Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Good riddance to child harm prevention orders

Last year, in an effort to dig itself out of its PR hole over John Key's spy bill and cuts to recreational fishing quotas, National spun the wheel again and came up with "child harm prevention orders": civil orders punishing those acquitted of child abuse. Today, that plan is officially dead. Good. The orders were part of the odious program - started under Labour, and seized upon eagerly by National, who regard BORA-violation as a mark of good policy - of circumventing the necessary protections of the criminal justice system by using the mask of "civil" orders as criminal punishments (see: asset forfeiture, and a host of instruments since). They violated the fundamental principle of "innocent until proven guilty", as well as double jeopardy, freedom of movement and the liberty of the person. They were simply repugnant to justice, a means of getting cheap PR by undermining the human rights of every person.

Child abuse is terrible. But if we want to stop it, the police need to do their fucking job by building strong cases against suspects and convincing juries that they are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Civil orders give them an easy way out - the lower evidentiary standard allows them to be lazy. And where the human costs of getting it wrong are so high, that's not something we should tolerate or permit.