Monday, October 30, 2017

Police discretion

The police have "re-investigated" former National MP's alleged unlawful recording of his staff members, and confirmed their decision not to lay charges. So far, so unsurprising. But this bit is surprising:

While we recognise the strong interest in this matter, the foundation of any decision to seek warrants or to prosecute is always the evidence available to us.

Speculation, hearsay and third party information does not in itself constitute such evidence.

The legal barrier for issuing a warrant is "reasonable grounds to suspect" that an offence has been committed. In most cases that barrier is met by someone telling the police something - AKA "hearsay and third party information" - or by the police speculating that someone who did something similar will have done this thing too. That's exactly how they got the warrant to search Nicky Hager's house in a desperate effort to uncover his sources and punish him for publishing Dirty Politics. But apparently the rules are different when a politician is involved. So what are we to conclude? Either Barclay is getting special treatment from police on account of his status, or they've just admitted that the vast bulk of their ordinary work fails to meet basic standards. Either way, its not good, and it doesn't provide us with any reason to believe that the law will be upheld fairly for all in future.