Monday, November 07, 2011

It's the BORA, stupid

Last week, Dunedin City Council issued trespass notices against Occupy Dunedin, in an effort to get them to move on from the Octagon. But the police have not yet moved in. Why? Over on Pundit, Andrew Geddis explains: it's the BORA, stupid. The Bill of Rights Act affirms the freedoms of expression and assembly, and this means that public bodies can't just trespass you from a public space simply because you're saying something they don't want to hear (or in a manner they deem as "untidy":

to make a long story short, the DCC cannot simply prohibit a form of protest through a by-law and then claim that this form of protest is no longer protected by the NZ Bill of Rights Act because it has chosen to make it illegal. Instead, the DCC must show that applying its by-laws in a way that stops a given protest from occuring is a "reasonable" (actually, a "demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society") limit on the protesters' rights. If it can't do that, then the NZ Bill of Right's protection for those rights trumps the by-law.
The police, to their credit, seem to have realised this, and are actually protecting the protestors' rights against the Council. The question is how long that approach will last before normality reasserts itself.