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Solicitor-Gen's threat to prosecute MP questioned


National Leader questions Solicitor-General's threat to prosecute MP

National Leader Bill English today confirmed that National MP Nick Smith had received a letter from the Solicitor General threatening possible contempt proceedings in relation to a Family Court case.

Mr English described the Solicitor General's actions as "serious", and said that they would draw "a detailed and serious response".

"A letter from the Solicitor General raising the possibility of prosecution of an MP for contempt of Court is a threat to every MP doing their job representing their constituents," Mr English said.

A TV3 20/20 programme screened on May 18 involved a family who are constituents of Nick Smith MP. The programme focussed on parents' right to raise their own children and the Family Court delays in dealing with a very distressing situation.

As a result of public statements made by Dr Smith, Solicitor-General Terence Arnold has written a letter to Dr Smith raising the spectre of prosecution for contempt of Court. This action could lead to a forced resignation from Parliament if it succeeded.

"Every MP knows to respect the legal process. The Family Court is a closed Court but it is not immune from public accountability. Measures designed to protect the private interests of families and children ought not to be used to prevent Parliament highlighting what it believes to be shortcomings in the law. That's how the law is changed and improved," Mr English said.

"Dr Smith has taken care not to name the family concerned nor to criticise any particular judge. His statements have made plain his wish for there to be a formal inquiry into his constituents' case. This is no different to those who have sought inquiries into any number of court failings over the years and is a critical part of the democratic process," he said.

Mr English said Parliament should be offering every support to Dr Smith because this is about the duty of every MP to represent their constituents.

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