to run roughshod over them in situations like this, I fear what happens when we face a crisis, such as an act of terrorism.
The proposed law will not have any meaningful impact on the drug trade in New Zealand. But it does speak to who we are as a country. Paula Bennett ought be called out in the strongest possible terms for this cynical politicking.
Our country, and the principles of Western justice that underpin it, are more valuable than a political party’s advantage on the hustings.
It’s not that I think we shouldn’t vote for Paula Bennett. I think she should resign.