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Sandra Lee's Ministerial Car - Impound It!

By now, most of the country knows that Sandra Lee's ministerial car was impounded on Sunday. But unlike other New Zealanders who've had their cars impounded for 28 days, this one was not. John Howard asks why?

Sandra Lee's press secretary Moana Sinclair is facing charges following a series of incident's while driving the cabinet minister's office car.

The car was subsequently impounded by police and, unless I'm missing something, it should have stayed impounded for 28 days.

But this one was not - it has since been returned to Sandra Lee, not after 28 days, but after 4 days.

The police say the matter is now the subject of ongoing inquiries related to the incident, which will be dealt with in the same way as for any other member of the public.

But I know of others who have had their vehicles impounded for 28 days, including companies, and despite impassioned pleas they have not been released.

Is this equality before the law? Not for me, it's not.

It also raises an issue about whether laws that punish us by confiscation of our property - our vehicles - without trial are laws that we want to remain on our books.

Picture this. Your vehicle is impounded for 28 days on the say-so of a police officer. It's towed to some holding compound leaving you standing on the side of the road. There it languishes and you are deprived of its use.

So what, many people say! These people are usually disqualified drivers, bad drivers or whatever.

But the allegations made by the police remain unproven until they're tested in a court of law. Yet you've been deprived of the use of your vehicle without trial.

After 28 days, and paying all the fees, you get it back. But you still haven't been before a court and in our over-loaded justice system there's no way that you will be.

It seems to me that every citizen has a fundamental right not to be punished in a cruel or unusual way. It's even more fundamental that a citizen should receive a trial before the punishment.

I think this confiscation of vehicles law is repressive and smacks of tyranny. When some, it seems, receive preferential treatment because of their position, say good-bye to the rule of law.

Do we really want a country where the State dictates a punishment without a trial? There are too many countries in the world who already practice that policy. And they're not democratic.

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