Law Commission

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. ? Read more »

Stephen Franks short but blunt message about our judicial system

I have refrained from entering into the Teina Pora debate until some sensible thoughts emerged.

Stephen Franks is short and blunt, but he is right.

Another embarrassment for our criminal justice system dealt with by ?the Privy Council, the world?s best independent ?top court.

There will be too much political resistance to admitting a stupid mistake in dumping that inexpensive heritage assurance of judicial objectivity. But the need remains.

We should promptly ask the High Court of Australia to accept our appeals where we need demonstrable assurance that the result will not be influenced by insider defensiveness or local groupthink.

The single worst thing that Helen Clark did, with it appears little actual thinking, was the removal of appeal tot eh Privy Council. ? Read more »

Law and order proposals are “Ping-pong policies”

Both Labour and National have taken a hammering from?Criminal Bar Association president Tony Bouchier.

Labour cops the worst of it though for proposing to move the burden of proof in rape cases from the prosecution tot he defence, having to prove consent occurred.

Proposed “vote-winning” law changes relating to criminal justice reform of rape cases could result in more innocent people being sent to prison, the Criminal Bar Association warns.

National and Labour say the current system is not providing justice for victims of sexual violation, and reform would make the system more victim-focused.

National wants to explore whether a judge or jury should be able to see a defendant’s refusal to give evidence in a negative light. Legal experts have called this an attack on the right to silence. ?? Read more »

The backdown has started, Andrew Little was just thinking out loud apparently

The other day Andrew Little said that Labour had a new policy where they wanted to shift the burden of proof in rape cases from the prosecution to the defence.

Essentially Labour thinks that someone charged with rape should have to prove consent.

Predictably, after copping a flogging online and on talkback for the last few days, they are now in full reverse ferret mode.

A case of Andrew Little thinking out loud.

Labour’s downplaying its justice spokesman’s proposal to shift the burden of proof in rape cases.

The party wants the Law Commission to consider a shift to an inquisitorial system – to make courtrooms less combative for alleged victims of sexual assault.

Mr Little’s suggested the defence should have to show there was consent, to prove the accused’s innocence. ? ? Read more »

The Huddle

newstalkzb

I was on the Huddle last night with Larry Williams and Bill Ralston.

Our topics were:

Law Commission/ Joint Liability report.

Some relief could be coming the way of local councils and their legal liabilities in matters such as leaky building syndrome.

The Law Commission is recommending modifications to joint liability laws that would effectively cap their liabilities in building negligence claims.

Under the proposals, caps would be set at 300 thousand dollars for a single dwelling, 150 thousand dollars per unit for residences in a multi-unit complex, and a three million dollar cap per multi-unit developments.

The recommendations will have to be considered by the Government.

Home Owners and Buyers Association president John Gray says that will leave consumers in the dark. He says leaky homes are still being built, and when the building industry comes under pressure to build more homes the same problems are likely to be repeated. He says there should be a mandatory insurance-backed warranty behind the auditing process of local authorities, so it never reaches court.

Local Government New Zealand president Lawrence Yule says the proposals would still see councils facing a disproportionate share of the costs, and the risks. He says if the Government wants councils to make the building consent process faster and cheaper, it needs to reduce the risks that councils face. ? Read more »

Southland Times editorial on Press Council changes

The Southland Times editorial is very good on the changes the Press Council is making to include bloggers.

Sometimes the news media need to grab their ankles for a health check.

This being the case, it’s a welcome development that bloggers and other digital media are being offered to partake in the process, by means of membership of the Press Council.

It’s a body that weighs up complaints against principles including accuracy, fairness, balance, privacy, confidentiality, discrimination, the use of subterfuge, the distinction of comment and fact, and conflicts of interest.

Inviting independent digital media to succumb to such extra scrutiny not only brings more accountability but, equally, credibility.

It doesn’t do any news or current affairs media any harm to be found out when they have seriously erred, nor to have their judgments independently endorsed, as occasionally happens too.

Nowhere is it written that those running their own websites must now form an orderly queue and join up. But the absence of a self-regulatory body has become an issue for those bloggers and sites that have become heavy hitters. And those who aspire to be. So they should be willing to join up.

[This is provided the yet-to-be-confirmed costs aren’t disproportionately high compared with their income and that they are fairly represented on the complaints panel.]? Read more »

Press Council extends membership to bloggers

The Press Council has announced that they will extend their coverage to bloggers.

Oh dear someone is going to have to amend their submission to the High Court.

The only problem I have is the two EPMU representatives on the Press Council. I believe that in extending these provisions they need to have two bloggers on the council too. Perhaps is now time to formalise the Bloggers Union so that representatives can be appointed to the Press Council.

The Press Council is to offer membership to new digital media and gain additional powers to deal with complaints against traditional print media.

The moves follow a review of the Press Council by its main funder, the Newspaper Publishers’ Association, which considered recommendations by the Press Council and a report last year by the Law Commission.

The Press Council was established in 1972 to adjudicate on complaints against member newspapers. Newspaper publishers decided to include magazines in 1998 and the council’s mandate was further expanded in 2002 to include members’ websites.

Current chair is former High Court judge Sir John Hansen and the council has a majority of non-media industry members.

Newspaper Publishers’ Association editorial director Rick Neville, who chairs the Press Council’s executive committee, said most publishers felt the time had come to strengthen the Press Council’s authority, and to extend its coverage to handle complaints against digital media, including bloggers.? Read more »

Southland Times editorial on me, journalism and the law

The Southland Times editorial doesn’t like me, but they have still come out against Judge Blackie’s decision.

He is heavy and he ain’t our brother.

In journalistic terms, Cameron Slater is more like one of those relatives that you don’t get to choose. A distant one, we’d like to think.

The Whale Oil blogger forces us to reconsider the boundaries of what constitutes a journalist. It pains us to acknowledge kinship of any sort. But we do.

Right now he’s embroiled in a defamation hearing, during which a High Court judge has ruled he’s not a real journo, so cannot rely on the special – though still sorely limited – protections journalists have to keep their sources secret.

And that’s a ruling that cannot stand.

Whether Cameron Slater is a good journalist is a different argument from whether he is one at all.? Read more »

Gordon Campbell on media freedoms

Gordon Campbell adds a clear voice to the issue of Judge Blackie’s strange decision?and the strange selfish interests of my detractors.

He is not from my side of the political fence but he is a good writer and journalist…though with Judge Blackie’s ruling could now be considered to be outside the description.

There are good reasons to dislike and despise Slater and his style of journalism – and Judge Blackie seemed thunderstruck that Slater writes and publishes stuff on his computer, all by himself – but the problems only begin to multiply when you start to decree who is or isn?t legitimately within the journalism club. The same Law Commission report had gone on to argue that regardless of any style and balance issues, bloggers do enhance free speech and a free press, and are entitled to media privileges. Slater is relying on the protection of sources’ conditions stated at Section 68 (1) of the Evidence Act. Touchingly, the Evidence Act goes on (at 68:5) to define ?a journalist? but does so entirely in passive terms:

A journalist means a person who in the normal course of that person?s work may be given information by an informant in the expectation that the information may be published in a news medium.

Leaving aside the particulars of Slater?s case for a moment…is this really what we would want to call ?journalism?? Namely, the printing of stuff that other people give to us? This peculiarly passive image of journalism omits the active, creative news-gathering role – and the conscious selection that every news outlet indulges in as to what items (among all the various bits of information ?given by an informant?) that it chooses to print, what prominence it affords them etc. etc. Journalism never has been passive. Largely for ?news as entertainment? reasons of commerce, the mainstream media is being remarkably un-passive in how it goes about this business. Increasingly, it is blurring the lines between passive reportage and overt commentary, and most noticeably in its coverage of political news and events. Slater may be no one?s ideal of a journalist – but to assume there is some clear, bright line between him and the rest of the blogging/journalism pack is self-delusory. Readers are adults. They can read around Slater?s agenda just as they can read around the?Herald?s ?bias.? Or mine. Fairness and balance are aspirational goals, not givens. Some try a bit harder to achieve them, that?s all. ? Read more »

The Press editorial on my appeal

The Press editorial has also come out on side:

Until recently, the question of who is a journalist and what is a news medium was relatively straightforward.

Journalists were people who worked for outlets delivering news and commentary within an industry governed by rules to ensure ethical standards, including fairness, accuracy and balance.

The proliferation in the last decade of alternative sources of news and comment has muddled things.

A recent decision by a District Court judge that the well-known, some would say notorious, Whale Oil blog is not a news medium highlights the difficulty.

In a paper on new media published last year, the Law Commission observed that bloggers are often highly partisan, can be offensive and abusive and are not accountable to anybody.? Read more »

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