Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Reported back

The Law and Order Committee has reported back [PDF] on the government's Policing Bill, and recommended that it be passed. The bill would replace the current Police Act 1958 and provide a legal framework for police employment and powers. The Herald has a useful overview of the many changes it makes here, but one I noticed immediately was that there seems to be no equivalent of the current s61A. This protects the confidentiality of the Police gazetteand other internal police documents, and is frequently used to frustrate OIA requests. But with its non-inclusion in the new bill, the police will finally be subject to the same requirement for openness as every other government entity. They will still have considerable ability to refuse disclosure under existing exemptions (e.g. s6(c), prejudice to the maintenance of law and order, or s9(2)(a), privacy), but they will no longer have a blanket grounds to withhold information based solely on where it originated. That can only be a Good Thing; as the Ombudsman's ruling on the taser trial information last week showed, the police have significant problems with (I'd say "downright hostility to) public oversight - a hostility I've learned about as an ordinary requestor. Making them fully subject to the law should hopefully help end that culture of secrecy and hostility.