Wednesday 24 Mar 2004
Press Releases -- Governance & Constitution
ACT Leader Richard Prebble said in his view no Member of Parliament will be raising a breach of privilege against convicted National MP Nick Smith on the grounds that any Member of Parliament convicted of a crime which carries a penalty of more than two years is automatically out of parliament.
"MPs are sympathetic to Nick Smith's claim that he was acting on behalf of constituents. Members of Parliament are also becoming very concerned over the secrecy of the Family Court. Every constituency MP would have been approached by constituents telling extraordinary stories of how they were treated by the Family Court.
"Right now there are two judicial officers who must be pondering what to do. The Electoral Act says that the registrar of the court must report to the Speaker any Member of Parliament who has been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term of two years or upward. Technically Nick Smith could be sentenced to more than two years jail but is contempt of court a crime?
"The second judicial officer is the Attorney General, Margaret Wilson. It is her duty to defend the judiciary and the legal system. No doubt her officials are considering whether she should lay a breach of privilege against Nick Smith on the grounds that he has been convicted of contempt of court. I don't think she will. The first reason is because this case is similar to the Harry Duynhoven case where the Labour government rewrote the law on behalf of their own MP. Secondly Margaret Wilson as Attorney General has been reluctant to defend the judiciary. Last week she actually joined in Helen Clark's attack on a Maori Land Court judge.
"Indeed the only certain outcome of Nick Smith's conviction is that the recommendation of the Law Commission, that the secrecy of the Family Court be lifted, will be acted on," said Mr Prebble