Monday, September 29, 2008

Reported back

The Law and Order Committee has reported back [PDF] on the Wanganui District Council (Prohibition of Gang Insignia) Bill and recommended that it be passed. While they have made some amendments which improve the bill (e.g. reducing the penalties to a level more consistent with those for intimidation and similar offences), they've also added some terrible ones. For example:

  • The police could seize insignia that had been displayed in a specified place after the fact when you're no longer there - making this bill not so much about reducing public intimidation as "taking stuff off gangs";
  • The police could stop and search a vehicle without warrant if they believed an offence had been committed under this act. Normally, they only get to do that sort of thing where they suspect a vehicle is carrying guns or drugs;
  • The select committee noted that the law covered tattoos. They did not regard this as problematic in any way.
These are simply authoritarian powers, and it is difficult to see how they can possibly be justified in a free and democratic society. They are also unnecessary. To point out the obvious, intimidation is already a crime, and if police are concerned about gang members intimidating members of the public, they should charge them with it. But if their behaviour doesn't meet the threshold required by the existing law - which requires more than simply being brown and patched in the wrong part of town - then they have no business intervening.