Stress of Covid quarantine leads to arrest

From Gezza:


It appears that quarantine requirements are very strict, the conditions of those under enforced quarantine more rudimentary than generally realised, & that the services & help available to those effectively sentenced to temporary detention in designated quarantine hotels are causing significant mental health problems for some detainees.

Also, that the police response to those driven by panic or mental distress to escape to outside may sometimes be over the top & harsh. The court’s response to this case could be instructive – although it’s entirely possible that we, the public, will hear little or nothing about it, cos suppression orders.

… … … …
A man has been arrested after trying to escape an Auckland hotel minutes after a fire alarm was triggered.

A witness to the event said the man was distressed and “tried to escape” when he was detained by six police officers.

Police confirmed the man’s arrest and said it was in connection to a “mental health incident”.

The arrest comes on the back of a series of incidents reported by Kiwis in quarantine or managed isolation, some who say the strict restrictions have adversely affected their mental health.

Recently, a 24-hour ban on walking was enforced at some hotels to allow authorities to figure out a way to keep guests, and the public, safe.

The ban came under the scrutiny of the Human Rights Commission who said people who were legally required to stay in quarantine should have access to necessities.

In April, a woman was found in a distressed state in the Novotel Hotel car park by security officers. The woman, who was in her thirteenth day of managed isolation, was issued her with a warning from police.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/121609674/coronavirus-quarantined-man-arrested-after-incident-outside-auckland-hotel

It bothers me that this sort of thing doesn’t bode well for the police’s relations with the public. For the first time in my life, when I see them cruising through Tawa, I find myself now watching them automatically with some suspicion.

I have to actually do an intellectual override of that negative gut reaction, because these public protectors might not all be perfect, but they see some bloody awful things, have to deal with some difficult, even dangerous people, have often got a really shit job to do that none of us would take on, & I respect them for that.

Police managed the firearms buy back scheme well – Auditor-General

The Auditor-General has investigated the firearms buy-back and amnesty scheme that was put in place following the deaths of 51 people at the Christchurch mosque shootings, and says that the Police managed the scheme well, but advised that “more work should be done to find out what level of compliance with the scheme has been achieved and the extent to which it has made New Zealanders safer.”

The Minister of police summarised the findings of the report in Gun buyback well run, ongoing work needed

  • The buyback scheme was complex, challenging, and high risk, and Police managed it effectively,
  • 61,332 prohibited firearms were collected, destroyed, or modified, as at February 2020. Every single one of them was tightly traced and accounted for during the process.
  • Compensation of $102 million was paid and the final cost is forecast to be $120 million. Police took a principled and informed approach to compensation prices,
  • Police communicated well with the public, and treated gun owners with empathy and respect. There was a wide range of opportunities for people to hand in guns,
  • No one could be certain how many prohibited firearms existed before the law change. Police estimates, scrutinised by NZIER, suggested it could range from 55,000 to 240,000 firearms. NZIER advised part of the uncertainty was because guns could be easily modified with certain parts to make them a prohibited firearm,
  • There were deficiencies in how information was recorded in the past for military style semi-automatics, or E-category firearms. However Police were successful in locating them and are actively following up outstanding items,
  • The buyback scheme was supported by good systems and processes, with a robust level of oversight,
  • It cost more to administer the scheme than first anticipated. The initial estimate of $18 million grew to $35 million which Police met from internal budgets. The OAG found financial controls were appropriate and there was no wasteful spending,
  • More work is needed to process some applications. The OAG Report lists the number of outstanding applications as at February 2020, but the figures are now lower. Police are expected to keep publicly reporting on this till it is complete,
  • The scheme is important for the well-being of New Zealanders and Police should carry out a formal evaluation to look at compliance with firearms laws and improvements to public safety over time.

From the OAG report:

As part of the response to the attacks, Parliament passed the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Act 2019 on 11 April 2019. The Act prohibited firearms with the ability to cause harm in a rapid and highly destructive way from a distance.

The Act, supplemented by a set of associated statutory regulations, included a provision for a firearms buy-back and amnesty scheme (the scheme). The scheme allowed owners of newly prohibited firearms, magazines, and parts to hand them in to the New Zealand Police (the Police) in exchange for compensation. The purpose of the scheme was to improve public safety. We examined how effectively and efficiently the Police implemented the scheme.

We thought it important to provide the Police with real-time feedback so that they could make any improvements the scheme needed quickly. The Police were open to receiving and acting on Ernst & Young’s feedback and recommendations. I commend the Police for the open approach they took to this assurance work.

We make no comment on the policy decision to have a buy-back scheme because commenting on policy decisions is outside of my statutory mandate.

The Police managed the scheme effectively

Implementing the scheme was a complex, challenging, and high-risk task, and the Police had to do it in tight time frames.

The Police communicated with the public well

We found that the Police, assessors, and support staff treated people handing in firearms with empathy and respect. Firearms assessors were trained extensively to make fair decisions on compensating people for their firearms.

The scheme was supported by good systems and processes

The Police used a software system to register and track handed-in firearms and process compensation payments. This system was well designed and thoroughly tested before it went live. Although it mostly worked well, some internet connectivity issues caused delays at some local collection events.

Compensation payments did not exceed what was appropriated, and ACC’s contribution was compatible with its statutory functions

The 2019 Budget included an appropriation of $150 million in Vote Police to fund compensation payments for people handing in their prohibited firearms, magazines, and parts. The Police’s provisional information at 20 December 2019 shows that compensation payments to that date totalled $102 million.

Administering the scheme cost considerably more than estimated

In March 2019, the Police produced an initial estimate that administering the scheme would cost $18 million.

he Police now estimate that, once fully completed, administering the scheme will have cost up to $35 million. This includes costs of tracked staff time, contractors, and goods and services.

The Police need to finish implementing the scheme and make improvements to support their regulatory responsibilities

The Police still have much work to do to complete the scheme.

The process of implementing the scheme is ongoing and has proved more challenging than the Police anticipated. Some firearms still need modifications to comply with the new regulatory requirements, and the Police are still processing applications for endorsements to use newly prohibited firearms for a limited range of purposes. In my view, the Police should continue to report publicly on the performance of the scheme until they have completed this remaining work. The Police should also report to Parliament about the final outcomes of the scheme.

Importantly, the scheme is only one component of firearms regulation the Police have to implement. The Government introduced a Bill on 13 September 2019 that includes a wide range of controls on the use and possession of firearms. Parliament was considering this Bill at the time we were writing this report.

Concluding thoughts

The Police managed the scheme well. They were effective in providing people with a wide range of opportunities to hand in firearms and receive compensation, which was paid in a timely manner. The public was kept safe at local collection events, and the Police made considerable efforts to treat people with empathy and respect. However, there is still much work to be done, and the Police should continue to focus on completing the scheme.

We do not yet know how effective the scheme was in removing all newly prohibited firearms, magazines, and parts from the community. This is because there is no reliable picture of how many newly prohibited firearms, magazines, and parts remain in the community. Without this picture, I cannot determine whether implementing the scheme has delivered value for money.

In my view, given the high level of public interest and expenditure, and the importance of this scheme for the well-being of all New Zealanders, more work should be done to find out what level of compliance with the scheme has been achieved and the extent to which it has made New Zealanders safer.

Read the whole report (52 pages)

 

Despite fine, reparation and sentence police restrain all company’s assets for ‘proceeds of crime’ over a Health and Safety offence

A workplace accident and employee death in 2015 resulted in a costing a company nearly $400,000 in fines and reparations, and the company owner, who accepted responsibility, being  sentenced to four and a half months home detention in 2017.

But that wasn’t the end of the matter. Two years later, late in 2019, police restrained all of the company owner’s assets under the proceeds of crime legislation.

… it was in relation to the same health and safety prosecution in which Ron and Salters Cartage had already pleaded guilty and been sentenced.  Having already secured a criminal conviction, the police had decided to take the extraordinary step of pursuing a business owner through the civil courts for the alleged “proceeds” of a health and safety offence.

It looks like a fairly ordinary Kiwi family bloke and business owner could lose everything he had built up over 38 years.

This is an extraordinary story, and quite alarming, unless there is something else to this story not yet revealed by the police.


The police want to take every dollar Ron Salter has ever made

A South Auckland businessman is under siege by police who are using laws designed to target gangs and drug dealers to come after his family business, his home, and even his children’s assets. At a time when we’ve handed police extraordinary powers to deal with a health pandemic, Matt Blomfield argues that trust is being betrayed.

Over the last five years I have carved out a role for myself as a person you turn to when things go bad. And when I say bad I have seen some pretty spectacular f*ck ups. When you are in the business of fixing life’s little mistakes, you find that your work comes from all walks of life and try as I might I like to think I don’t discriminate when it comes to my clients.

During that time, I have worked for some amazing people and also some infamous individuals. Often the balance between what is morally correct and my own personal view that everyone deserves help is something I struggle with.

When I discuss it with friends and family, I often reference the obligations that lawyers have when representing a client. Everyone has a right to justice and should have an opportunity to have their side of the story heard.

The slight difference is that I like to  think that my role includes an added bonus in that I can attempt to get things back on track and show my clients that life is just that little bit simpler if you play by the rules and remove some of the complication that comes with pushing boundaries.

In saying that sometimes I have clients where a clear cut injustice has occurred, and there is zero moral ambiguity. Where bad luck has combined with an extraordinary set of circumstances to result in an unjust outcome. These are the ones I enjoy the most.

So with the blessing of my client I would like to ask you to listen to a story not about Covid-19, but about an unfortunate sequence of events which has left my client fighting for their very survival.

In late 2015 I was introduced to Ron Salter who is the owner and founder of Salters Cartage, a South Auckland waste collection and recycling company.

A few months earlier, on September 15, 2015, Jamey Lee Bowring, an employee of a contractor to Salters Cartage, called Raceworks, working at the Salters Cartage business, was killed after the 100,000-litre fuel tank he was welding exploded.

It was a tragedy, a young man losing his life at just 24 years old. There were no winners in this story. I recall thinking about Jamie’s mother and how she would have reacted when she got the news. I have two daughters and in my mind I’m not sure if I could think of a worse situation than me outliving one of them.

Like all of the cases I work on, the first thing I try to do is understand the client. What am I dealing with and what is really going on here?

Ron Salter is by trade a truck driver, who over several decades built up a very successful business. He is a hard man and initially that was all I saw. It wasn’t until I had spent a couple of months working with Ron that I actually found out who he is.

Ron is first and foremost a family man, and Salters Cartage is a family business.  The kind of business that is the backbone of New Zealand’s economy.

The more time I spent with the Salter family the more I came to understand that this was the quintessential Kiwi family running their own business and Ron was that hard arse dad who secretly was a big softy and loved his family unconditionally.

Just prior to lockdown I noticed a picture of Ron on his daughter’s Facebook page. He was in the swimming pool with his granddaughter. His daughter commented: “As a kid growing up I don’t remember my dad getting in the pool/water but little miss says “pop pop come in water” and he’s in”.

That side of Ron is why, at the earliest opportunity, he said sorry for the accident and accepted he made a mistake. This was something Ron insisted on.

Just over two years on from Jamie’s death, on November 23, 2017, Ron was sentenced to four and a half months’ home detention and he and his company were ordered to pay nearly $400,000 in fines and reparations, which they did.

The same day a story was published in the New Zealand Herald entitled “Auckland business owner sentenced for fuel tank explosion which killed worker”. The story includes a video interview of Ron which captures the man I know and the hurt that he and his family went through.

That’s not to say what happened to the Salter family could ever compete with losing a child. Jamie’s mother Sarah Ferguson has said she does not accept Ron’s remorse and I don’t think I could if I was her.

My role with Salters Cartage finished up in early 2018. It was an interesting project, it touched on so many aspects of life, a mother losing a child, a business owner dealing with the guilt and responsibility for the part they played, the all-encompassing litigation process, something that I understand all too well, the toll that can take on individuals, and the support of wider friends and family unit that rallied around during this awful time. There were no winners in this story, but it was finally over. Justice was done.

Moving forward, I would check in with Ron and the family on occasion. They had a job to get on with and didn’t need my help. They were rebuilding their lives and getting their Salters Cartage family back on track. I heard through a mutual acquaintance that Ron was looking at selling the business and retiring and I recall thinking that it was not surprising. Ron had done it hard over the past few years.

Then in December last year I heard that the police had restrained all of Ron’s assets under the proceeds of crime legislation.

At the time I had limited knowledge of proceeds of crime laws and my immediate reaction was ‘what have I missed’? My mind conjured up images of drug dealing and gangs. It just made no sense.

After further clarification I realised that it was in relation to the same health and safety prosecution in which Ron and Salters Cartage had already pleaded guilty and been sentenced.  Having already secured a criminal conviction, the police had decided to take the extraordinary step of pursuing a business owner through the civil courts for the alleged “proceeds” of a health and safety offence.

I called Ron and he explained in a slightly panicked fashion, “they are wanting to take my house, my daughter’s house, the bach, the business, everything”. His life’s work and his legacy. I was lost for words. It just didn’t make any sense to me.

I recall thinking about double jeopardy – the principle that a person should not be subject to two prosecutions or punishments for the same offence. And then wondering whether a claim to forfeit assets constitutes a second punishment or a severely harsh punishment when viewed together with the original sentence.

It was a major, the Salter family stood to lose a lifetime of effort. This was not just Ron’s business, it’s the Salter family business which includes the families of their 30 employees, who are essentially an extension of the family.

Police have sought restraints over more than $8 million of the Salters’ personal assets as well as business assets over and above this.  An application to forfeit those same assets will inevitably follow.

To be clear, this legislation was brought in to go after drug dealers, gang members, money launderers and other sophisticated criminal enterprises that break the law for commercial gain. It operates on a simple philosophy: the police say ‘we think you’ve obtained this by nefarious means, prove us wrong’.

The reach of the legislation extends to anything that the police believe is “tainted”. The example I use is if a drug dealer owns a house and pays for a new roof with drug money, the police can take the house. The police can also take untainted assets to the value of the benefit they say you have received as a result of criminal activity.  It’s hard for me to draw a parallel between a gang member selling methamphetamine and Salters Cartage collecting and recycling waste oil.   As bizarre as it sounds, the police are saying the income that Salters Cartage received is like drug money. If it is, so too is the income of the hundreds of businesses convicted of health and safety offences in New Zealand every year, let alone other regulatory offences.  What’s next – resource management breaches?

In the five years to July 2014, police restrained nearly half a billion dollars worth of cash, property, cars, boats, motorcycles with gold-plate rims and every other trapping of a drug dealer’s lifestyle you can imagine. Police estimated half of that came from methamphetamine.

The recovered money goes into a contestable fund that has provided millions to drug and alcohol rehabilitation services, mental health services and crime reduction initiatives. Proper Robin Hood stuff.

However, in the Salters Cartage case the police are using the proceeds of crime legislation for the first time in the aftermath of a health and safety case.

In an exit interview with the Herald just a few weeks ago, the former commissioner of police Mike Bush summed up one of the key tenets of his six year tenure as follows: “How we apply our discretion is critical to building trust and confidence.”

“The one thing people look for is the consistent application. And that’s what we’ve been driving hard.”

If that’s the case, why didn’t the police attempt to seize Watercare’s assets, after the 2011 explosion that killed one of its workers and left another a double amputee? Or Canadian Piping, the firm convicted of failing to protect employees in the same blast. Should the directors of Watercare have feared that their family homes were at risk?

There have been around 700 workplace deaths in New Zealand since 2011, and more than two dozen firms have been prosecuted for breaching the health and safety legislation where death occurred.

Where is the consistent application of the law that Bush is so proud of?

It is no secret that New Zealand’s small to medium enterprises are the backbone of this country. Right now, as we emerge from Level 4 lockdown, they are at once under unprecedented strain while being needed more than ever to jumpstart our post-COVID 19 economy.

According to one Government estimate, they make up 97 per cent of all New Zealand businesses, employ more than 630,000 people or 29 per cent of all New Zealand workers.

It’s tough enough running your own business, as a business owner you take responsibility for the livelihoods of all of your staff, you take responsibility for the risks that come with owning your business from loans to compliance to tax.

If it goes badly you can’t just walk away. These business owners are brave and they should be respected, they should be looked after, and they should be supported.  Without them, the economic landscape in New Zealand would be very different.

We spend plenty of time making sure that employees are looked after and that they have the support of their employers.  And rightly so.  But less time is spent thinking about the brave directors that take on the responsibilities and risks that create employment. I can imagine that many will say that with risk comes reward and I accept that but, in this case, we are talking about a family that could lose everything they have earned in the past 38 years.  There are many, many other businesses out there just like Salters Cartage.

This will have an effect on three generations of this family. Putting aside the inevitable closure of Salters Cartage as we know it if the police are successful, we are talking about Ron and his wife Natalie’s daughter’s home, the family bach, the home in which Ron and Natalie planned to live out their retirement, and finally the livelihoods of all of the staff and their families.

So, most of my lockdown was spent trying to find a way through for the Salter family. That now includes dealing with Covid-19 and the fact they have all but closed the doors over the lockdown.  They have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars but, unlike many other businesses, all of their staff still have their jobs.

The Salter family is doing it hard.  Ron and his family accepted responsibility for what happened;  Ron and Salters Cartage performed the sentence imposed.  In addition to funding this litigation, which will could take years to resolve, now they have the added complication of Covid-19.  In my mind it’s just not fair. I really wish the police would use their resources, budget and energy to take down gangs and drug dealers because isn’t that what the proceeds of crime legislation was intended for? I can’t rationalise in my mind why the police have put the Salters family, and family businesses just like theirs, at the top of their to-do list, while many who have clearly profited from crime flaunt their wealth on Instagram. It just does not make sense!

Salters Cartage is truly a family owned and operated New Zealand business. It is an example of what makes New Zealand great and what we need to focus on to get through this Covid-19 debacle. I am confident that the police will be unsuccessful in their case but my hope is that the fight doesn’t destroy this amazing family and the New Zealand-owned family business that was almost 40 years in the making. That’s not justice and not what New Zealand wants or deserves from the New Zealand police.

Matt Blomfield is a business consultant and the subject of Whale Oil, a book about standing up to bullies and his quest for justice. It was nominated in the best general non-fiction category at the 2020 Ockham Awards.

Police have important additional powers but mustn’t abuse them

Open Letter to The NZ Police

From: Catriona MacLennan

Dear New Zealand Police, Aotearoa has not given you a blank cheque for your response to Covid-19.

These are unprecedented times and the government on 25 March made a State of National Emergency declaration – only the second time in New Zealand history that this has been done.

Authorities now have the power to close roads and public places; regulate land, water and air traffic; evacuate any premises; and bar people or vehicles from any premises or places.

It is hard to get our heads around the extent of these powers. They are not something most New Zealanders have ever imagined.

Despite that, most Kiwis understand and accept the decisions the government has made. An overwhelming majority of the population has accepted massive restrictions on daily life and the sweeping away of civil liberties and freedoms.

You, the New Zealand police, will be the most visible figures exercising and enforcing the new emergency powers. Police Commissioner Mike Bush explained this by saying that people would be greeted by the “friendly face” of the police during the four-week lockdown.

But, already, there is cause for concern.

A number of instances of what appears to have been heavy-handedness on your part have been reported and there also appears to be a lack of consistency in the way you are exercising your powers.

New Zealanders realise that it is extremely frustrating for you to deal with numerous people who are flouting the lockdown and refusing to comply. But it is not legal for you to come down hard on people simply because you are annoyed that enforcing the lockdown places your own health at risk.

Similarly, it is understandable that Bush said it would pay for essential workers to carry work identity cards or letters from their employers.

That makes it quick and easy for the police to see that someone should be out and about. However, you need to remember that there is no legal obligation for any New Zealander to carry such information. That means that people cannot be forced to carry such documents and it is not an offence to fail to do so.

You and other agencies need to swiftly standardise your advice about the fine detail of when people can and cannot leave their homes. Your bosses must then ensure that all staff on the ground are clear about the rules.

You need to remember that you can only police the country effectively with the consent of the public.

Contradictory messages and over-the-top enforcement will rapidly erode public goodwill and result in increasing failure to comply.

In turn, that will raise the spectre of order starting to break down. New Zealand does not want to go there.

You need look no further than the six-month trial of armed police patrols, which began in Counties Manukau, Canterbury and the Waikato on 28 October to understand why some New Zealanders are worried about the way you are exercising the pandemic emergency powers. When the pilot was announced, Bush told the public that the changed operating environment since the Canterbury mosque shootings, the impact of methamphetamine-fuelled offending and the growth in organised crime were the reasons for establishing the rapid reaction armed teams.

But figures released in early March 2020 showed that the units were deployed 75 times a day in their first five weeks. That is a staggering figure and means the teams were called out at 50 times the rate that Armed Offenders Squads were last year.

It is extremely hard to credit that this is necessary.

The public was accordingly already anxious about mission creep in your use of armed teams. The sudden conferral of wide-ranging new powers on officers arising from Covid-19 exacerbates that worry.

For Māori, the concern is even greater as they are subjected to more stops, arrests, detention and charges in normal times than other New Zealanders are.

You, the police, are there to uphold the law. New Zealand is a democracy. It is not a police state.

We, the public, will obey the new laws. But we will also be policing your use of them.

https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/covid-19/412906/an-open-letter-to-the-police-in-a-time-of-covid-19

Covid-19 daily update (MOH and police) – 78 new cases, total 283

Today’s update as usual from MoH’s Director General Dr Ashley Bloomfield:

78 new cases (73 confirmed, 5 probable) – quite a jump to a total of 283.

Summary

As at 9.30 am, 26 March 2020
Total to date New in last 24 hours
Number of confirmed cases in New Zealand 262 73
Number of probable cases 21 5
Number of confirmed and probable cases 283 78
Number of cases in hospital 7 2
Number of recovered cases 27 5

Map of cases - tabular data to follow.

Details: https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus/covid-19-current-cases

Tests yesterday 2,417 and total tests 12,683 – average per day over the last week 1,400 which may partially explain the jump in number of cases.

Most cases are still linked to overseas travel, but there are also ‘clusters’ – a Wellington group were at a wedding. They are still dealing with cases related to the Ruby Princess cruise ship when it was in Napier.

From Pharmac – there has been some stockpiling so from tonight all funded prescriptions will be limited to one month’s supply (3 months for contraceptives). There is no shortage, they just need to control supply chains.

How many cases? “It may get into the thousands”.

And also Police Commissioner Mike Bush.

He first refers to the guilty plea of the Christchurch mosque murderer.

Day 1 about how the police go about responding to level 4. The majority of new Zealanders are complying.

Initially police will use their discretion and educate people when finding people way from their homes. Some will be essential workers, some will have legitimate health or food shopping reasons for travel. Some stopped by the police say they knew nothing about the lockdown.

He said that those returning to NZ from overseas today without a plan for isolation have been met by numerous officials (customs, police etc) and then triaged to locations for self isolation.

360 arrived at Auckland Airport this morning, 8 were deemed to have symptoms and a risk. 160 had no plans and also needed ‘facilitated’ with being put somewhere safe.


RNZ Live:

Marist College in Auckland says there are now 11 cases of Covid-19 at the school and more are expected tomorrow.

In a statement, the board chair Stephen Dallow, says seven teachers and four students have tested positive.

He says the principal, Raechelle Taulu, is among those who tested positive today.

The entire school of about 750 students, as well as staff, is classed as close contacts and Mr Dallow asked them to ensure strict isolation rules.

That shows how quickly and widely it can spread.

New threats directed at mosque being investigated

New threats have been made online against the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch that was the target of a mass shooting nearly a year ago.

While online attacks on Muslims have continued since the massacre I think this latest threat is more likely to strengthen defence and support of Muslims in New Zealand.

Stuff:  Worshippers at the Al Noor mosque photographed in terror threat

Members of Christchurch’s Al Noor mosque have increased their security measures following an apparent terror threat, two weeks before the first anniversary of the March 15 attack in which 51 worshippers were gunned down.

The threat was issued on Sunday night on an encrypted messaging app, accompanied by a photo of a masked man sitting in a car outside the mosque.

A police spokeswoman has confirmed an investigation into the threat is under way.

The threat and accompanying photo was posted anonymously to more than 2000 followers on a messaging channel on the encrypted communication app Telegram.

The image shows a man wearing dark sunglasses and a balaclava printed with an image of a human skull. Through a car window the front of the Al Noor mosque can be seen.

In the background, four people are visible at the entrance of the mosque.

The message attached, written in both English and Russian, implies the people at the “same mosque” would be greeting each other for the “last time”. A gun emoji, or symbol, is also used in the message.

The image was posted on a messaging channel dedicated to celebrating the March 15 terror attack.

A very small minority involved, but this is still insidious.

RNZ: Muslims on high alert after report of threat against Christchurch mosque

On Sunday, members of the Al Noor Mosque were the subject of a reported terror threat, which police are investigating.

The Islamic Women’s Council’s national co-ordinator, Anjum Rahman, said the threat was the fourth she was aware of since the attacks.

“We have been talking to authorities for some months, since last year, definitely, about preparations coming into 15 March,” Rahman said.

“Absolutely, we were expecting this and possibly worse things.”

Rahman said racist and xenophobic extremists were emboldened by the 15 March attack.

“There were two things that happened after the mosque attacks,” she said.

“The first was that huge outpouring of solidarity and support, but the other thing that happened at the same time was that people that were that way inclined felt emboldened and strengthened and more connected.

“The negative and hateful commentary online has not stopped, and I believe it influences the way these people think.”

She said the current political environment meant that people “who aren’t the targets of these kinds of threats have a louder voice than those who are vulnerable to them”.

It’s not just anonymous online extremists being called out.

Newsroom: Jones’ attacks on Indian students a timely reminder

It is extraordinary that as we approach the one-year anniversary of a devastating terror attack at two Christchurch mosques by a white supremacist, a senior politician has directed an inflammatory broadside against the Indian student community in New Zealand.

Shane Jones, the New Zealand First Minister for Infrastructure, Forestry and Regional Economic Development in the Labour-led Coalition Government, said on Saturday New Zealand’s current immigration policy is “unfettered” and specifically attacked students from India who, in his view, “have ruined many of those [academic] institutions” they have attended in this country.

While this is not the first time prominent figures have resorted to xenophobic dog whistle politics in an election year, the Christchurch atrocity highlighted the very real dangers of allowing such narratives to go unchallenged.

But Jones’ comments on Saturday are a reminder that some New Zealand politicians still do not recognise that the battle against extremism after Christchurch begins at home and that there is a responsibility to refrain from words and actions that encourage intolerance, exclusion and even violence.

In this context, not only are Jones’ words racist and inflammatory, they are also wrong. It is important to emphasise that there is no evidence whatsoever to support his specific allegations regarding Indian students, or other groups of international students more generally.

That was written by Professor Harlene Hayne, Vice-Chancellor and Robert Patman, a Professor of International Relations, both from the University of Otago.

Prime Minister Ardern has ‘reprimanded’ Jones but he seems unrepentant, saying he has a mandate from NZ First to ‘contually speak’ about immigration – see Ardern says Jones was loose and wrong, but Jones unrepentant.

Police say they expect to take action over the person or people involved in the latest threats made against Al Noor mosque.

NZ First referred to police/Serious Fraud Office

It is unclear who exactly is in the firing line (people-wise), but the the Electoral Commission has referred the party donation arrangements involving the NZ First Foundation to the police, who immediately passed the matter on to the Serious Fraud Office.

Winston Peters has rfesponded saying the party would review it’s donation arrangements.

Electoral Commission: Statement on donations enquiries

The Electoral Commission has made enquiries into issues raised regarding the New Zealand First Party and the New Zealand First Foundation and their compliance with the requirements for donations and loans.

Based on the information available, we have formed the view that the New Zealand First Foundation has received donations which should have been treated as party donations for the New Zealand First Party. In the Commission’s view, the donations were not properly transmitted to the Party and not disclosed as required by the Electoral Act 1993.

The Commission does not have the investigative powers to form a view about whether this failure to transmit and the non-disclosure means offences have been committed. These matters have therefore been referred to the New Zealand Police, which have the necessary powers to investigate the knowledge and intent of those involved in fundraising, donating, and reporting donations.

The Police immediately handed the matter on to the Serious Fraud Office.

Andrew Geddis (The Spinoff):  The NZ First donations investigation had to happen. And ignorance is no excuse

Let me start by saying that I am not in the least surprised by this development. Not. In. The. Least.

Contrary to Winston Peter’s assertions to the contrary, I know evidence when I see it. And the documentary material that Guyon Espiner shared with me for his RNZ stories here and here revealed something very unusual taking place.

In short, the material appeared to show people with involvement in running the NZ First Party accepting donations intended to help that party, banking them into a “New Zealand First Foundation” account separate from the party proper, then using that money to pay for party costs. But because those donations hadn’t made it into the NZ First Party’s account, the NZ First party secretary hadn’t reported them to the Electoral Commission.

If the donations to the NZ First Foundation are party donations (as the commission thinks), then the Electoral Act required that they be “transmitted” (i.e. handed over) to the NZ First Party’s secretary. This apparently never happened; indeed, the party secretary publicly has sought to disassociate herself from the foundation’s activities.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the secretary is off the hook. Because, if the money paid into the NZ First Foundation’s account are party donations, then they ought to have been disclosed to the Electoral Commission. And as they weren’t, then the party secretary is responsible for that failure unless she can prove she didn’t mean hide the facts and “took all reasonable steps in the circumstances to ensure that the information … was accurate.”

RNZ: Donations made to NZ First Foundation referred to police for investigation

When asked if this would have any bearing on the governing relationship between New Zealand First and Labour, Ardern said the matter had only just been referred to the SFO, and she intended to let them do their job.

“I will not pass judgement on whether or not an offence has occurred, or if it has, who may be responsible.”

She said she had been consistent when “another political party” had been under investigation.

“I let them do their job, and nor have I cast judgment on that process.”

NZ First reaction:

New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters said the party would review its arrangements for party donations in light of the Electoral Commission’s decision.

“I had already advised the party last week to take this course of action and itself refer the matter to the police, which the party had agreed to do.

“This does not imply any impropriety but is intended to ensure the party, as with all parties, have robust arrangements.

“If the review deems it necessary for New Zealand First and all parties to develop new arrangements to receive donations the party will consult with the Electoral Commission”.

“I am advised that in all its dealings the Foundation sought outside legal advice and does not believe it has breached the Electoral Act.

“At this stage the SFO will consider if an offence has been committed, or otherwise, and it is not appropriate to make any comment on specific detail that prejudges their investigation”.

This is likely to take some time for the SFO to come back with a decision on whether to prosecute.

Probably not coincidentally just prior to this Peters said that they would be referring the leak of information (calling it theft) to the police. It looks more like whistle blowing, especially in light of the referral to the SFO.

Peters made a joke of the referral to the SFO of National party donations, but he is unlikely to be laughing now.

Bradbury in court today contesting secret trial

Martyn Bradbury on The Daily Blog: My trial against the NZ Police starts this month in Wellington – an invitation to NZ media

In 2014, the NZ Police secretly included me in their failed prosecution against Nicky Hager. Somehow, Cameron Slater managed to convince a friendly Police force that a shadowy conspiracy was involved in the hack against him that was the content for Hager’s ground breaking ‘Dirty Politics‘ book.

The Police illegally gained access to Hager’s bank records and illegally searched his house. At the time, I argued that the NZ Police could use their misuse of power to damage the credit ratings of activists they didn’t like, little did I appreciate how that would later encompass me.

The Human Rights Review Tribunal, the only court with the power to hold the Police to account, finally agreed to hearing my case two years after I started the process and 5 years after the Police had gotten away with it, but there was a shocking sting in the tail of that decision, the Police demanded to hold the trial in secret while using secret evidence against me to stop me from finding out why they were spying on me and who spied on me. 

In 2014, I was deeply involved with the MANA Party and talking to Kim Dotcom re his Internet Party. I was also leading the fight against the SIS and GCSB from obtaining mass surveillance powers. That there was surveillance on me and that the Police gained my banking records without any search warrant made me furious, but that the Police were now trying to hold the trial in secret simply shocked me beyond articulation.

Whatever you think of my politics, whether you vote National, Labour, NZ First, ACT or Green – we can all agree that to allow the Police to hold a secret trial using secret evidence in a court battle over their misuse of power is a precedent that simply must not be allowed to happen.

This legal battle is a unique one because the Police have never before been able to gain secret trails in a Human Rights Review case. On Wednesday 14th August, I am in Wellington with my lawyer Graeme Edgeler to argue against the State gaining the power to use secret trials.

Please note, we aren’t even at the stage where my case against the Police taking my bank records without a search warrant will actually be heard, we are debating the Police’s right to hold the trial in secret in the first place.

I appreciate that I’m deeply critical of many mainstream media journalists and that this legal battle to date has not been covered much outside of the NZ Herald or columns by  Chris Trotter and Oscar Kightley, but this legal case matters and it is unique.

If the NZ Police are able to create a precedence for secret trials using secret evidence, that impacts every single one of us as citizens in this democracy and so I invite all mainstream media to cover this exceptional trial on Wednesday 14th in Wellington. The only reason the Police are trying this on is because they don’t think anyone is paying attention.

My lawyer, Graeme Edgeler and I will be available for comment after the hearing.

The personal toll this has taken to get this case this far has been greater than I could have ever imagined, but if we individually refuse to stand against the abuse of power by the State, then we all collectively suffer.

Update – NZ Herald report on today’s hearing:  Fight over ‘secret evidence’ after police access bank records without warrant

In a Human Rights Review Tribunal hearing in Wellington this morning, lawyer for the police Vicki McCall said the tribunal must have “inherent power” to receive secret evidence.

The tribunal wouldn’t be able to determine whether means used to obtain the information were unfair or unreasonable without knowing what the circumstances of the case were, she said.

Police were “required” to withhold the information and without it they could not adequately defend themselves.

If the tribunal did not allow a closed hearing, police’s next move would be an application to strike out the case altogether.

“The claim should not, in fairness, be tried at all.”

The step could mark the first time the tribunal accepted secret evidence in a closed hearing against the objections of the person who had brought the prosecution.

Bradbury’s lawyer, Graeme Edgeler, said his client was in an “odd position”.

“Had police actually done a lawful search and found the information that had linked him to Rawshark and prosecuted him, he would be entitled to this information. The reason he’s not, is that he’s innocent,” he said.

“They’re not going to be wholly incapable of defending this claim if they can’t rely on this document.”

He said Bradbury being told what type of information police were planning to use would go some way to “assuage his concerns”.

“The blanket refusal to release this document – not explain what the document is, not explain the nature of the document – that is an interference with his privacy.”

Journalist Nicky Hager received an apology after police obtained 10 months of his banking records.

Hager wrote the book Dirty Politics based on information allegedly hacked by Rawshark.

Barrister Felix Geiringer, who acted for Hager in the Dirty Politics fallout, said it was a matter of law that procedures in hearings which were hidden from other parties were “extraordinary” and only to be used in “extremely limited circumstances, if ever”.

In Bradbury’s case, the Privacy Commissioner John Edwards has already ruled police “were not justified” asking for the banking record, and the case should have been put before a judicial officer.

Unsurprisingly the Human Rights Review Tribunal has reserved its decision, which means a decision will be made whenever they get around to it.

A decision made in favour of Matt Blomfield v Cameron Slater Hearings were held in October 2014 and February 2015, and the decision only came out on 12 March this year – see IN THE HUMAN RIGHTS REVIEW TRIBUNAL [2019] NZHRRT 13

831 new frontline Police officers in financial year

A record number of Police officers were trained in the 2018/19 financial year with 831 new front line officers deployed around the country. Since the Coalition Government was formed there have been 1,367 new recruits have graduated.  Some of those will have been planned under the previous government, but the new government has boosted those numbers.

This looks to be well on it’s way to fulfilling a commitment made in the Labour-NZ First Coalition Agreement:

Law and order

  • Strive towards adding 1800 new Police officers over three years and commit to a serious
    focus on combatting organised crime and drugs.

Government: Greatest number of new Police in a single year

Police Minister Stuart Nash says the graduation of 78 new constables means a total of 831 new frontline Police have been deployed to communities around the country during the 2018/19 financial year.

“The previous highest number of new Police in one financial year occurred 21 years ago when 683 officers graduated during 1997/98,” says Mr Nash.

“Since the Coalition Government was formed 1,367 new recruits have graduated from the Police College at Porirua and from two innovative training wings in Auckland.

“The Wellbeing Budget contains more than $260 million in new initiatives for Police. Thanks to this new investment, Police can strengthen controls on the use of firearms. They will be able to take the most dangerous weapons out of circulation and begin the next stage of reforms to reduce the risk of firearms falling into the wrong hands.”

The new initiatives for Police include:

  • $168 million for payments and administration of the gun buyback scheme;
  • $41.8 million to tackle family violence;
  • $5.86 million for victim video statements;
  • $37.19 million to provide all emergency services (Police, Fire, Ambulance) with state of the art new digital communications capabilities and to ensure the integrity of the current system in the interim;
  • $8.778 million for other initiatives across the wider justice sector, such as mental health, addiction and alcohol and drug programmes.

“In addition we are making a substantial investment of $455 million in frontline mental health services. Police officers have been under pressure because a lack of health resources meant they were the first line of response to mental health needs. Improving mental health care is one of our long-term challenges,” Mr Nash says.

The boost in mental health services has taken longer to implement, but it should take pressure off police resources, and will hopefully reduce crime committed by people with mental health issues.

More charges including terrorism laid against Christchurch terrorist

The police have laid more charges against the man accused of the Christchurch massacres, Brendon Tarrant, including a terrorism charge.

NZ Police: Further charges filed following March 15 attack in Christchurch

Police have met with victim’s families and survivors of the March 15 Christchurch attack to inform them of new charges which have been filed, and update them on the ongoing Police investigation plus the court process to come.

A charge of engaging in a Terrorist Act under section 6A of the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002 has now been filed against Brenton Tarrant.

The charge will allege that a terrorist act was carried out in Christchurch on 15 March 2019 and follows consultation between Police, Crown Law and the Christchurch Crown Solicitors Office.

An additional murder charge and two additional attempted murder charges have also been filed.

51 charges of murder, 40 of attempted murder and one charge under the Terrorism Suppression Act have now been filed against Tarrant.

Just over 200 people attended the meeting this afternoon in Christchurch.

It was led by Detective Superintendent Peter Read and Detective Superintendent Dave Lynch who are joint Senior Investigation Officers, as well as Superintendent John Price, Canterbury District Commander. Also present were Detective Inspector Greg Murton, officer in charge of the investigation, Detective Senior Sergeant Sarah Illingworth who is managing the family liaison process for Police and a number of Court Victims Advisers.

Police are committed to providing all the support necessary for what will be a challenging and emotional court process to come for the victim’s families and survivors of the attack.

As the case is before the courts no further commentary on the charges will be made by Police, Crown Law or the Christchurch Crown Solicitors office.

Edgeler added:

The murder charges are still there. It’s not an all or nothing risk.

I think this is the right decision. If convicted it shouldn’t make much if any difference to the sentence, which would surely have to be the most severe handed down in a modern New Zealand court as the seriousness of the crime is unprecedented, but the police should not decide against the most serious charge for fear of the defendant grandstanding in court. There are ways that the court can deal with that.