Friday, March 30, 2007

Sedition in Dunedin

Earlier in the year, the owner of Dunedin's Bowling Green tavern launched an orientation week promotion in which he offered students the chance to win a petrol-soaked couch, and swap petrol for beer. The local community was outraged, the fire service appalled. The police promised to prosecute - but as "playing silly buggers" isn't actually an offence in law, and their proposal of "threatening to incite arson" would have been laughed out of court, they were hard pressed to find a suitable charge. However, now it seems they have found something they can make stick: sedition. The bar owner has been charged with publishing a seditious document, and will accept diversion.

Selwyn's prosecution was threatening, but this is just ridiculous. From being a dead law lying forgotten on the statute book, we are now seeing sedition revived apparently as a catchall offence for when the police can't think of anything real to charge people with (see also the recent case of Christopher Russell, charged with sedition in a fairly ordinary "threatening to kill" case).

This law simply has to go.


If it's your sofa, and you take reasonable care for the safety of others, then it isn't arson.

It isn't sedition either -
Crimes Act 81.1d:
"To incite, procure, or encourage the commission of any offence that is prejudicial to the public safety or to the maintenance of public order"

Since burning a sofa isn't neccesarily an offence, then incitement to do so can't be sedition.

Giving the guy diversion has effectively removed this from legal scrutiny.

Posted by Rich : 3/30/2007 11:08:00 AM

Anyway, if the bar owner *did* sell a petrol soaked couch (or swap petrol for beer) I think he'd be in breach of the "Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act" for supplying a hazardous substance (petrol) without a license and not in a proper container.

That would seem to be the correct law. If he was joking, then there's no offence.

Posted by Rich : 3/30/2007 11:15:00 AM

The burning bit would, in the circumstances, probably breach some local bylaws created for just such occasions.

Not that I wish to detract in any way from the preposerousness of it all.

Posted by Lyndon : 3/30/2007 12:34:00 PM

On the bright side, we seem to have established that if you're charged with sedition, you can get diversion.

Let's go down the pub, then maybe overthrow the state.

Posted by Lyndon : 3/30/2007 01:08:00 PM

The dangerous goods legislation may also be relevant in this case. As may be the sale of liquor legislation; and some parts of the South Island have had total fire bans lately.

Posted by Anonymous : 3/30/2007 10:38:00 PM

Soon they will be able to charge these guys with smacking istead.

Goes to show how rational this "trusting the police to always make the right decision" thing is.


Posted by Anonymous : 3/31/2007 12:49:00 PM

It saddens me that the police and some people are so uptight about normal student behaviour that occurs down in Dunedin.

Unlike the rest of the country, Dunedin publicans accept that students are not idiots and like having a laugh during orientation week. I have burned more than my fair share of couches anyway, it never harmed anybody or caused any trouble. :)

Posted by Just my opinion : 4/05/2007 10:36:00 PM