Geiringer on National’s gang ‘crack down’ policy

Yesterday Paula Bennett, the current Minister of Police, announced new policy that would ‘crack down on gangs and drugs’ – see National’s gang and drugs policy.

The most contentious parts of this policy:

  • Giving Police new power to search the cars and houses of the most serious criminal gang members at any time to ensure they don’t have firearms through new Firearms Prohibition Orders (FPOs)
  • Imposing new obligations on gang members on a benefit so that if they can’t justify expensive assets, they can have their benefit cancelled or be declined a benefit

Bennett conceded it would reduce the human rights of ‘criminals’ – at the search stage they have not been convicted.

@BarristerNZ (Felix Geiringer) tweeted:

A Twitter rant about human rights, & how human rights law does not interfere with the legitimate conduct of police investigations.

Human rights law merely sets a minimum standard of State behaviour that must be afforded to all so we live in a free & democratic society.

Human rights law does not exempt anyone from our criminal laws. It is not even a guarantee of good treatment.

The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act does not guarantee freedom from being searched, just from being unreasonably searched.

Our State isn’t prohibited from discriminating on the basis someone commits crimes, only on grounds like sex, race, religion, disability.

Powers to search usually require reasonable grounds –basically info that means it’s reasonable to think thing being searched for is there.

Limitations on our rights are also permitted so long as they are demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society.

Justifiable limitations need to be for a legitimate purpose, rationally connected to achieving that purpose, and proportionate.

National saying it will deny human rights to worst criminals is appealing to our basest instincts, but it doesn’t make policing sense.

It means conducting searches when a reasonable assessment of the information the Police holds gives no basis to justify such a search.

It means conducting a series of searches when that targets people on grounds of sex, sexuality, race, or religion, not just criminality.

It means conducting unreasonable searches, and doing so in a way that doesn’t reduce crime, or achieves little while intruding lots. In other words, it may legalise bad policing but does nothing to extend the powers of police doing good work to reduce crime.

Human rights are a collective, not just individual, good. We all benefit from their protection, & from the society they create.

But human rights law only works in this way if it is universal and inalienable. Don’t let National tell you otherwise.

Police can already search any place or vehicle w/o a warrant w reasonable grounds to suspect there’s a firearm in breach of the Arms Act or a lawful firearm used in serious crime, that a deranged person may use to hurt someone, possessed by subject of a protection order possessed by someone against whom there are grounds for a protection order, or that is evidence of serious crime or Arms Act breach.

If police have reasonable grounds to suspect a crime & reasonable grounds to believe there is evidence they can get a warrant. But also in many drugs cases, if they think the evidence may get destroyed while they wait for a warrant they can go ahead & search without one.

These are all powers that already exist. The suggestion that the police are somehow hamstrung in gang drugs & guns cases is fiction.

 

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