Monday, December 13, 2010

The government must obey the law

The Dominion-Post today reports that a prison inmate is taking the Department of Corrections to court because they destroyed his copy of Cosmopolitan:

Convicted murderer Stephen Hudson says the Cosmopolitan magazine - featuring an article with photographs comparing natural and artificial breasts - should not have been taken or destroyed.

The Crown has conceded some of what happened did not follow the proper procedure - for instance Hudson, 40, did not witness the destruction of his magazine, as the rules allowed.

But a judge in the High Court at Wellington today questioned whether simple photographs of women's breasts could be objectionable or pornographic so that it could be seized in the first place.

The usual suspects down in the sewer will no doubt be screaming that murderers shouldn't be allowed to have magazines, or shouldn't be allowed to challenge the decisions of their jailers in court - but in doing so they'll be missing the point. Because this isn't about whether a prisoner should be allowed to have a particular magazine, or really whether that magazine is objectionable or pornographic. Instead, its about a fundamental rule of our society: that the government too must obey the law. That is what distinguishes us from a despotism, and it is not something we should give any ground on, even where murderers are concerned.