Monday, February 04, 2013

Corrupting the judicial system

When the Herald reported last weekend that Judith Collins had ignored the advice of an independent selection panel to appoint the second-ranked candidate - who just happened to be a close friend of her husband - to be Director of Human Rights Proceedings, I initially wasn't so concerned. Yes, it was cronyism - but unlike previous National Party crony appointments, this crony had at least made the shortlist and was qualified for the job. But then I thought about it some more. What does the Director of Human Rights Proceedings do? They decide which cases are escalated from being resolved by mediation to being resolved by court action before the Human Rights Review Tribunal. But its not just discrimination cases - the Office of Human Rights proceedings also prosecutes Privacy Act cases before the Tribunal - cases like, say, this one, involving the Minister's colleague, Paula Bennett. With a National crony in place, it is unlikely that such a case would be advanced.

As they are the only primary person who brings cases before the Human Rights Review Tribunal, the Director of Human Rights Proceedings is a quasi-judicial office. They need to be politically independent of the government, and be seen to be so. Which makes this appointment far more than just mere cronyism - it is an outright corruption of the judicial system.

Correction: The DHRP is not the only person who can bring cases before the HRRT. But they are the primary vehicle for doing so, and the main point still stands.