Former National minister to head justice advisory reform group

In what I think is a smart move Minister of Justice Andrew Little has appointed former National MP Chester Borrows to head a criminal justice reform advisory group.

Borrows was a police officer before getting a law degree and practicing as a lawyer before becoming an MP, and served a term as Minister of Courts, so looks to have a good background.

RNZ: Chester Borrows to head criminal justice advisory reform group

Mr Little said Mr Borrows was the obvious choice to chair the group because of his experience in the justice sector.

“I was keen to have Chester on board because of his background as a former frontline police officer, prosecuting sergeant and then later as a defence counsel after he got his law degree.

“He knows the political system, he was a minister outside cabinet, he was a deputy speaker of parliament – he brings a good understanding of the political process as well.”

Mr Little will announce the other members of the advisory group later today.

He said his advice to them was to be “bold” and “courageous” with their recommendations while drawing on experience, science and data.

“We should all be incredibly concerned at a reoffending rate of those in prison of 60 percent within two years of release – that to me is a failure.”

Borrows says that he never liked the three strikes law and was forced to vote for it by the party whipping system.

In his first interview ahead of Justice Minister Andrew Little announcing the group later today, Mr Borrows has blamed political parties’ self-interest in staying in power for the lack of progress in law and order reform.

An example was the three strikes law introduced by National and ACT under the previous government, which Mr Borrows said National never supported but was introduced to appease their confidence and supply partner.

“Three strikes was never part of National’s plan, it came up as a political move because they needed a confidence and supply partner and that was it. I never liked it, I sent that back.

“Unfortunately it was a party vote and you fall under the whip on those occasions and that’s what happened.”

The reality of party politics.

Many of the problems facing the criminal justice sector today were the same issues Mr Borrows dealt with as a police officer decades ago, he said.

“That is because law and order policy is so frequently governed by politics and not by a sensitive and sensible approach to it.”

“If you’ve got politicians too scared to introduce policy that actually might work because it’s seen to be soft on crime they won’t do it because of how it might be reflected in the ballot box.”

There will always be failures in the justice system, some of them high profile and they will be used to by crime and punishment activists.

But Borrows sounds like he could be a good person to lead the review.

And Little looks like a Minister who wants to make a significant difference – but he has a potential problem, party politics, or more to the point, Winston Peters and NZ First.

But with Borrows’ connection to National he may be able to get them onside with justice reform to get the votes with Labour that will get it through Parliament.

I might be able to contribute to the review in a minor way. I now have three years experience dealing with the justice system (ongoing with a possible third appeal plus I have now been dragged into a bankruptcy proceeding as a creditor in which Dermot Nottingham is trying to avoid paying about $220k in court costs that he keeps appealing).

Courts are under a lot of time pressure due to increasing workloads and resigning judges. One problem I have experienced is their lenience with misguided lay litigators who repeatedly fail to follow legal procedures and repeatedly ignore court directions and timetables, and flood proceedings with large amounts of irrelevant paperwork. They should get tough on this, it will save some time in the court system.

And while private prosecutions are an important part of our judicial system they are too easily open to abuse by vexatious litigants who try to inflict costs in protracted hopeless cases.

 

Chester Borrows in court

National MP Chester Borrows ended up in the Whanganui District Court yesterday on a charge of careless driving. A protester was injured when he drove his care out of a motel car park last year.

Evidence was heard, including a police officer agreeing with “Looking at the report, you accept you cannot attribute this incident to any factor on behalf of Mr Borrows”.

Then Borrow’s laywer applied for a dismissal of the charge. The judge will rule on that this morning.

Stuff: Attempt to dismiss case against MP Chester Borrows as first day of trial ends

Whanganui MP Chester Borrows faces a nervous sleep on Monday night, as he waits to hear if a judge will dismiss a police case of careless driving against him.

His lawyer Nathan Bourke made the application in the Whanganui District Court on Monday at the end of the first day of his two-day trial.

If the application is not successful, Borrows and deputy prime minister Paula Bennett will enter the witness box on Tuesday to give evidence.

Borrows, a former police officer, is charged with careless driving causing injury to two anti-Trans Pacific Partnership protesters outside the Collegiate Motor Inn on March 22, 2016.

In a statement read in court Borrows said…

…he was concerned about threats made about Bennett on Facebook, and people had jumped on his car at other protests. The driving was similar to what he did at similar incidents during his 24-year police career, he said.

One of the woman injured in the incident, Denise Lockett…

…said she thought the worst when she was hit by Borrows’ car.

“I thought ‘oh my god, you are going under, girl’ and I folded over the bonnet.”

Protester Tracey Treadwell…

…said the group’s intention was to make sure Borrows and Bennett knew their concerns about the TPPA. She believed police would ask them to move after a period of time.

Bourke referenced a statement from an officer on the scene, who said they saw a woman walk into the side of Borrows’ car after being pulled away.

Treadwell denied doing that, saying she stood still until she was hit, and was only pulled away by police.

Constable Stewart Bourne…

…said he had his back to the car when the protesters were hit. He filled in a crash report afterwards, which was produced by Bourke.

In the report, Bourne said the car was travelling 1kmh when it was “swamped” by protesters. Borrows was likely unaware of what had happened, and the vehicle and speed were not a factor, Bourne said in the report.

Bourke suggested to the constable the report showed Borrows had not been careless. Bourne agreed.

We will find out this morning whether the charge is dismissed or if the trial will continue.

Being able to protest is an important part of a democracy.

Keeping out of the way of cars is an important part of personal safety.

Borrows reaction at Kiwiblog

It’s not surprising to see quite contrasting reactions to the charging of Chester Borrows at The Standard versus Kiwiblog.

Some of the Standard reaction is in Chester Borrows charged, more at Borrows charged for injuring protestors.

David Farrar posted Borrows charged at Kiwiblog:

My sympathy is with Borrows. He was driving as slowly as you can, and the protesters chose not to move. They were blocking a legal road. Sure if he had been driving at speed, that would be different. But he was just nudging them out of the way.

We’ll see what evidence comes out in court. Will the protesters be charged for blocking the road? You have the legal right to protest in NZ, but not to do so in a way that impedes people going about their legal business, or blocking public areas.

Manolo led with a typical comment for him:

It should be remembered that scum like that pair also have rights. 🙂

There’s actually some reasonable discussion, and this account from from Keeping Stock:

I was present at the function Borrows and Bennett were attending that morning, and although I did not see the incident in question, the protesters were spoiling for a fight. They kept up a cacophany of noise outside for the duration of the function, and abused a number of the people attending when they were arriving and departing. Bear in mind this is the function prior to which one Phillip Rewiti Bear from the Meatworkers Union had made an overt threat towards Paula Bennett, hence the Police being in attendance.

http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2016/03/phillip_reweti_bear.html

One of the protesters filmed the “incident”, and the decision to prosecute will have been taken in part from that video. However the video is notable for the behaviour of protest organiser Denise Lockett (the woman with orange hair in the centre of labrator’s photo), supposedly injured. As soon as Borrows drives through, she shouts out to the person filming the incident “Did you get that on video”. That was her very first reaction, having been supposedly run over, and injured to the extent of Borrows being charged with carless driving causing injury.

I doubt that I am the only person who smells a set-up here, and I hope that when the charges do finally go to court they are thrown out and Chester Borrows is completely exonerated.

It’s not unknown for protesters to manufacture controversy to get media attention and to score some sort of hit on their targets. Whether it occurred with the Borrows incident will presumably come out in court (if it gets to court).

Pyscho Milt comments there (as well as at The Standard):

The ferals blocking his path were obstructing him from moving freely.

Fortunately the cops were there to make them get out of the way. Pro tip: if people are blocking your car, the law doesn’t entitle you to run the annoying pricks over. You’d think an ex-cop would have been able to figure that one out.

Also a pro tip for protestors: putting your foot under the wheel of a moving vehicle can result in injury.

Srylands (who used to comment at The Standard but is probably banned now):

mikenmild says: “I can’t believe anyone would suggest that driving a car at someone is an acceptable response to having the road blocked.”
_______________________

I think it is totally acceptable.

I don’t think it’s acceptable, and quite unwise for an MP, especially one who is an ex policeman.

There were some who suggested more extreme (and stupid) actions. igm:

Pity he did not do a decent job. Suppose they were either unemployable or public servants.

mara:

If I were Borrows, I’d have gone from nought to 200mph in 20 seconds, or less, given the car’s capacity of course. Give the man a medal for exercising restraint.

DifferentPerspective:

These are dirty little whining dole bludgers. This is so typical of the fascists on the left bullying and threatening people when they lose the contest of ideas.

They’re no better than the animals in the BLM movement. Sneering at the universal truth that ALL LIVES MATTER doesn’t make it any less of a universal truth.

In the 1930s national socialism brought us exactly the same issues with the Aryan concept with it’s Orwellian overtones that the white, blond haired racial stereotype was more equal than others (preaching that they were oppressed by the dirty jew). 80 years later we have exactly the same concepts just with different labels. And again the statistics don’t support the hysteria (blacks kill a disporportionately far higher number of blacks that cops do).

The progressive movement is turning into a filthy caricature of itself with a slide to neo-nazi like behaviour. Jack booted thugs shouting down everyone in the 30s – dreadlocked thugs doing exactly the same in 2016. Seig heil to progressives everywhere.

Sponge:

I find it hard to sympathise with this rabble of protesters.

The ugly one in gumboots shouting abuse? Vile.
The one that looks and sounds like a demented parrot? Vile
The retarded one that is so spastic that it gets its big toe run over? An absolute moron. What is more, I suspect it was no accident that this creature put its toe under the wheel. That parrot beast certainly wasn’t worried about its friends wellbeing but wanted to make sure it was on film.

As an aside why is it that the anti TPPA protesters always appear to be unemployed and ignorant ne’er–do–wells

But comments like that were a small minority. Which makes this comment by Psycho Milt at The Standard curious:

The concept that you have a right to obstruct a public way if you want to is as bizarre, if not quite so scarily insane, as the Kiwiblog commenters’ view that you have a right to run people over if they’re in your way.

And:

You really, really don’t want to go over to the Kiwiblog thread on this subject then, as it features a surprising number of commenters who apparently need to have it explained to them that no you’re not actually allowed to run someone over if they’re in your vehicle’s path.

That’s hardly a representative view of the Kiwiblog comments overall.

It’s well summed up at Kiwiblog by eszett:

That the car didn’t stop and didn’t give people time to move or officers opportunity to move them is what makes it dangerous behaviour.Unless context is missing from the video I think he is quite properly charged.

Foolish, perhaps, especially politically, but dangerous?

Yes, he should have waited until the cops had cleared the way. Would have cost him 10 seconds and saved him a lot of unnecessary drama.

It does seem to have been careless of Borrows. Whether careless enough legally to result in a conviction will be no doubt discussed in depth on the blogs once it goes to court.

Chester Borrows charged

National MP for Whanganui Chester Borrows has been charged with had been charged with careless use of a motor vehicle causing injury to two people following an incident in March where Borrows ran over the foot of a TPP protester – see Foot runneth over.

Stuff: MP Chester Borrows charged over protester incident

Former police officer and National MP for Whanganui Chester Borrows is being charged over allegations he drove into a group of protesters.

Under section 38 of the Land Transport Act, the maximum penalty for careless driving causing injury is three months’ jail, or a fine of up to $4500.

An MP must resign from Parliament if convicted of a crime with a maximum penalty of two or more years’ jail time

So whatever the outcome it won’t force a resignation.

Borrows’ first appearance would be on Tuesday, August 2, in the Whanganui District Court. 

“Mr Borrows intends to defend the charge and says he will be making no further comment as the matter is before the court,” a statement from him said.

There’s been some interesting comment on this at The Standard in Borrows charged for injuring protestors.

Some of the comments are typically ridiculous, like the lead comment by ‘One Anonymous Bloke’:

Hard not to be cynical about the fact that the charge makes a by-election unlikely. Or is it more a case of no-one who has a public difference of opinion with Oravida Collins is above the law?

I can play at insinuations too. The post was under the authorship of ‘Natwatch’. One Anonymous Bloke was quick off the mark, first to comment, and had a lot of interest in the discussion, posting 30 of the 103 comments (to date).

A debate about the right to protest versus the right of free passage came up, with OAB prominent both in dumping on Borrows but also in abusing people who challenged their messages. Like:

One Anonymous Bloke:

Observation isn’t your strong point: the protesters were on a footpath (yes, they were). I suggest you remove your bullshit-smeared right wing facemask and have a look at the photos.

Even if they’d been on a road, the police response to the TPPA protests – ie: to allow them – shows exactly how grounded in reality your lickspittle opinion is.

Psycho Milt:

Being on a footpath and/or being a protestor doesn’t magically endow you with the right to obstruct a vehicle entrance or other public way. That’s why the cops will come along and tell you to fuck off. Also why they’ll drag you out of the way and arrest you if you don’t. Borrows’ offence was more serious than the protestors and resulted in injury, which is presumably why he’s been charged, but both parties were committing offences.

Seems like a fair comment and seems to sum up the situation well.

One Anonymous Bloke:

@Psycho Milt: I’d like to see the argument in court. They weren’t obstructing a right of way they were expressing their disapproval of government policy.

Borrows and Bennett aren’t Joe Public going about their lawful business. They’re ministers of the Crown ripping the guts out of this country.

They have every right to expect hostility, obstruction and contempt wherever they go. Diddums.

Further on Psycho Milt addresses the law:

they are standing on the footpath- look up rules about cars and footpaths

Yes, do look up the rules, for instance the Summary Offences Act 1981:

“22 Obstructing public way

(1) Every person is liable to a fine not exceeding $1,000 who, without reasonable excuse, obstructs any public way and, having been warned by a constable to desist,—

(a) continues with that obstruction; or

(b) does desist from that obstruction but subsequently obstructs that public way again, or some other public way in the same vicinity, in circumstances in which it is reasonable to deem the warning to have applied to the new obstruction as well as the original one.

(2) In this section—

obstructs, in relation to a public way, means unreasonably impedes normal passage along that way

public way means every road, street, path, mall, arcade, or other way over which the public has the right to pass and repass.”

A further exchange with William:

But the protesters haven’t been charged with an offence under the Summary Offences Act, so that’s all irrelevant.

Possibly the police examined whether that would have been a goer but observed the constable didn’t warn them to desist, he merely ushered them to the side. They were moving there when silly old Chester drove on through before the way was clear.

Psycho Milt:

It’s not irrelevant to the implied claim in 5.1 and 5.1.1 that the protesters had the right to block the footpath – the Summary Offences Act makes it clear that they didn’t.

And just in case that particular logic fail comes up again: no the fact that the protesters were illegally obstructing a public way doesn’t imply Borrows had a right to drive into them.

William:

Read the section of the act you quoted. It doesn’t create an offence of blocking a public way, only of unreasonably blocking it. The corollary of that is that it is possible to block it in a reasonable manner, which is not an offence.

Watch the video, the blockage lasts no more than 15 secs before they’ve moved aside. I don’t envy you arguing in a court that they created an unreasonable blockage.

Psycho Milt:

The concept that you have a right to obstruct a public way if you want to is as bizarre, if not quite so scarily insane, as the Kiwiblog commenters’ view that you have a right to run people over if they’re in your way.

For future reference, no it’s not “reasonable” to deliberately obstruct other people, regardless of how long you do it for or what you personally feel about the people you’re obstructing, and yes you can be arrested for it.

For a different take Te Reo Putake is a tad contrarian (the the standard bashing):

If I can be a tad contrarian , I can see a couple of points worth making about the debate so far.

First up, the protesters were not pedestrians. They weren’t using the footpath for the purposes of travel. Having been on about a zillion protests and pickets (and having organised a good percentage of the same), I can assure readers that blocking driveways isn’t legal. But it is terrific fun.

Secondly, Borrows is actually one of the better Tory MP’s. He’s an old fashioned kind of Nat and tries to behave decently. He’s also publicly anti-racist. That combination possibly explains why he has never been given senior posts by Key and Joyce.

If the Whanganui seat was redrawn to reflect the wishes and needs of the town and district, he wouldn’t be the MP. The excellent Hamish McDouall would be instead. But the electorate is gerrymandered so that the urban majority are disenfranchised in favour of the Taranaki rump. So, a by-election would be likely to return a Nat MP, which is a boost I don’t think they deserve, So lets be careful what we wish for there.

For all of the above, Borrows has broken the law and deserves a conviction. However, I wonder if he’ll be offered diversion, as I imagine this will be his first serious offence (other than a speeding ticket a few years ago)

A good comment despite a bit of political snark, and quite a contrast to the OAB approach.

Northland MP or grumpy old president?

“The Chairman is on his feet, will the member keep his mouth shut”.

WinstonPetersParliament

Winston Peters loved all the attention and the success the Northland by-election gave him.

The latest Herald-Digipoll adds to that, with Peters doubling his ‘preferred Prime Minister’ support from 5.9% to 12%.

But has it all gone to his head?

Something not many people will see – the media are unlikely to show it – is some of his behaviour in Parliament, where he acts like a cantankerous old git who thinks he deserves to rule, and who despises being told what to do.

See the video…

…starting from 1:56 leading to where Peters objects (at about 2:16) to a determination by the Business Committee of speaking rights for Appropriation Bill. Peters starts speaking from 3:40.

He displays disrespect and petulance. When told he could seek leave to the House to deal with his gripe it was objected to, so his acrimonious approach failed to achieve anything.

Draft transcript:

Annual Review Debate

In Committee

The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Chester Borrows): This debate is the Committee stage of the Appropriation (2013/13 Confirmation and Validation) Bill. The time allocated for this debate is 9 hours and comprises two distinct elements in accordance with determinations of the Business Committee. The first is the debate on the annual financial statements of the Government, as reported by the Finance and Expenditure Committee. The time allocated by the Business Committee for this debate is 2 hours.

The second is the debate on the annual reviews of departments, Officers of Parliament, Crown entities, public organisations, and State enterprises, as reported on by select committees. The time allocated by the Business Committee for this debate is 7 hours.

We turn first to the 2-hour debate on the Government’s 2013-14 financial statements and the report of the Finance and Expenditure Committee. The Business Committee has determined that the first call will go to the chairperson of the Finance and Expenditure Committee and that the total number of calls will be as follows: the New Zealand National Party, 12 5-minute calls; the New Zealand Labour Party, seven 5-minute calls; the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand, three 5-minute calls; the New Zealand First Party, two 5-minute calls; and the—

[Interruption] The Chairman is on his feet. Will the member keep his mouth shut? The Māori Party—[Interruption] Order! [Interruption] No, I am on my feet. The member will be seated. [Interruption] I am on my feet. The point is, for the members who are present, that the Business Committee has agreed to a motion—particularly from the Opposition parties—so that this debate will have more meaning than they have deemed it to have in the past. It is a new process, and I am endeavouring to lay that out to the Committee of the whole House as we are now. I would appreciate the ability to continue so that members are fully aware and not ignorant due to their adherence to the ways that have happened in the past.

The Māori Party, ACT New Zealand, and United Future New Zealand may negotiate with the New Zealand National Party for calls during the debate.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. You may say that this committee outside this House decided this and it decided that, but the fact of the matter is that this House is the master of its own destiny and we will not be ruled out because of some arrangement made outside with House with which we do not agree.

If you could tell me how 14 members gets 15 minutes and 12 members gets 10 minutes and that is fair, then I would like you to explain it to me mathematically, but it is not. [Interruption] I beg your pardon? Have you got a problem with actually working out the mathematics on that? If 14 members—

The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Chester Borrows): The member should make his point of order or complete it.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: My point of order is simply that that ratio cannot be fair, that 14 members—sit down. Fourteen members getting 15 minutes would surely mean that 12 members are entitled to more than 10 minutes. It is just actually mathematic. So there, for a start, I do not think it is reasonable—

The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Chester Borrows): I do not need any further help from the member on this matter. Sit down. [Interruption] Take your seat. The point is that the protocols for this debate have been determined by the Business Committee. If the member wishes to seek leave to change that, he can.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): I seek leave for New Zealand First to have, for a start, a fairer ratio of speaking time than that laid out by you in your little preamble.

The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Chester Borrows): Leave is sought for that purpose, is there any objection?

There were objections from the Government side

The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Chester Borrows):The motion is lost.

There was a ruckus at the beginning of the next speech.

The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Chester Borrows): Order! Please take your seat. As I indicated earlier, the reason the new process was put before the Business Committee was to try to raise the level of debate. Let us see if members of the Committee can do that.

Then at 1:00 in the speech NZ First MP Ron Mark made a point of order:

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. Sorry to the member for interrupting his speech, but you did make a statement there that has got me totally confused. When has there ever been a question about the level of debate in this Committee, and who does it involve?

The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Chester Borrows): That is not a point of order.

Ron Mark: Well, you have made a statement and it should be clarified.

The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Chester Borrows): Do not challenge the ruling I have already given.

An abrasive petulant approach to Parliament is unlikely to achieve anything positive for the Northland electorate, nor for the NZ First Party.

Labour’s fraudulent claim

Labour are attacking National on welfare fraud and tax dodging. This image is being promoted on Facebook and Twitter, labeled “National priorities”:

Tax dodging

 

Leader David Cunliffe has joined in:

Welfare fraud, $23 million = National obsession. Tax dodging, $6 BILLION = National doing nothing.

National has not done nothing on tax dodging. The current (and previous) Government put a lot of resources into trying to reduce tax avoidance and the prevent tax evasion and identify evasion and take action against those who break the law.

From the IRD Annual report 2013:

Improving Compliance

  • The Court of Appeal unanimously held that the Optional Convertible Notes (OCN) arrangement entered into by Alesco and 12 other taxpayers, involved tax avoidance. The total amount at issue in all OCN cases is over $300 million.
  • We released Inland Revenue’s Interpretation Statement on tax avoidance which gives greater certainty to our customers.
  • This year, we collected tax revenue of $53.8 billion and $1.2 billion of other revenue. This is a 10.0% increase from the previous year.
  • Our information sharing has enabled the Ministry of Social Development to cancel more than 3,000 benefits being paid to people who were not entitled to them.
  • This year, total overdue debt increased by 1% compared to an increase of 7% in each of the previous two years.
  • We had a 3.5% decrease in the number of outstanding returns. This is the first time we have seen a year-on-year
  • reduction in ten years.

On avoidance:

Avoidance
Avoidance is where taxpayers seek to reduce or even eliminate their obligation to pay tax. This often involves structures with complex financial arrangements between companies, trusts, or charities, sometimes with international links. Our approach to countering avoidance has been to:

  •  gather intelligence and conduct research on inappropriate use of these structures
  •  assist and educate taxpayers if they are unsure of their obligations
  •  investigate their tax affairs and take legal action where there is deliberate non-compliance.

Recent judgments have generally upheld our position on avoidance and we have a firm legal basis that supports our view.

Tax avoidance interpretation statement

On 1 July 2013, we issued Inland Revenue’s interpretation statement about tax avoidance following a public consultation period which opened in December 2011. The statement now gives both Inland Revenue and the tax community greater certainty on the principles that Inland Revenue will apply in reaching a view on whether an arrangement is tax avoidance or not.

The report details a number of cases and business categories where they are addressing avoidance issues.

A large proportion of the core outstanding debt is not from ‘dodging’ or avoidance, it is from penalties and interest:

IRD core debt

It could legitimately be argued whether National puts too much emphasis on welfare fraud, or too little effort into tax ‘dodging’ .

But claiming the total overdue debt of $6 billion is all due to tax dodging and claiming that National is ‘doing nothing’ could amount to political fraud.

Overstating things and making false claims detracts from the point Labour is trying to make – and it’s dishonest.

Update: Chester Borrows (Minister for Courts, Associate Minister of Justice) has tweeted:

Welfare fraud budget flat after 40% up under Lab, tax fraud budget up 40% under Nats. Actions speak louder than words mate.