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Self Defence: A Right, Not A Privilege

Self Defence: A Right, Not A Privilege

Sunday 31 Oct 2004 Stephen Franks - Press Releases - Crime & Justice

The law must be changed to give citizens rights against police who interfere with self-defence, lie to them, or prevent them from helping each other, ACT New Zealand Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks said today in commenting about the nightmare attack on the Bentleys last weekend.

"The Government has long forgotten the founding principle of policing: that constables have no more powers or privileges than ordinary law-abiding citizens - they merely do full-time what any citizen can do part-time," Mr Franks said.

"The police have to work within the Government's culture of hostility towards self-reliance. When the police don't want to charge people who've successfully defended themselves, Attorney-General Margaret Wilson's officials in the Crown Law Office will overrule the police and insist on a prosecution.

"Last weekend, the police prevented the Bentleys' neighbours from exercising their right to make a citizen's arrest, from being called to shoot the intruders, and from ever again believing in police reassurances.

"I have a law amendment which would direct judges to recognise that self help is the only effective help for most rural people. Accordingly, it would encourage them to exercise the right every New Zealander was comfortable with until the 1970s. That is, the right to expect praise, not condemnation and bankrupting prosecutions for successful self defence.

"The police don't even apply their own standards in rural cases. When the Waitara police shooter was prosecuted privately, they opposed the prosecution at every stage, and even wanted to keep the policeman's identity secret. Yet he could have chosen to run at any time, which is the advice they insist on to rural people.

"The courts have not yet held that police have more privileges than ordinary people, so it's time they stopped trying to label rural folk as vigilantes, and praised defence, not prosecuted," Mr Franks said.

ENDS

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