Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Disproportionate penalties

Over on Pundit, Andrew Geddis has a post looking at National's planned law to criminalise anti-offshore drilling protests. But in addition to criticising the constitutional violence of National's process (something which is sadly normal for this government), he also highlights another anomaly: the penalties for offshore protest are an order of magnitude higher than those for doing exactly the same thing on land:

[C]onsider this case. A company is going to drill into some land in Taranaki and "frack" it to produce oil, under a permit granted under the Crown Minerals Act 1991. So an anti-mining group decides to protest this activity by forming a human chain to block the only road to the land, thus preventing the company from moving its machinery to the site on heavy trucks.

Well, the protestors are blocking a road, so they could be arrested for "obstructing [a] public way" under the Summary Offences Act. Which could result in them ... being fined $1000. Or, because the protestors are stopping the company from being able to carry out their mining, they may be "wilfully obstruct[ing], hinder[ing], resist[ing], or deceiv[ing] any person in the execution of any powers conferred on that person by or under [the Crown Minerals Act]." That particular offence may result in them ... being fined $1500. Although, to show how seriously this sort of thing is viewed, the Government (and Parliament's Commerce Committee) propose doubling that fine to $3000.

As Geddis notes, this is "a little odd". And it just lends strength to the theory that this law is being passed precisely because these protests are effective.