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ACT Would Defend Rights to Free Speech

ACT would deny leave for fast tracking of any legislation aimed at stopping publication of details of police officers involved in a shooting – such as that at Waitara last year.

“We would deny leave if such legislation would prohibit free discussion of anything like the Waitara shooting, including identification of people involved – although I would stress that we deplore those who abuse free speech,” ACT’s Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks said.

“The Waitara police had enough to endure when the Prime Minister jumped in, concluding racism in the shooting before any inquiry had been conducted. We supported the police at the time and the inquiry report gave us no reason to change that position. We were appalled by the newspaper which published details that had nothing to do with whether police powers had been misused, but we defend absolutely the freedoms that the newspaper exercised - albeit unwisely.

“Instead of unfairly encouraging the leadership and members of the Police Association at a time when they are under stress, the Minister of Police should be standing up for principle. The law requires police officers to wear identity specifically to help protect against anonymous abuses of power.

“The real reason why it is objectionable to make the policeman’s particulars available is because the justice system has lost its claim to be able to protect innocent people from the lawless. The police officer concerned, and his family, have to share the fear of thugs that so many other defenceless New Zealanders fear, including those brave enough to give evidence in trials of gang members.

“The remedy for this fear is to regain control of the streets, and re-instil respect for the law generally. That is what Minister Hawkins should be spending his time on instead of yet another recourse to secrecy as an alternative to punishing and deterring those who would intimidate.

“Secret witness provisions are a blot on our legal system. If anyone is proposing changes that could in an unhappy future hide some secret police execution squad, ACT will ensure it doesn’t get an easy ride into Parliament,” Stephen Franks said.

ENDS


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