Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Long Arm (And Short Fuse) Of The Law

this from http://nzhumanrightslawyer
Saturday, April 7, 2007

Politics makes strange bedfellows and there are no stranger metaphorical night-time companions at the moment than Sue Bradford and the New Zealand Police. Ms Bradford's own career as an activist saw her in the High Court at least once (see Bradford v Police) and one would have thought she and the Police were not the most natural of allies. The fraught passage of the repeal of Section 59 of the Crimes Act however has seen her extolling the even-handed manner in which the Police conduct prosecutions to reassure the Bill's opponents that they will not see frazzled but otherwise law-abiding parents in the dock for an open handed paddle of their toddler's backside in the canned goods aisle of the supermarket.

That argument rather fails if my experience of the exercise of the Police discretion to prosecute is anything to go by. I have defended people in the Wellington District Court of some dire crimes against humanity including chalking slogans on the footpath outside Marion Hobbs' electorate office ('wilful damage'), taking discarded food out of supermarket skips (`theft') and dressing up in kangaroo suits and hopping around the Australian Embassy (`burglary'). The power of the anti-smacking argument for me is undeniable-how can you square hitting the most vulnerable members of society with a desire to end violence in our community? Whether you need to bolster that argument with airy claims of Police forbearance is another matter.

Mark Lillico
- lawyer at Ord Lillico in Wellington, New Zealand( My practice deals with human rights issues mainly in the context of criminal defence work, prisons and immigration.

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