Despite all the jokes about lawyers (some of them very funny, like Q: Why do some experiments use lawyers instead of lab rats? A: Because there are more of them, there are some things even rats won’t do, and the experimenters prove less likely to become emotionally attached to lawyers than rats) there are times when you can count on them (er, lawyers) to raise points worth considering.

You can learn a lot by observing others' reactions. (image: - click)

The draft Video Camera Surveillance (Temporary Measures) Bill being fast-tracked through the NZ Parliament in the last few days of this session is a case in point.

The New Zealand Law Society submission is worth reading, or just read the summary of objections and the assertion that the current law (Section 30) is good enough if the alleged crimes/charges are serious.

This executive summary makes pretty poor reading if you were the Attorney-General trying to squeeze the rushed amendment through (“It is inconsistent with the rule of law and the principles upon which the rule of law is based“), and touches on my concerns about the Bill of Rights being messed with. These are issues to be dealt with carefully, soberly.

2. The Law Society finds the proposed law objectionable because:

(a) It misrepresents the legal position, both as it existed before the decision of the Supreme Court in the recent Hamed case and as it was determined to be in that case.

(b) It would effectively amend the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (both retrospectively and prospectively) by over-riding and attenuating a fundamental human right, and would do so in a way that appears disproportionate to any demonstrable need.

(c) If enacted under urgency, as is intended, it would lack both the degree of consultation within the community and the level of careful deliberation by Parliament that is appropriate for a significant constitutional amendment.

(d) A pressing and demonstrable need for such a serious departure from constitutional principle has not been demonstrated.

(e) It would comprise legislative interference in the judicial process in respect of cases that are currently before the courts or which are about to come before the courts.

(f) It is inconsistent with the rule of law and the principles upon which the rule of law is based.

Lawyers are sometimes good at looking for alternative ways to achieve your goals. viz:

…. As noted above, the Law Society recommends the following as a preferred alternative to enacting the proposed law:

(a) Section 30 provides a more principled means of addressing the concerns that have been raised in the current debate than does the proposed law as set out in the draft Bill.

(b) If urgent legislative intervention is considered necessary, and if section 30 in its current form is thought to provide an insufficient answer to the problem, it would be more appropriate to amend section 30 than to over-ride section 21 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

(c) If the government were to accept this position, the Law Society would be willing to address the question of an amendment to section 30 on an urgent basis.

Lab rat Lawyer Scott Yorke, on his blog Imperator Fish, has a fuller summary and makes some good points of this own: Law Society Slams Police Spying Bill

– P