The not guilty verdicts in the Waihopai spy base case is a victory for the peace movement and proof of the value of the jury system.
Now, dear righties, don’t go fretting that this case creates open season for activists to damage property. Jury decisions do not create precedent, only statements of law by judges do. All the judge had to decide was whether a guilty verdict was possible in law. It is for the jury in each individual case to decide whether the facts warrant a guilty verdict.
At least, if they get a jury. I think it’s a pretty fair call that if this trial had been heard in front of a judge only, the activists probably would have been convicted. A judge is more bound by the strict interpretation of the law. A jury can decide that a guilty verdict just doesn’t sit with their (and, hopefully, by extension society’s) sense of justice.
Unfortunately, National is restricting New Zealanders’ access to trial by jury, removing the right of accused people to be judged by their peers in accordance with society’s values, not dry interpretation of the law.