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Please stop the police from using punishment before conviction!

Written By: - Date published: 1:54 pm, September 6th, 2011 - 42 comments
Categories: law, police, suppression orders - Tags:

The “Urewera 18” are now down to four. The police persecution has now been dropped for eleven of those charged in the Operation 8 raids four and half years ago.

Crown Solicitor Simon Moore said the effect of a recent Supreme Court ruling on the case – which is suppressed – was that there was no longer enough evidence to continue against some and the others would have to be tried separately after the main trial.

That would be four-and-a-half years after they were charged, and the main trial would have to be subject to wide-ranging suppressions, and so was not practical or in the public interest.

The supreme court decision on the evidence that the police had illegally and unlawfully obtained. The Herald has a bit more detail

The Supreme Court has ruled certain evidence inadmissable at the so-called “terror raid” trial of next year which was set to last for three months.

The groundbreaking decision over-ruled previous judgments from the High Court and Court of Appeal over whether the Crown could use evidence gathered in the covert police operation before the arrests in October 2007.

Despite having been arrested, jailed, held under stringent bail conditions, and harassed by the police in court for the last four years – none of those affected by the decision will be able to get any compensation. They have not been wrongly convicted and so are not entitled to any recompense, compensation, or damages by right.

Those charged have lost time and wages from employment by being jailed on remand. Some have been unable to obtain employment because of these charges hanging over them and the bail conditions. Some have had to mortgage their houses to cover legal fees outside of whatever legal aid they have been able to obtain. The disruption to their life, family and friends has been immense.

However the only way that they could try to obtain recompense would be through a civil proceeding that would be incredibly expensive, problematic because of the position of the police inside the law, and would take years to get to trial.

Meanwhile the crown has been able to spend at least hundreds of thousands of dollars and probably more than a million running a weak case.

It was a case that was probably triggered from accusations by anonymous and paid confidential informants of widespread terrorist activity amongst the activist communities in NZ. Was fueled by testosterone junkies in the police unlawfully gaining evidence that has now been ruled as inadmissible. And has been maintained for the last four years in the courts by the police because it would have been too embarrassing for those who authorized these activities and the final ridiculous raids of 300 police across the country in what is increasingly looking like a botched training exercise.

We’re unlikely to ever even see the illegal evidence or the judgments related to it because most of it is covered by one or more suppression orders. None of these perpetrators of this idiotic police injustice are ever likely to face any punishment.

All of this was quite apparent from the time of the raids. Why has it taken four years to get to a discharge?

My opinion based on observing them for some time is that some police simply don’t like activists. Dragging them through the courts for years is a remarkably cost free (for the police) and effective way to inflict punishment on them.

The legal imbalance that allows this to happen is something that the courts should start correcting – since parliament is unlikely to do so.

Specifically the judges should allow the people who are having the charges dropped to ask for their costs to be paid by the police and crown solicitors office. This should include the costs of being jailed, bailed, and legal.

Update: Maia at The Hand Mirror has a excellent post on the costs..

42 comments on “Please stop the police from using punishment before conviction! ”

  1. grumpy 1

    So, do you think they will fight to avoid having the suppression orders lifted??

    It would have been far better to have had the original terrorism charges tested in court rather than the Solicitor General decline to proscecute in what was seen by many as a politically influenced decision.

    If the charges were rubbish they would have been seen to be rubbish – now we may never know.

    • lprent 1.1

      Which they are you talking about? Here is my take…

      I suspect that the charged will be fighting to get those suppression orders lifted. If they don’t then it gets very difficult to write about the joys of being on the receiving end of operation 8.

      I suspect that there will be some effort from the police to prevent parts of the suppression orders being lifted. In particular to do with the evidence of the CI’s and the police managers who let their staff pursue unlawful means of obtaining evidence.

      The original terrorism charges wouldn’t have held up in court either. They would have been convenient for the police because the way those laws were attempted to be written, they would have required remarkably little actual proof or evidence.

      To be precise I think the equivalent of an accusation by the police would have been sufficient. Those laws would have had a real problem in court with this case because I suspect that they’d have gone straight to the supreme court and been tossed out as being simply excessive.

      Quite simply I don’t think that any of the people having their charges dropped have done anything that they would be ashamed to have in public view from this case.

      I think that the police do.

      • Jonathan W 1.1.1

        The article is about a Supreme Court judgement. Those “unlawful” means of obtaining evidence have previously been deemed lawful by the High Court/Court of Appeal.

        Just because our society (quite rightly) demands a very high standard of proof before we convict somebody, that doesn’t automatically make every dismissed charge a police conspiracy.

        • rocky 1.1.1.1

          Actually the High Court ruled much of the evidence in question (which I can’t describe due to suppression orders) to be unlawful but admissible. The Court of Appeal, which is known to be conservative in these sorts of matters, ruled it to be both lawful and admissible. The Supreme Court has now ruled it to be unlawful and inadmissible against most of the defendants.

          What I just said may or may not breach suppression orders, I can’t keep track. If any of the admins decide to remove my comment, please also remove the comment I am replying to!

          • grumpy 1.1.1.1.1

            Raises a huge issue about:

            a, the incompetence of our lower courts (High Court and Court of Appeal) who appear to have got it wrong – or
            b, Supreme Court who have either got it wrong or are on an activist path not bound by previously regarded principles.

            • Treetop 1.1.1.1.1.1

              Trust the Supreme Court as Chief Justice Elias is a very sensible woman. Elias criticised the police in September 1977 regarding the Moyle Affair (she was part of a group of Auckland lawyers), and she has assisted Patrick O’ Brien (ex undercover cop in the mid 1970s) to get the police to look into perjury confessions in recent times, due to O’ Briens admission to her.

            • lprent 1.1.1.1.1.2

              I think that the problem is just your ignorance of actual law rather than what you think it should be.

              ‘It’* was completely based on the usual legal principles – at least back to the middle ages.

              The high court got it right based on the usual usage. In exceptional situations it can be used and the court allowed some but not all of it to be used. But it was in a newish legal area with untested legislation so it got appealed.

              I would guess that the supreme court simply said that the level of the offense was not high enough to justify use using the test that the legislation had. Which would be accurate based on what I know of the ‘evidence’ that the police are relying on. But was also apparent from the minor severity of the charges.

              The ‘activist’ side is in the court of appeal. They appear to have been of the opinion in several cases that the police are always right under every circumstance. This is quite a new concept in NZ law (but well known in some more draconian jurisdictional zones with dictatorial governments – Fiji comes to mind) and almost certainly wrong. Which is why it went to the supreme court.

              * I very carefully haven’t said what ‘it’ is to avoid violating suppression orders. I’d refer you to the discussion in the high court judgement for your education on the current law in this area – but of course that is suppressed..

              • Treetop

                The Supreme Court made a clear ruling. Had this not occurred do you think that the 11 who had their charges dropped may of not had the charges dropped?

                • lprent

                  I don’t quite understand your comment.

                  But the problem with judgement from the supreme court is that the simple result is far less important than…

                  1. It was allowed to be appealed to there at all – this immediately implies that there is some ambiguity in the legal structure for a particular case.

                  2. Why they ruled a particular way and the reasoning behind it which we won’t see until the suppression is lifted.

                  But in this case it must have been pretty clear and quite blanketing because the crown would not have dropped those cases at this point without being put into a position where they had no case to argue.

                  Yes the crown could have continued with the cases. But the judgement of the supreme court must have been such that the crown could use virtually none of the evidence collected that allowed them to make a case in the first place. I suspect that they got restricted to

                  1. Whatever they collected from the search warrants
                  2. Hearsay from confidential informants (who are definitely known to bullshit)

                  But I’ll have to wait see the judgement for the detail. The only thing I really know is what types of arguments that the defense lawyers would be using. The legal principles in those as old as British legal structures.

    • freedom 1.2

      You don’t have to be an Excrement Inspector to know slop-bucket evidence from anonymous sources, soaked with disinformation and reported during a time of hysterical warmongering, cannot be relied upon to result in a conviction.

      This is why the contents will remain suppressed, why the charges are dismissed, why there can be no appeals or compensation, or more realistically, why there cannot be any justice for those falsely accused.

  2. What a waste of police resources the Urewera raids were under Broad’s watch. Too much secrecy and incompetence under Broad’s watch as well e.g shooting of an innocent man by the AOS, secret employment payouts just to see the back of some officers.

    No transparency, no accountablity.

  3. Tiger Mountain 3

    Lprent, Your observation based opinion on some police dislike of activists is similar to mine.

    Over 30 years during countless union pickets and lawful actions and public peaceful protests I have more often than not seen immediately hostile reactions from the arriving or stationed police. Some of this is to do with the psychology of police recruiting, ignorance of industrial law, or with orders given. Ask Unite and some other unions, police generally visit the employers office and then threaten officials and workers with tresspass and arrest.

    One verifiable incident was a police raid on the Auckland Peoples Centre (Unemployed Workers Rights) in the early 90s, my partner was involved with the centre. The police were shown to have lied, intimidated and used excessive force in a fishing expedition.

    There was a raid on my flat the day before the 1990 commonwealth games where a search warrant detailed “rocket launchers and ammunition”, Journo Brian Rudman covered that one for the Auckland Star in some detail. Totally spurious search, under house arrest for the day, then they planted dope and promised to make a possession charge ‘go away’ if we dropped all complaints that we had voiced about their behaviour. None of us smoked cannabis and the ‘found’ material was obviously fresh and bright green. Members of Hone Harawira’s family lived one door down and they had been raided too, they later came over and apologised if our getting turned over was anything to do with them. We said we did not think so, probably just fishing because of our own political connections.

    I remember sometime contributor Rocky’s accounts of reasonably recent animal rights protests and dodgy police and probably SIS involvement. The point for the tory apologists out there to think about is that the state forces put less effort into enforcing citizen’s democratic rights than they do removing them with ill founded efforts such as Operation 8.

    • lprent 3.1

      Rocky is my niece so I’ve had it drawn to my attention over the last few years more strongly than usual. She is rushing through essay deadlines so wasn’t able to write this post today (later??).

      But I still bear the physical scars and anger at being assaulted by the police without cause during the ’81 springbok tour. And I have several friends who seem to have attracted their attention at various times.

      What appalls me is the simple lack of effective scrutiny that the police have (the IPCA is in my view a simple farce). And it has been a standard tactic of theirs to use the legal process as a weapon on activists. The most ridiculous ones have been where they drag out the cases over a year with the status cases, then do not offer any evidence when it finally goes to a hearing causing the case to be dropped. Sometimes they offer evidence and the judge dismisses after the prosecution has made their case because it is so weak that hearing a defense would be a waste of time.

      Quite simply the most effective way to prevent that from happening is for the judges who are being used as the bludgeon to not simply discharge the case. They should automatically award the defendants costs against the police in those types of cases.

      In my view this case is exactly that type.

  4. the sprout 4

    So will those accused, but now acquited, be able to sue the Crown for all the distress this will have caused them?

    • grumpy 4.1

      If they do, then will the suppressed information come into the open? If so, then I hope they do.

      Would the Police just have to show “reasonable cause”?

      • lprent 4.1.1

        It’d be difficult to get the police to drop their objections to the release of the material for a civil trial against them.

        • the sprout 4.1.1.1

          but presumably difficult too to supress information if it’s material to a case for compensation, would be an even worse look than it currently is

          • rocky 4.1.1.1.1

            The suppression orders won’t cover other court proceedings. However civil proceedings also include disclosure rules, so the police could be forced to hand over further information to the defendants that they may not already have as disclosure from the criminal proceedings.

            • grumpy 4.1.1.1.1.1

              News reports say that the Crown are seeking to have the suppression orders lifted so hopefully it will all come out.

  5. George D 5

    Not to mention the huge and expensive campaigns of surveillance and harassment of activists, which remains ongoing. Someone I know a few months ago found a tracking device attached to the bottom of their car, and more recently noticed that the interior of their car had been damaged after some device had been installed or removed. If you engage in any kind of activism in New Zealand, you have good reason to believe that the SIS and NZ Police are monitoring you, because they consider that you might be a threat to ‘security’.

    The cozy relationship that media have with police (they rely on them for their steady stream of crime gossip and dead baby stories) means that such matters get only cursory attention. The media are still accusative, having been fed stories by the police for the last 4 years.

  6. Colonial Viper 6

    Meh I’ve no doubt it’ll all end up on the internet one day soon through some anonymous proxy server.

  7. lprent 7

    Good post by Maia at the Hand Mirror
    http://thehandmirror.blogspot.com/2011/09/cost.html
    especially…

    The 14 people who have had their charges dropped spent a combined 9 months in jail and 50 years on bail.

    As part of their bail conditions they have had to report to a police station 1,650 times

    They have had to travel more than 15,000 km to meet those bail conditions.

    Those living out of Auckland had to travel a total of 7,500 kms to get to Auckland for each court hearing.

    They owe millions of dollars in legal aid – which they will have to repay with liens against houses and orders against wages.

    And that’s not even really it. The most important costs aren’t so easily quantifiable. Stress demands compound interest. The raids and charges did not just effect 22 people – hundreds were in houses, cars or school buses that were searched – and more had to sit while people they loved were locked-up, and face the horrific threat of it happening again.

    So many people, including me, have stress fractures that will not heal. The cost was on bodies, on minds, on relationships and it cannot be undone.

    Tuhoe Lambert did not live to see these charges dropped.

  8. Tom Gould 8

    Did anyone else catch the TV news shots last evening of the uniformed cops running beside Key’s car, like they were all in some cheap b-grade thriller movie? What a pathetic wanker that Johnboy is turning out to be.

    • ElMutante 8.1

      Tom, that wasn’t in Auckland was it? I saw some big high topped limo crawling up Mount Eden Road towards Symonds Street last night after work.It was flanked by cops and one officer on a motorbike stopped outside the bar I was having a quiet beer at and rather tersely demanded that some people on the footpath not move until the mysterious VIP had passed. It was all a bit medieval really.

    • Mutante 8.2

      Whereabouts was that Tom? I saw some sort of motorcade in Auckland last night. Big high topped limo under police escort up Mount Eden Road heading towards Symonds Street.

    • jess 8.3

      That was in chch. There was a “welcoming” committee out front of the copthorne hotel for the National Government. It was heavily policed. One chch resident was grabbed and pushed backwards into the crowd by an officer. A young child was also bullied and intimidated off the grass green, far from the protest itself. We were there for 3.5 hours. No politicians came out to face us. And as usual a piddly portion of what went on ends up on the news. Plus the way they spin it always makes politicians and police come out looking like the good guys, or at least just claim bad cop behaviour is simply a few bad apples. They don’t apply the same principle to activists or anyone who wants to object.

      http://beyondresistance.wordpress.com/2011/09/06/national-party-welcoming-committee-the-write-up/

  9. Afewknowthetruth 9

    A few days a go I witnessed a young lad stopped for riding a bike in the evening without lights. (It was a well lit street and he posed no danger to anyone).

    Instead of giving him a friendly warning the officer issued a $175 fine -about what the bike was worth. The lad was more than highly pissed-off.

    If the police alienate a large enough sector of society -which they seem utterly determined to do- they lose the respect and the co-operation of a large portion of society, and an all-out war between the police and the rest of society is likely to ensue, as we have seen the beginnings of overseas.

    Maybe that is what the elites want, so they can implement a fully-fledged fascist state to replace the covert fascist state we currently have: arbitrary arrest, conviction without trial, penal servitude …. just like in the ‘good old days’ just 200 years ago.

    • Jonathan W 9.1

      I am very sceptical of this anecdote. I routinely (at least once or twice a week) bike without lights through Christchurch. I have yet to be stopped, even after going through alcohol checkpoints and having police cars drive right past me.

      The police do have their quirks. Helmets seems to be a big one. I often bike straight past alcohol checkpoints with no lights and pass without comment. Other bikers, fully lit but without helmets, are stopped. All the research I’ve done (both online and asking drivers) says that lights are the more important issue… but helmets are the one that has attracted public attention in NZ.

      • McFlock 9.1.1

        It possibly also depends on the cause of the more traumatic incidents they’ve responded to. Apparently if you’ve cleaned up after someone was squished by a truck that didn’t see their bike, you get finnicky about bikes with no lights. Same with helmets.
          
        What never ceases to irritate me is the “I’m no danger to anyone / it’s my choice to take the risk” argument about basic safety. You might be a sociopath who doesn’t care when you see someone seriously injured, but it can really ruin someone else’s day when they get brains on their boot.

  10. lefty 10

    Generation after generation of politicians let the police (and the SIS) get away with this shit. I don’t think you should be allowed to stand for Parliament unless you have been locked up at least a couple of times and had a good few bashings from the cops.

  11. The NZ keystone cops are cowardly blue gun thugs.

    • The Voice of Reason 11.1

      You’re not in Sydney by any chance are you Dad?

      • dad4justice 11.1.1

        Sorry lefty sad sack but I don’t get seen wearing a lawyer’s wig.
        A Batman suit is better,ask Helen Clark or Maggot Wilson.
        How did he breach security said the moron security guard?
        Haha one for the book. Must fly and give john boy a big fright.

  12. Drakula 12

    Has anybody asked themselves who the NZ police are really working for?

  13. Mutante 13

    Many times. I definitely think they have their own political agenda.

  14. vto 14

    So what was the evidence? And what is the evidence against the remaining four?

  15. freedom 15

    The recent changes to our legal system now include a phrase that is quite chilling when reported in the media. I just heard it used in a story on RNZ and the reality of it is more disturbing than the stated practicalities presented by the law changes. The phrase does not belong in a modern healthy and just society, it belongs to a dark age of oppression and injustice.
    The phrase was: ” the defendants are appealing for a trial by jury “

  16. aerobubble 16

    Sounds to me like their Human Rights were breach, lucky for Police we
    don’t have a Human Rights Ombusman or a Human Rights Commission
    who they could go to, or if they did, would get a fair hearing. Because
    as you are fully aware by now NZ is run by small minded bigots who
    get their addiction fix every time they stand up for doing as little as
    possible because of ‘famed’ trickle down payday.

    It simple unconsciousable that after four years these individuals
    are left with debts because their cases were dropped for lack
    of evidence. That is not good enough.

  17. Afewknowthetruth 17

    Jonathan W.

    Are calling me a liar?

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