Thursday, September 22, 2011

Labour on rule of law repeal II

Labour has put the final nail in the coffin of the government's plan to oust the rule of law and retrospectively validate unlawful police surveillance under urgency, announcing that having seen the bill, they cannot support it in its present form. They will support it to committee, in the hope of getting it changed - but if it isn't, then National are on their own.

Meanwhile, it seems that the government's real problem is with section 30 of the Evidence Act. This allows evidence obtained by unlawful means - e.g. unlawfully placed video cameras - to be admitted, if its exclusion is disproportionate to the impropriety, taking into account a number of factors including the seriousness of the crime and whether there were alternative means of investigation available. We saw from the Urewera 18 trial that this is perfectly adequate to deal with the problem; its a case by case decision, but on serious crimes, the courts may allow the evidence anyway. Sadly, it seems that that degree of uncertainty is too much for the Attorney-General; anything less than the admission of all evidence, no matter how it was obtained, is insufficient. So, the Cabinet Minister charged with upholding the law and protecting our rights wants to ignore both, simply to protect police from criticism that they behaved unlawfully. And people wonder why I think we need an enforceable Bill of Rights...