Monday, November 02, 2009

Tough on crime, tough on rights

Not PC posts on the government's package of measures to get "tough on crime" and notes that Idiot Savant rightfully is worried about Judith Collins apparently being gleeful about the end of the burden of proof, obviously in relation to certain laws.

This all harks back to the political populism behind seeking to be tough on crime, something I happily support. What should this mean? Well it means you need to look at the whole process of resolving crime and dealing with criminals.

The first is to ensure the Police are focusing on crime according to its seriousness and crime that involves victims. This means crimes against the person are prioritised over property crimes, which are prioritised over crimes that are against no one.

The second is to ensure the Police have the tools available to do the job effectively but fairly. That does mean having access to records of all those convicted, it means having access to fingerprint records of convicts and DNA of convicts as well. It means being able to be issued with a search warrant or interception warrant if there are, on balance of probabilities, grounds to assume a serious crime is being carried out or planned by suspects. However, it also means disposing of evidence that proves nothing, and that includes the samples of those not convicted unless they wish to have it retained. The innocent should retain that status, rather than some murky halfway house of being "known to the Police".

Thirdly, the courts should have objective law behind them and fact finding processes so that juries and judges can make appropriate decisions based on legally obtained evidence. That means courts are not occupied by victimless crimes

Finally, sentencing should do what it is meant to do, protect the public and send a punitive message. Imprisonment exists to protect people from the perpetrator committing further crime, but must also be proportionate to the offence and the harm to the victim. Fines may be appropriate if the purpose is to punish someone who is unlikely to reoffend. Young offenders might be expected to be rehabilitated for a first time offence that is not a serious violent or sexual offence.

Debate around how best to manage the criminal justice system IS the primary area of public policy that would remain under a Libertarianz government.

Sadly, this government is seeking to use a sledgehammer to deal to crime, and it is doing so on the basis the Police like to do policy in this area - "let's get those bastards and give us the tools to do it, and you'll be right, you'll have nothing to fear if you've done nothing wrong".

Let's be clear what we are talking about in the government proposals:
- Seizure of assets if you can't prove you obtained them legally. Imagine right now the effort you'd need to go to in proving how you afforded your last major purchase? Imagine now how the most sophisticated gangs would establish shell companies and manufacture invoices, receipts and the likes to ensure that they could prove enough. Most of all, ask yourself why anyone should have to prove innocence?
- Wide ranging powers to enter properties, without warrant, if the Police suspect a person who has committed an imprisonable offence is on the premises;
- Wide ranging powers to stop a vehicle, without warrant, if the Police suspect a person in the vehicle has committed an imprisonable offence;
- Wide ranging powers to enter properties, without warrant, if the Police suspect a person is about to commit a drug offence;
- Wide ranging powers to stop and search people in public, without warrant, if the Police suspect a person is carrying a weapon, including knife or a "disabling substance" (yes women, that means you carrying mace or similar);
- Wide ranging powers to search any vehicle, without warrant, if there are reasonable grounds to believe stolen property is within it;
- Powers for the Police to enter your property lawfully (i.e. unchallenged) and snoop using their eyes, ears and recording what was seen and heard;
- Powers for the Police to require you to provide passwords to access your computer and any data you store.. and so on.

More here

What needs to be asked is why this is justified, and what are the specific problems that mean obtaining search warrants is proving too problematic for the Police?

Judith Collins thinks you are protected because of judicial review, but frankly this has little credibility. Parliament is sovereign, when it takes away your rights, the courts are not likely to overturn this. The Bill of Rights Act is only useful for challenging interpretation of general provisions, but the specificity of statute can override this. Beyond that she thinks the media and democracy save your rights, but frankly the NZ mainstream media is not up to the job, as you'll see below. Besides, when the Police Minister cheers the end of the presumption of innocence, then you should be afraid.

Bear in mind of course, guilt till proven innocent is what the tax system is about (and Idiot Savant probably isn't going to campaign to change that is he?)

Following on, it is highly ironic that the president of the Police union Greg O'Connor says this:

"New Zealanders have got to wake up. P has done for this country what the Prohibition did in the US – it's entrenched organised crime."

History delivered an answer to that. Perhaps Mr. O'Connor might be asked to comment on this?

Oh and while we're at it, notice how the Dominion Post article above looks essentially like a government press release with nothing but comment from those supportive of it? Notice how Britton Broun (who was graduating three years ago) did not approach any opposition parties, defence lawyers or anyone else who might be able to comment differently on his little piece of agitprop?

Is this the free media Judith Collins relies upon for robust and vigorous debate and defence of our rights?


Anonymous said...

Good on Collins and National, it's about time criminals did not have so many undeserved rights, and victims do. Or do you like our present climate of moral chaos?

Libertyscott said...

That's right, after all the Police being able to enter any home without a warrant. What is there to fear?

You SHOULD have to prove innocence shouldn't you?

I mean if the Police think you're a criminal, you should be treated as such until you show otherwise.

Though I'm mystified, what does this do for victims? Assuming there are any.

I presume if the Police come round at night to your home to search your house, confiscate your computer and demand you give all your passwords, you'd happily do so. After all, you've done nothing wrong, why fear?

sean14 said...

Hi Scott

Not to debate the rights or wrongs of the bill, but I note some of the powers you talk about being introduced in your bullet pointed list already exist in various sections of the Crimes Act 1961.

The new bill amends/repeals relevant parts of the Crimes Act. See sections 202B, 225, 314B and 317A.

Cheers, Sean.

Anonymous said...

Exactly Scott. Don't do the crime, you have nothing to fear. What I meant was that criminals seem to get all the leniencey, sympathy and rights under the sun in NZ, while the victims have to fight a lonesome battle. This was often the case while Labour were in power, they did nothing to improve anything for victims, under Labour, crime certainly paid, being a victim was almost seen as the vicitm's fault. Go Collins, lovin' it.

Libertyscott said...

Sean, yes Section 202B should have an exclusion for disabling substances reasonably carried for the purposes of self defence.

Section 225 is more directly linked to catching those who have just committed burglary.

Section 314B effectively granted powers to stop and search as long as there were grounds that would otherwise justify a warrant.

317A is about fleeing from a crime scene.

I take your point, if this was about tidying up current powers then it would be different, but it is a significant extension beyond that.

Libertyscott said...

Anonymous: Let's give up that inconvenience of courts then, the Police always know who did a crime, besides the people they catch and the houses they search, bet those people did something wrong anyway didn't they?

A person is not a criminal until that person has been convicted as one. How damned difficult is the concept to you?

You might want to live in a fascist state where you have to prove your innocence (e.g. if you were alone at home, trying proving you were not at the crime scene?. In which case you wouldn't mind if I told the Police I thought you might have drugs on your property, or illegal pornography, in which case they could now enter, without warrant and search your house anytime day or night. However I guess you and your family will happily put up with this inconvenience if the Police don't have to go through the needless task of proving to a magistrate that it has reasonable cause to believe you are a criminal.

No cops ever abuse their powers do they? Going to mind the cop peeking into your daughter's bedroom until you tell him to go away, and he claims powers under this bill to inspect your property without warrant as long as he obtained lawful entry?

Of course not, you've done nothing wrong, neither has she, why should either of you give a damn, you are joined hand in fist with Judith Collins in this march for security.

None of this does anything for victims. How can it? However you can be sure more innocent people get their homes searched.

Have you thought that maybe the way to deal with criminals is to ensure the Police focus on real crime, not the failed war on drugs, and that sentences for preventive detention get extended further, and those who commit serious violent and sexual offences should be denied the right to ever live with children again (to discourage intergenerational crime)?

Or do you feel safer knowing eyes are watching you all the time, making sure you're being good?