The only retrospective legislation I’d support

It has been?recommended?the?government overhaul extradition law to simplify the process of getting rid of ratbags who are wanted in overseas jurisdictions.

Imagine a high-profile extradition case of a foreigner accused of a crime that didn’t involve millions of taxpayers’ dollars and years of wrangling in the courts.

The Law Commission, which has been wrestling with this under the shadow of the Kim Dotcom case, has arrived at its recommendations, which were tabled in Parliament yesterday.

The commission was coy about the cost savings, but it promised extradition battles could be shorter and more clear-cut, in line with a worldwide trend.

The numbers were not huge – 70 extradition requests from other countries in four years, and about 40 from New Zealand to other countries.

However, the sums and delays could be large – for example, tens of thousands of Crown Law hours on the Dotcom extradition case, multi-millions of dollars all round, and the appeal against extradition yet to be heard, and due in August. ?

The Law Commission’s proposed remedy, which would not affect the Dotcom case, would rewrite what it called a confusing and outmoded mash of extradition laws, and centralise decision-making with the Attorney-General.

Commissioner Geoff McLay led the extradition project. “The US is obviously a party to a high-profile extradition at the moment. But we took the view when we started this that the next high-profile extradition could be literally from anywhere,” Prof McLay said.

“Our major driver in figuring out what the law should look like is – what would we want New Zealand’s response to be?”

The recommendations tabled in Parliament also related to mutual assistance between foreign law enforcement agencies – the police, for instance, would still handle requests for help from the FBI, say.

The backdrop was one of foreign fugitive numbers on the rise – but from a low base, which would remain part of the problem whether these changes went through or not, Waikato University law professor Neil Boister explained.

“To some extent we only really now, through the Dotcom litigation, are working out how that works in practice… If it’s messy it’s really because it’s largely under-used and under-practised.”

Sadly, any recommendations wouldn’t be retrospective and, although I oppose retrospective legislation, I think I can make an exception in this case.

Perhaps they could also pass the changes under urgency?

Of course, some are claiming it would violate human rights but, while that may be true of sending people to third world countries, it doesn’t really apply in most modern democracies and especially the United States. If OJ Simpson can buy justice anyone can, including Kim Dotcom.

It will be ironic if Kim Dotcom’s shenanigans in?the?courts lead to a more refined and streamlined process for exiting ratbags. He will have actually contributed something positive to New Zealand.


– RadioNZ