Tuesday, October 16, 2007

"Unlawful posession"

The dust seems to be settling on yesterday's police raids on Maori, environmental, and peace groups, and the court process has begun. In a good sign, one man has already been granted bail after a judge found that they did not present a sufficient danger to the public to justify holding them - which rather undercuts the police's carefully leaked extravagant claims. While the police have talked about filing charges under s13 of the Terrorism Suppression Act for "participation in a terrorist group", it will probably be a few weeks before they do so, and their public statements that those arrested had no common purpose would tend to undermine that. In the meantime, those arrested are being held on charges under the Arms Act of posession of firearms without lawful, proper, and sufficient purpose. Scoop has the details from one of yesterday's remand hearings:

Charge sheets filed in Wellington alleges offending occurred on:
16th-19th November 2006 (with a semi-automatic rifle)
10th to 14th January 2007 (a rifle)
26th to 29th April 2007 (firearm)
21st to 25th June 2007 (rifle)
16th to 19th August 2007 (shotgun & rifle)
13th to 16th September 2007 (Molotov cocktails & military semi-auto rifle)
The first point to make from this is that none of those in Wellington at least were found with firearms. The second is that the nature of the offending seems to be being allowed to play with someone else's guns; possession means possession at any time in any place, so if you go on a hunting trip with someone (ick) and they hand you a gun, that's possession. The police's leaks have talked about surveillance footage etc, so presumably the police have solid evidence of the accused actually handling firearms. Except for the latter charge, then, which covers things which every sane person ought to know are illegal and for which there is no legitimate use, the charges rest entirely on the assessment of whether the purpose for which the firearms were being used was "lawful, proper, and sufficient". And here, I think the police are on fairly shaky ground. While they will claim that the ultimate purpose of possession was related to some Grand Terrorist Plot, if the material they have leaked to the press is remotely correct, there's also a glaring immediate purpose of "learning to shoot". That immediate purpose is perfectly lawful in New Zealand, and it doesn't become unlawful simply because the person pulling the trigger is brown or a leftie.

I don't like guns. I don't like people who play with guns. I especially don't like people who think that guns are a "solution" to political problems - such people are a threat to every single one of us. But if the police want to stick people in jail, I'd humbly suggest they need to do a hell of a lot better than this.