Friday, May 02, 2008

ASBOs in Rotorua

The Herald reports that Rotorua District Council is moving ahead on a plan to introduce ASBO-style "community protection orders" to their city. The orders would allow those previously convicted of a crime to be banished from its CBD - effectively sentencing them to internal exile. No information is given on the penalties for breaching an order, or the standard of proof required to obtain one, but it sounds like the usual end-run around the criminal justice system. And naturally, local police are right behind it.

I've posted before on what is wrong with such orders: they violate the BORA's affirmation of freedom of movement and its ban on retroactive penalties and double jeopardy. Those subjected to these orders will, by definition, already have been convicted and sentenced for their behaviour. The application of a CPO will effectively try and punish them for the same crime(s) again. And that's not acceptable in any justice system in the world.

Lawyers will no doubt try and argue that all of this is OK because this will be a civil procedure unconnected with prior criminal proceedings. That's bullshit. People will explicitly be being punished for past criminal behaviour, and the coercive power of the state will be employed to enforce what is effectively an additional criminal penalty. As with asset forfeiture, the use of civil courts is just a tawdry legal fiction designed to bypass the safeguards of the criminal justice system. This is fundamentally an attack on the right to a fair trial and the safeguards which protect us all from miscarriages of justice and abuses of power. And that should concern every single one of us.