Friday, August 10, 2012

Time to repeal "sedition for judges"

Sedition was an archaic crime, which basically allowed governments to prosecute and persecute simply for criticising them. Many civilised countries (including New Zealand) have abolished it. But even where it has been abolished, its ugly twin "scandalising the court" - which allows judges to prosecute and persecute simply for criticising them - survives. But now the UK is reviewing that archaic law, with an eye to repealing it:

The ancient offence of scandalising the court is to be reviewed to see if it is still necessary.

The offence is a form of contempt of court, but has not been successfully prosecuted since 1931.

It is committed by publishing anything that ridicules the judiciary to the extent that it is likely to bring the administration of justice into disrepute.

As with sedition, this legal protection is either unnecessary or undeserved. Either the administration of justice is so obviously fair, impartial, and competent that it can survive such ridicule, in which case it does not need such protection - or it is not, in which case it does not deserve it. It speaks volumes that the only place this law is actively being used at the moment is Fiji, where the military regime is attempting to force people to pretend its kangaroo courts are still "independent".

The only justice systems protected by this law are unjust ones. The only judges it protects are the corrupt and incompetent. It should be struck from the books - in New Zealand as well as the UK.