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New Police Bill Exposes Government Disarray

Wednesday 31 Mar 2004

New Police Bill Exposes Government Disarray

Dr Muriel Newman - Crime & Justice

The shambles with which the Police Complaints Authority Amendment Bill was introduced into Parliament last night - under Urgency - has exposed, what must be, a high level of disarray within Labour, ACT New Zealand Police Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman said today.

"The Bill seeks to make an extraordinary constitutional change, and was tabled in Parliament after Minister Margaret Wilson began her introductory speech - giving other parties no time to take advice on the significant changes being proposed," Dr Newman said.

"Only United Future - who supported the Government's move into Urgency and the denying of Question Time - had been briefed on the Bill in a timely fashion.

"It is extremely worrying that Labour is in such a shambles that it couldn't manage to lodge this important Bill last week, to avoid it having to be pushed through in the Urgency motion. In fact, it is completely unacceptable that a Bill of this magnitude was introduced in such a disgraceful manner in order to avoid proper public scrutiny.

"The Bill gives the newly-established Commission of Inquiry into alleged police misconduct the power to access confidential files held by the Police Complaints Authority - despite the fact that people who have given evidence to the PCA would have done so under a guarantee of complete confidentiality and immunity from prosecution.

"To pass a law that retrospectively allows public access to those files breaches those historical promises and assurances, and this Bill runs the risk of fundamentally undermining confidence in the PCA - which certainly would not be in the country's best interests.

"In light of the Government's desire that, on issues such as the police inquiry, all political parties act cooperatively, it is disgraceful that Labour has treated Parliament - and, indeed, its proposed law - in such an offhand manner.

"ACT has supported the Bill to a Select Committee, so that we can properly hear Labour's justification for such a law change - and the response from the PCA, police, the legal profession and other interested parties - but we remain sceptical as to whether a retrospective law change that breaks the solemn promise of confidentiality, rushed through under Urgency, is worthy of support", Dr Newman said.

ENDS


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