Electoral Commission investigating pro-NZ First advertising

The Electoral Commission is investigating pro-NZ First advertising during the election that was not declared by the party in their returns.

RNZ: Electoral Commission looking into ad in horse racing mag

The Electoral Commission is looking into an ad placed by the horse racing stalwart Sir Patrick Hogan during last year’s election campaign.

The ad, in the racing industry publication The Informant last Septemberurged people to party vote New Zealand First because of its leader Winston Peters’ support for the racing industry.

The Electoral Act requires people who take out ads promoting a political party during an election campaign to have the party’s permission.

New Zealand First said its party secretary did not authorise any third party advertisements.

And NZ First did not declare this advertising in their electoral return.

Otago University public law professor Andrew Geddis said if Sir Patrick did not have the necessary authorisation he may have committed an illegal practice and could be fined up to $10,000.

The Commission has not had a great record trying to enforce electoral law so I wouldn’t expect much from this.

But Hogan and the racing industry got what they may have expected from Peters – a special tax break for horse breeders. Last week’s budget allocate $5 million on tax deductions “for the costs of high quality horses acquired with the intention to breed” if it is a stand out yearling “that commands attention by virtue of its bloodlines, looks and racing potential”.

It wasn’t made clear whether the Minister for Racing would personally judge the quality and looks of yearlings.

See  Peters and a handsome horse called Neoliberalism.

UN Human Rights Council votes for investigation into Israel’s killing of Palestinians

The UN Human Rights Council has voted strongly in favour of an investigation into Israel’s killing of Palestinians during protests on the Gaza border this week.

  • For – 29 votes
  • Against – 2 votes (USA and Australia)
  • Abstained – 14

A television screen at the UN Human Rights Council shows how countries voted on a resolution approving an investigation into Israel's handling of deadly clashes on the Gaza border, on May 18, 2018. (Foreign Ministry)

New Zealand must not be on the Human Rights Council.

The Times of Israel: UN Human Rights Council votes to investigate Israel for Gaza protest deaths

The UN Human Rights Council on Friday voted to establish an investigation into Israel’s killing of Palestinians during protests along the Gaza border, in a move Israel rejected as being an attempt to undermine Israel’s right to self-defense.

The council voted 29 in favor and two against with 14 countries abstaining. Australia and the US were the two countries to oppose the decision. The council also condemned “the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians.”

The “independent, international commission of inquiry” mandated by the council will be asked to produce a final report next March.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the vote and the council as “irrelevant.”

It’s not irrelevant if there is good cause to investigate indiscriminate violence and killing – this applies to both the Palestinians and the Israelis. The investigation should look at whether either or both sides acted illegally. If Human Rights may have been breached then it is appropriate to investigate.

Next March is a long to wait for a result. A lot is likely to have happened in Gaza and Israel by then.

 

Russell McVeagh appoints investigator into sexual misconduct claims and admissions

Russell McVeagh have appointed Dame Margaret Bazley to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct within the law firm. Newsroom are continuing to put pressure on the issue.

RNZ: Dame Margaret Bazley to head Russell McVeagh review

Dame Margaret Bazley will lead the external review of allegations of sexual misconduct at law firm Russell McVeagh.

The firm – which provides legal services to the government – is in the spotlight over serious allegations of sexual misconduct levelled at two senior lawyers at its Wellington office, and separate revelations of alcohol-fuelled sex in a boardroom.

Those allegations and the firm’s response will be reviewed, as well as any other claims, and its culture and policies regarding sexual harassment.

Russell McVeagh chair Malcolm Crotty said women subjected to sexual harassment, as well as current staff and partners, wanted to be assured the review would be thorough.

“We think that Dame Margaret’s significant review into police conduct and culture resulting from the Louise Nicholas case will provide that assurance,” he said.

She will be assisted by a woman lawyer whose appointment will be announced shortly.

Pip Greenwood, a senior partner at Russell McVeagh, said the firm was “truly sorry and horrified” that the sexual harassment had occurred.

They admit that harassment has occurred.

“We are committed to ensuring that such incidents do not happen again. We are extremely grateful to Dame Margaret for agreeing to conduct this review. We have been conscious, in making this appointment, to appoint a person who is truly independent as well as who has experience in such work.”

Newsroom is continuing their pressure: Bazley to head inquiry into ‘sexual harassment’

The allegations are far from what is commonly understood as sexual harassment. They include complaints of sexual violation, including rape.

The firm’s announcement also reveals Dame Margaret’s report on the firm’s handling of the 2015/16 scandal and other “improper conduct” will not be made public. It will instead be shared with “stakeholders”, the Law Society and the law schools of the country’s universities.

So how will the public know that this isn’t another sweeping under the legal rug?

Russell McVeagh not only has a responsibility to deal properly with any proven harassment and sexual assault, they have a responsibility to the (presumed) majority of lawyers who are not involved and not guilty.

Otherwise the firm and the profession will retain a general taint.

Newsroom has been told Russell McVeagh’s portrayal today of the assaults and misconduct during the summer clerk programme as “sexual harassment” has gone down poorly among women closely connected to the case.

One former Russell McVeagh lawyer said: “This review is getting off on the wrong foot because it is minimising, from the outset, the gravity and nature of the alleged offending against the summer clerks. It confirms my scepticism that this review is just another window-dressing exercise.”

If it is kept secret then it will easily be construed as window-dressing.

Russell McVeagh lawyers who knew of complaints from the summer clerks of sexual assaults did not refer the matter to the Law Society, as required under its rules. The Society only learned of the accusations against two male lawyers from the firm when a woman concerned raised them with it between eight and nine months after the incidents.

If they broke Law Society rules that at least should be addressed properly and openly.

The firm conducted its own inquiry, let the two men leave its Wellington office with at least one continuing on Russell McVeagh client work, and changed its summer clerk programme with new rules over alcohol and treatment of women.

So they took some action, but under cover. Should they have referred any incidents to the police? Or did they improperly protect perpetrators and the company’s reputation?  The public should have confidence that things were done properly, or will be done properly to correct past cover-ups.

In the course of inquiries into Russell McVeagh’s handling of the summer clerk programme allegations, Newsroom has been informed of incidents involving eight male staffers accused of sexual misconduct, harassment or inappropriate behaviour to staff. Some have left the firm.

The incidents date from 2000, and some involve senior lawyers. Five allegations date from the past five years. The incidents, by year, are in the graphic above.

While the firm’s terms of reference – or scope – for Dame Margaret specify the incidents in 2015/16 and its aftermath, she should have scope to inquire into these further incidents under its second term “any other improper conduct that may be brought to the attention of the external reviewer and the firm’s response to those claims.”

Her inquiry into the sexual assaults by police against Rotorua woman Louise Nicholas took three years from 2004 to complete and report.

A proper investigation will take time, but time can defuse the public glare.

Dame Margaret is regarded as a thorough and exacting inquisitor. She will be helped on this Russell McVeagh review by an un-named woman lawyer.

She is a good choice, but will the public know she has investigated well and covered this thoroughly?

It is likely to be proper that some information remain private/secret, there may be very personal revelations, and also differences of claims and perceptions between accusers and accused, so due process is important.

But Russell McVeagh has admitted “the incidents of sexual harassment that have occurred at our firm have had a profound effect on the women involved and we are all truly sorry and horrified that they occurred.”

Unless this is public clarified and properly addressed the law firm reputation and all their lawyers will remain under a cloud of suspicion. The company has:

  • 36 partners
  • 8 special counsels
  • 20 senior associates
  • 6 company managers plus a Chief Executive Officer
  • junior lawyers and staff.

They owe it to victims, to the public, and to all of those staff who are not involved in any harassment or law breaking, and to the legal profession, to come clean.

 

No charges after Todd Barclay re-investigation

The police say they have no new evidence of that justifies re-opening the case against ex-MP Todd Barclay so no charges will be laid.

A number of news reports implied that this decision was because Barclay again refused to talk to the police, but as for anyone else that’s his right and a right that is commonly claimed on legal advice.

It wasn’t the reason for no charges being laid, as with any case police have to find sufficient evidence to justify a prosecution and they say they have not been able to do that. New information given to them and new interviews did not make a viable case.

Stuff:  No charges from Todd Barclay re-investigation – police

Police reopened an investigation into allegations Barclay, the former MP for Clutha-Southland, illegally recorded a staff-member after it emerged in June that former prime minister Bill English had been a key witness in the case.

Police have now closed the case as they have insufficient evidence.

“After a thorough review of all information available to us, including legal advice both internal and from Crown Law, plus consideration of the Solicitor General’s prosecution guidelines, Police has (sic) determined that there is no change to the outcome of the original investigation,” Assistant Commissioner (Investigations) Richard Chambers said.

Police rejected criticisms of the initial investigation and any claim that witnesses had been coerced.

“We are aware that the original investigation has been subject to some criticism,” Chambers said.

“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.”

Neither do concerted attempts to score political hits with no evidence.

Stuff details the whole shemozzle:  How the Todd Barclay story got here

 

Inland Revenue “could not have been the source” of Super leak

Inland Revenue says that the leak of Winston Peters’ super overpayment can’t have come from them because they never had the information.

Peters was reported by RNZ as saying “he believed Inland Revenue was to blame for the privacy breach”:  Investigations over pension leak as Peters plans complaint

Mr Peters has confirmed his fortnightly pension had been overpaid for several years and when he was notified in July he repaid it within 24 hours. He has not disclosed the sum but said it was less than the $18,000 reported in some media.

Both the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) and Inland Revenue (IRD) are trying to find the source of the leak and Mr Peters plans to lay a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner.

Mr Peters has told RNZ that he believed Inland Revenue was to blame for the privacy breach. Pension entitlements are calculated by Work and Income but payments are administered by the IRD.

Peters went on to blame MSD and the National Party, but Inland Revenue went ahead with an investigation. They have now reported on that.

IR completes investigation into leak allegation

Following information regarding Mr Winston Peters’ National Superannuation payments entering the public arena, Inland Revenue (IR) carried out an investigation to determine whether an IR staff member was the source of the information. The allegation that Inland Revenue had been the source of the information had been made and subsequently withdrawn by a journalist while interviewing Mr Peters.

New Zealanders trust IR with their personal financial information. It is essential that we can assure New Zealanders their personal information is respected and protected at all times.

Our investigation has found that IR does not hold the information that became public in relation to Mr Peters’ National Superannuation payments, and therefore could not have been the source.

If further information relating to this matter comes to light, IR will make further investigations as necessary.

 

IPCA clear Police on Barclay investigation

At least one complaint was made to the Independent Police Complaints Authority about the police investigation into Todd Barclay in Clutha-Southland. The IPCA has cleared the police.

RNZ: IPCA won’t pursue Barclay investigation complaint

The police watchdog has decided not to pursue a complaint about the handling of last year’s investigation into embattled Clutha-Southland MP Todd Barclay.

No charges were laid after several months of inquiries into a recording Mr Barclay was alleged to have made of a staffer in the Gore electorate office.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) received a complaint in June, but said it was satisfied there was no misconduct or neglect by police investigating the case.

It has notified the complainant and the Police Commissioner, and has closed its file.

At the time Mr Barclay declined to co-operate with the police investigation, and it has since been reopened.

The investigation was reopened after Barclay and Bill English made public statements about what happened.

Some people will never have been happy with an outcome like this. Winston Peters has already had a grizzle about it.

Stuff: IPCA clear police of any wrong doing in the handling of the Todd Barclay secret recording investigation

“In my view, the police haven’t satisfactorily answered why they didn’t pursue the case. They had complaints of a recording, they had a complainant and to the best of my knowledge we have not been told who they talked to or didn’t talk to,” Peters said.

“But to say they’re satisfied there was no misconduct is an extraordinary statement to make.”

It’s not extraordinary if they investigated thoroughly and that was the conclusion they came to.

Law on audio and video recordings

The Todd Barclay saga, in which the Police decided not to prosecute Barclay for making audio recordings of an employee in his electorate office in Gore (the Police are currently reviewing that decision) has raised the issue of what can and can’t be legally recorded.

Video recordings are legal:

Surveillance video is common in public and in work places.

The Privacy Commission website states that it is “usually unfair to record someone without telling them”.

Can I record someone without telling them?

Whether making an audio or visual recording of someone without telling them will breach the Privacy Act will depend on the circumstances in each case. In particular, it will depend on who is making the recording and why they are making it.

If you are an individual and you are making a recording in relation to you own personal, domestic or household affairs (for instance you’re recording a personal conversation with a friend), there is an exception which says that, generally, the Privacy Act won’t apply to what you do.

However, if you collect, use or disclose personal information in a way which would be highly offensive to a reasonable person, this exception will not apply. In other words, someone could make a complaint about you.

If you are making the recording for any reason, other than your own domestic, personal or household affairs, the general rules about collection of personal information will apply. In particular, it’s usually unfair to record someone without telling them.

You should also keep in mind that there may be other laws which apply apart from the Privacy Act – for instance, recording a private conversation that you’re not involved in will often be a crime.

That seems to be what Barclay was investigated for.

On usually unfair to record someone without telling them:

Can an agency make a video or audio recording of me without telling me?

Generally speaking, an agency must tell you if it is collecting your personal information.

However, there are some cases where an agency could collect your information without telling you. For instance, it might not have to tell you it was collecting your information if this would undermine the agency’s purpose for collecting the information in the first place, or if it would endanger the safety of any individual.

If you believe an agency has collected your information without telling you, we suggest that you contact the agency and ask to speak to their privacy officer to see if you can resolve any concerns you have about this directly.

If you’re not able to resolve your concerns, and you believe you have suffered some sort of harm as a result of the collection of your information, you can make a complaint to us.

Or make a complaint to the Police, as Glenys Dickson did in the Barclay case.

Andrew Geddis comments on this in It’s not the crime, it’s the coverup

…it’s not an offence to record yourself in conversation with others, even if they don’t know you are doing so. Nor is it an offence to record other people without their knowledge if they are not engaged in a “private communication”.

But the allegation against Barclay is that he left a dictaphone running when he wasn’t in his office so as to record what Dickson was saying in conversations with constituents.

Also in Police take another look at Barclay secret recording investigation

Geddis said the alleged breach in law on which Barclay was investigated needed to tick three boxes to be proved.

The first was there needed to be a recording with an “interception device”, as the law phrased. In this case, he said, the “device” was alleged to be a dictaphone.

Then it needed to be proved it was a private conversation – in this case, said to be the electorate office where Dickson worked.

The third element was proving that the recording was made intentionally, he said.

“If you could prove all three elements, the offence carries a jailable offence of up to two years.”

Conviction to the two-year point is the trigger which forces MPs to resign from Parliament.

Steven Price at Media Law Journal (in reference to the Bradley Ambrose case):

It’s a crime to intentionally intercept a private communication using an interception device. A private communication is one that is made under circumstances that may reasonably taken to indicate that any party to it desires it remain private, but:

does not include such a communication occurring in circumstances in which any party ought reasonably to expect that the communication may be intercepted by some other person not having the express or implied consent of any party to do so.

Although a battalion of journalists were about a metre away behind a window, let’s assume that Key and Banks couldn’t reasonably expect it to be overheard, and that the circumstances indicate that both desired their conversation to remain private.

In an electorate office if the conversation was in an open office where others were present and could hear it then it may not be private. But if Dickson was the only person present then it could be private.

The only issue, then, is whether the interception was intentional. On the paper’s account, it was inadvertent. In fact, it says, the cameraman tried to retrieve his recorder before the conversation but was stopped by Key’s security folk, and didn’t know that the recording was even happening. Now, I don’t know anything more than has been reported. But I wonder whether there is room for doubt about whether the cameraman genuinely didn’t know that the conversation was being recorded.

If it could be established that he did know, then he has committed an offence.

Bill English has said (in the now public police statement) “I had a conversation with him regarding Glenys Dickson leaving his office and he said to me that he had recordings of her criticising him”.

Barclay has said “I have read and Mr English’s statement to the police and accept it.”

“Recordings” is plural. It could be difficult claiming that more than one recording was accidental.

We will find out next week what the Police decide to do and whether they re-open the case or not.

Profound US political crisis

Charles Lipson writes at RealClear Politics about the political and legal problems in the US in Why America’s Political Crisis Is So Profound (this post follows on from Each political side sincerely believes).

If both sides trusted the government’s standard procedures to investigate and prosecute crimes, these disputes could be sorted out in the normal way.

Alas, nobody does.

Republicans considered Attorneys General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch little more than Democratic Party lapdogs trained to ignore misconduct by Obama’s White House and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Democrats managed to get the current AG, Jeff Sessions, to recuse himself from the department’s biggest case.

Everything James Comey said in 2016 and 2017, when he headed the FBI, was refracted through a partisan lens.

As a consequence, the reputations of Congress, the FBI, and the Department of Justice lie in ruins.

Along with the reputations of the republican and Democrat parties.

How serious do professionals think the crisis is? The best indicator is the unprecedented scale of leaking, especially of highly secret information. My conclusion: Many professionals in the intelligence community and the Justice Department—and perhaps some inside the Trump administration itself—believe that this president is doing things that endanger the country.

They are not leaking for the usual reason—to favor their policy. They are leaking as a patriotic duty.

I’m sure some of the leaking is for purely political and power broking purposes, and some will be out of spite, but that’s business as usual and the degree and type of leaks currently happening go much further than normal, so could well be out of a genuine belief in having a patriotic duty to do so. The consequences are significant, both for the US and for the individual leakers if they are prosecuted.

On the other side, Trump’s people think a “deep state” is pushing back, trying to destroy an outsider who came to Washington to change things. What they see is an unconstitutional effort to drive a duly-elected president out of office. These entrenched interests are essentially committed to pulling off a coup d’état.

Some will genuinely believe in a “deep state” conspiracy.I think things are much more complex.

In this dark tangle, there are two bright spots. One is the bipartisan collaboration between Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), who are leading the Senate investigation into Russian interference. If they can ultimately produce a report signed by both sides, they will go a long way to restoring confidence in government.

I’m not sure about this. Beliefs are so entrenched that it’s hard to see any outcome satisfying everyone and settling the rancour and restoring some confidence – confidence in the White House, Senate and Congress may be irreparably damaged.

The other is Robert Mueller’s appointment as a special counsel for the Justice Department. The former head of the FBI is an experienced, non-partisan investigator. Although his record handling high-profile investigations is hardly flawless, his integrity is unquestioned by either side. However, as many observed, there are cautionary examples indicating how easy it is for special prosecutors to overreach. The investigations last too long, go off on tangents, or reach for an easy trophy to display.

Mueller knows those dangers and, hopefully, can avoid them. He is not only a true, independent professional, he’s the only person with the stature to actually clear the president and his closest aides if they are innocent. It is crucial he move quickly, despite the complexity of the case, because the charges themselves are paralyzing Washington.

Mueller may be seen as genuinely non-partisan, but any outcome of the investigation he leads is unlikely to satisfy everyone. Partisans are likely to see a problem with any non-favourable outcome.

And after the investigation Donald Trump will almost certainly still be president. Unless there is a profound change in how he and his administration conducts itself, and unless there is a profound change in the degree and size of the partisan, I think the profound crisis in America will continue.

Dotcom offers evidence to US investigation

Kim Dotcom has offered evidence ti the Special Counsel investigating interference in the US presidential election last year and has volunteered to give it in person, providing he is guaranteed safe passage into and out of the US.


Kim Dotcom Approaches Special Counsel

KIM DOTCOM APPROACHES SPECIAL COUNSEL INVESTIGATING INTERFERENCE WITH THE 2016 UNITED STATES PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION REGARDING EVIDENCE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
30 May 2017

In accordance with his previous statement on this matter, Kim Dotcom’s solicitors in New Zealand have today sent the following letter to Robert Mueller, Special Counsel appointed to investigate interference with the 2016 United States presidential election and related matters:

30 May 2017

Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Attention: Robert Mueller, Special Counsel

Dear Sir

INVESTIGATION INTO INTERFERENCE WITH THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION AND RELATED MATTERS

1. We act for Kim Dotcom in New Zealand.

2. We are writing to you in your capacity as special counsel appointed to carry out the above investigation pursuant to Order 3915-2017 (Investigation).

3. Mr Dotcom has evidence that he considers relevant to the Investigation. The purpose of this letter is to confirm that, subject to appropriate arrangements being made and his constitutional rights being preserved, Mr Dotcom is willing to provide this evidence to the Investigation. He has instructed us to make this approach to initiate the necessary dialogue as to the required arrangements.

4. As you may be aware, Mr Dotcom resides in New Zealand. Since 2012, the United States has been seeking his extradition to face a criminal prosecution arising from his involvement in the Megaupload group of companies. Presently, Mr Dotcom is on bail while he exercises (as he is entitled to) his rights under New Zealand law to resist extradition. Mr Dotcom emphatically denies the alleged offending and is committed to defending the allegations in the extradition proceeding in New Zealand.

5. Mr Dotcom is also committed to achieving an outcome where his evidence can be properly received and reviewed by you as part of the Investigation. You will, however, appreciate that, given his current status, he is not in a position to voluntarily leave New Zealand’s jurisdiction. Further, he is concerned that, should he travel to the United States voluntarily, he would be arrested and detained in custody on the current counts on which he has been indicted.

6. Accordingly, for Mr Dotcom to attend in person in the United States to make a statement, and/or give oral evidence at any subsequent hearing, special arrangements would need to be discussed and agreed between all relevant parties. Such arrangements would need to include arrangements for his safe passage from New Zealand and return. This is because Mr Dotcom is determined to clear his name in New Zealand.

7. Mr Dotcom invites the Department of Justice to contact him through counsel to progress the taking of his evidence once you have had an opportunity to consider this letter and are in a position to discuss the required process and appropriate safeguards.

8. We look forward to hearing from you. If you have any questions, or require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Yours faithfully
ANDERSON CREAGH LAI LIMITED
Phil Creagh
Director

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1705/S00469/kim-dotcom-approaches-special-counsel.htm


There are other simpler options.

He could send his evidence.

A representative of the investigation could come to New Zealand to see Dotcom.

Or a representative of the US already in New Zealand could receive the evidence from Dotcom and pass it on.

It’s hard to know whether Dotcom genuinely has information that will help the inquiry, or if he is grandstanding, or if he is playing games with the US.

It’s possible that he wants to meet with people in the US to discuss his own extradition case to try and deal with that.

Regardless, one could easily be suspicious of his motivation – why would he want to help the investigation?

Would Dotcom be prepared to give the US evidence of everything he knows about hacking or otherwise obtaining information and what WikiLeaks does with it and why?

 

73% want US election inquiry v Russia

A clear majority of Americans want an independent, non-partisan commission instead of Congress to investigate Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

NBC News: 73% Back Independent Probe of Russian Election Interference

Seventy-three percent of respondents prefer the independent investigation, versus 16 percent who pick Congress.

Still, a majority of Americans — 54 percent — believe that Congress should investigate whether there was contact between the Russian government and the Trump campaign, which is essentially unchanged from February’s NBC/WSJ poll.

That’s clear majorities for all but Republicans.

The NBC/WSJ poll was conducted April 17-20 of 900 adults, including more than 400 who were reached via cell phone. The poll has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.3 percentage points.