Rodney Hide on lack of justice for John Banks

The prosecution of a warranted minister of the Crown is a good kick on the tyres of the justice system. Sadly, in the case of John Banks, the old jalopy just rattled and shook, coughed and spluttered, choked and died.

It’s important ministers aren’t above the law but equally the justice system must not allow itself to be weaponised for political purpose.

That’s precisely what happened.  Mr Banks was a political target with the justice system deployed to knock him off his perch, rob the government of a support partner, deny the people of Epsom their MP and cost the ACT Party its democratically elected representation.

It was a constitutional outrage from go to whoa. The police first up didn’t prosecute. Then the courts gave Graham McCready’s private prosecution the go-ahead and the Solicitor-General took over the case to do what it looked like he should have done all along.

That was a bad look.

It appeared but for the plucky efforts of a public-spirited private citizen the old boys club was looking after its own and that Mr Banks was indeed above the law.

The case should have been back on track. Instead it went completely off the rails.

[…] Mr and Mrs Banks reported witnesses to the entire lunch. And here’s the problem: the police never established the date of the lunch, who was present and whether there were independent witnesses prepared to verify or not the “smoking gun” conversation.

Worse, the prosecution did indeed discover there were independent witnesses but sat on the evidence to that effect. They did not disclose it.

What was it? Corruption by a warranted minister?  Or a hapless minister made a political target by conspiracy and incompetence?

The justice system never troubled itself in the most elementary way to get the facts to decide the case. The Police didn’t. Crown Law didn’t. And the judge ended up taking the word of Mr Dotcom, his wife and his bodyguard over that of Mr and Mrs Banks.

Simply establishing the date of the lunch and what was said would have provided proper evidential basis.

The Crown didn’t do this. That job was left to Mrs Banks. Looking back, the Crown never troubled itself to prove Mr Banks guilty. It was up to Mr Banks to prove his innocence.

The justice system when tested proved tinpot. The lack of constitutional concern and democratic alarm over the result makes it more so.

The Banks case raises questions of the justice system too big for it to ask let alone answer.

The court system has been weaponised for political purposes.  Close observers will start to realise that almost every political case will end up being a loss to the plaintiff.  But the final win or loss isn’t the objective.  The objective is to remove the antagonist from the game for the years it takes the court to go through the process.

In Banks’ case, it destroyed his career and has removed the will to return.  No matter that he’s been exonerated, job done.


– Rodney Hide, NBR

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