For many people the activity associated around protest at Waihopai are a mystery, with little impact on their everyday lives. However plans afoot by the Government to change the ‘claim of right’ defence might come be more relevant. the claim of right allows someone to argue they had a firm belief their actions were legal, even if they weren’t. According to RadioNZ:
Justice Minister Simon Power says the courts appear to have extended this defence beyond what was intended by Parliament. Adrian Leason, Sam Land and Peter Murnane admitted deflating a 30-metre high dome(at Waihopai spy base) at the base two years ago, but were acquitted in March this year by a jury in the Wellington District Court.
They argued their actions were justified by the greater good of saving lives in Iraq.
Peter Murnane believes amending or removing the defence will curtail lawful protest.
“Governments, including our own, have done terrible things and they need to be watched by sensible citizens and conscientious citizens and protested against vigourously and strongly.”
However Mr Simon Power says he’s approached this objectively and is only interested in improving the law. He says the criminal justice system needs to have the “relevancy of its component parts tested pretty rigourously from time to time” and other areas are reviewed as well.
It may well be that tightening the scope of protest is not Power’s intent, but that’s not to say others will not. Is it so impossible to let the judiciary decide what is reasonable or not?