Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Sedition coverage and history

Some links to coverage of the Tim Selwyn sedition trial:

There's a lot of disagreement between the sources over when such charges were last laid. NewstalkZB says it has been 30 years, while Monsters & Critics says the last "seditious conspiracy" charge was laid in 1908, which is simply wrong (I don't even know of a prosecution that year, though I'm happy to be corrected). The question really depends on what you count as "sedition". Historically, we've had four laws containing sedition-style provisions:

  • The common law inherited from the UK;
  • The Crimes Act in its various incarnations;
  • the War Regulations of 20th September 1915, extended under the War Regulations Continuance Act 1920. These extended the Crimes Act definition of sedition to include discouraging recruiting, and more importantly, allowed summary conviction by a Magistrate rather than requiring a jury trial;
  • The Police Offences Act in its various incarnations, which contained a provision criminalising inciting, procuring, or encouraging "violence, lawlessness, or disorder".

AFAIK, the last prosecution under the common law was that of Te Whiti and Tohu, the leaders of Parihaka, in 1881. The last prosecution under the Police Offences Act provision was that of Police v Lee in 1973 (Lee was acquitted on appeal, the judge ruling that "inciting violence, lawlessness, or disorder" meant something more than telling people to sit down and block a road). The last prosecution under the Crimes Act was probably Bishop James Liston in 1922. The last prosecution under the War Regulations Continuance Act was probably that of Police v Marshall and Others in 1929, in which a group of communists were prosecuted for distributing books calling for the destruction of capitalism. I've gone for 75 years based on this last prosecution, but it may be wrong; in his paper on reform of the Crimes Act, Geoffrey Palmer noted that

Justice Department statistics reveal that two cases involving sedition were tried summarily in 1967 and resulted in convictions. No other records of these minor cases have been found.

I'd love to find out more about these cases, but I don't know where to start looking yet.

Update: Added the press release from the Libz (the only political party to make a noise about this important freedom of speech issue), the Wikinews piece, and the Checkpoint segment.


I seem to remember that someone with a very similar name was charged with an offence in relation to false declarations or similar during Local Body elections in recent times on the North Shore.
Sedition, Perdition Attrition whatever ,if this is the same guy he is a menace to society and one must wonder about his sanity.
He has achieved again what he seems to crave,
public noteriety
Just a waste of space.

Posted by Anonymous : 6/06/2006 08:05:00 PM

There is now a Wikipedia article.

Anyone who's been following the sedition series over here and can be bothered bulding a talk page and editing may wish to make some corrections.

Posted by Lyndon : 6/07/2006 02:53:00 PM

Yeah - I've been tweaking it a bit myself.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 6/07/2006 02:58:00 PM