Monday, March 07, 2005


A couple of weeks ago I sent away an Official Information Act request to the Minister of Police regarding the sedition charges laid against Tim Selwyn. I was seeking information on who had decided to lay the charges (and their rank and job description) and whether it was normal for a decision to charge to be made by someone in their position, as well as any communications or advice they had received on the issue. But rather than the usual written response, I received a phone call, in which the police demanded to know the reason for my inquiry (no reason need be given under the Act), and expressed their reluctance to release information lest it be misused by "the criminal element". Subsequently, I was able to gain the following information:

  • Mr Selwyn's words are considered to express a seditious intention as they "incite, procure, or encourage violence, lawlessness, or disorder". According to Selwyn, this is on the basis of the phrase "We call upon all like-minded New Zealanders to take similar action of their own to send a clear message..."
  • The charges were laid by the officer in charge of the investigation, who is an Acting Detective Senior Sergeant of the Auckland CIB
  • It is quite normal for decisions to charge to be made by people of that rank and in that position (in other words, there was no political pressure)

My request for any communications or advice received on the matter was denied under s 9(g)(i) of the Act, which protects

The free and frank expression of opinions by or between or to Ministers of the Crown or members of an organisation or officers and employees of any Department or organisation in the course of their duty

and s 61A of the Police Act 1958, which protects the confidentiality of internal police documents.

I will now be lodging a request for a list of documents and communications, on the grounds that information regarding the existence of information (and in particular, communications with agencies outside the police - such as the Crown Law Office or any government Ministry) is not protected under either Act.


Good luck on the OIA front - they could string it out for a long time. I would be fascinated to know at what political level this is operating on given recent and unfortunate events involving Tame Iti being charged after Hawkins buckled to Opposition MPs, Policeman being used to collect $35 for an attack on Benson-Pope's electorate window, Nick Smith and Shane Adern being charged with criminal offences even though the PM was not charged with forgery despite all the evidence.

People do not realise what a flimsy wall exists between a supposedly independent police force and politicians. Fact: The only organisation in the country not accountable for it's actions to any outside body apart from Parliament itself are the Police. (Police Complaints Authority is a long-standing joke) Fact: The highest paid Civil Servant in the country is the Police Commissioner. Fact: The police actively exclude educated applicants and have one of the highest starting pay rates for which the job description is now operating a speed camera. Why do we need 7,500 of them?

FYI: The officer in charge (who also personally arrested and interrogated me) is Detective Constable Paul Lowry W417 of the Avondale CIB. I accused him in the interview room of not being a New Zealand citizen which he later admitted. He said afterwards that he had only been here since April (2004) as one of the UK intake of police. A short man, perhaps in his mid to late 40s who acted professionally throughout, he said he was formerly of the Northumberland Police. He seemed a pleasant enough sort of a chap, but really what hypocrisy! What third world country lets foreigners run the police? ... Solomon Islands, Iraq. Not even Lebanon is going to be in that position much longer. Isn't he technically a mercenary? Then again it wouldn't be the first time a New Zealander was charged by an Englishman for sedition.

Posted by Anonymous : 3/08/2005 01:25:00 AM

Tim: the police have a fairly wide immunity to the OIA (and with good reason), but I'm interested in finding out what I can.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 3/08/2005 10:37:00 AM