Monday, February 26, 2018

Giving the BORA (tiny) teeth

Last year, the Court of Appeal made a landmark constitutional decision, by declaring National's anti-prisoner voting law to be inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act. This didn't mean that the law was overturned - s4 of the BORA explicitly forbids this - but it was a serious warning to Parliament about the quality of its lawmaking. And now the new government has responded, announcing plans to amend the BORA to require Parliament to formally respond to future declarations of inconsistency and review any law declared to be inconsistent.

Its a small step forward, but a significant one. Most importantly, it recognises that Parliament doesn't always get it right, and that the courts have an important role in checking abuses of our fundamental human rights. The teeth it gives the BORA are tiny, but they may be enough in our system to force significant amendment or repeal of odious laws. And that, after all, is the point of constitutional safeguards.