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ACT launches self-defence policy

ACT launches self-defence policy

Stephen Franks Wednesday, 17 August 2005 Speeches - Crime & Justice

Public address to audience in Panmure; Pleasant Rd, Panmure, Auckland

We have just honoured Michael Vaimauga. I didn't blame the particular judge or lawyer for what happened to him. The lawyers and the courts have been trying to end citizen arrest rights and self-defence rights for years. The police have been caught up in that pressure. And all of them had been doing it with the connivance of successive ministers of justice.

I don't doubt that they mean well. Individuals could be better off not taking any risks and not trying to help catch criminals. But that is not the point. Unselfishness is risking a cost to yourself for the sake of others.

Our traditions of mutual trust in each other, the reputation New Zealanders have for being open, for assuming that our neighbours will be honest, and will help us as we would help them. That character did not depend on the police alone. It relied on ordinary decent families upholding the law and catching offenders.

There has never been a time and never will be in this stretched out land, when there will be enough police to watch every potential scumbag. Domestic peace and tranquillity and security were created and can be maintained only when people tempted to take instead of making, expect that it will not be worth the risk. That expectation, that climate depends absolutely on criminals not getting away with it.

The founder of modern policing, Sir Robert Peel, recorded the essential principles that gave us that trust in each other and confidence in the police.

His seventh principle states that the police do not have special powers, but simply do full-time what any law-abiding citizen has the right and responsibility to do part-time.

The court ignored Mr Vaimauga's precious immunity.

Current police practice is stealing it from all of us. You will have seen many newspaper stories like the one under the headline a couple of months ago "Woman with pipe knocks would-be robber senseless". It went on with the usual police warning about foolhardiness. They said, "In a situation like this anyone confronted by offenders should do what they say".

Nonsense! The police should have said to the robber "good job, you had it coming", and handed out medals to the shop owners, urging everyone to join in the fight next time.

The Rotorua woman who used a knife to drive off a would-be rapist should also have had a medal. Instead she had an anxious wait before the police confirmed that she would not be charged.

The police claim that their advice is in the interests of the defenders. The Parliamentary Library researchers could find nothing for me to support that claim. Instead they found studies, including one by the US Bureau of Justice Statistics, which reviewed 6 million cases. It found that vigorous defence was far more likely to reduce the risks of loss or injury to crime victims.

Here is what police Minister George Hawkins said in answer to my written question on 3 March this year:

Question: "Is it the police view that property owners who warn off intruders increase their risk of injury if they carry a weapon when they do it, and if so, on what information is that view based?"

Answer: "I have been advised that the Police view, which is shared by many groups including Victim Support New Zealand, is that property owners who warn off intruders increase their risk of injury if they carry a weapon. There have been too many instances of people taking the law into their own hands and getting injured or killed. Police consider that the best option is to call the police".

I then asked Victim Support and the police under the Official Information Act, for the evidence or even case anecdotes on which they based that advice, because it conflicts with all the international research findings dug up for me by the Parliamentary Library. Victim Support denied they had ever said anything on the topic. The police told me that it was too hard to put the information together.

I do not believe them. I think they have no such evidence.

So by presenting a medal named after Sir Robert we're sending some messages

To the judges:

Remember your oath to do justice according to law. It does not mean according to a 1960s theory that criminals are the victims of class oppression, or that their self esteem is too low. Just read the law. It does not permit you to experiment any longer with the loopy theory that if we are all nice enough for long enough to criminals they will be nice back.

The law establishes a complete defence for a citizens unrest. Sure it says the force should not be greater than necessary, but a judge famously said long ago that necessity in these cases should not be weighed in jeweller's scales.

Instead of finger wagging at brave citizens, praise them.

Be a judge, deciding who is right and who is wrong. Ask who starts fights. Good and evil are not all relative. We have a moral and a legal right to defend our property, and ourselves especially when the State clearly cannot do that.

Our policy is also directed at the Police.

Respect and encourage self-help. You need it. Unselfish courage is even better. Honour it.

Give some medals of your own.

Next time a Masterton crowd watch a police officer being beaten, let it cross your mind that they have been told there is no excuse for violence. They have been told it doesn't matter who starts it. They have been told to leave the use of force to the police.

Next time a dairy owner dares to stand up to robbers, don't tell the newspapers it was foolish.

Next time an active Member of Parliament asks what guidelines police have for citizens who try to defend themselves, show your statutory independence and ignore your ministers' gagging instructions. Give an honest answer.

Next time Crown Law officials tell you to prosecute a farmer, driven beyond endurance by repeated brazen thefts, who takes his shot gun to investigate the midnight sound of his quad bike garage door being opened, tell them you won't prosecute charges which juries will never uphold.

Next time a Michael Vaimauga calls you, get a grip. Laugh at the burglar who complains "he hit me," as long as it is clear that the citizen did not set out to pre-empt the courts' right to punish. Just ask the criminals what they expect when people are faced with endless unpunished graffiti, theft, bullying and intimidation.

To the Minister the message is simpler.

Be gone.

You told Maggie Bentley that the police acted in textbook fashion when they lied to her as Peter was being bashed. You said it was textbook for the police to lock her phone so that she could not call on neighbours to help.

It may suit your party's political purposes to convert resourceful and self-reliant and proud New Zealanders into dependence on you and your officials and police force. It may be building your coalition of long-term voters to replace self-confidence and self-help against crime with quivering worry about what might happen if the government can't provide enough police. It will not work.

We will not be cowed. People like Michael Vaimauga will exercise their legal rights and

ACT will ensure the rest of us can support them.

To the next Minister of Police we say, "get straightforward tough leaders for the police and then stand behind them."

Helen Clark and her limp wristed colleagues may snigger at what they would call macho virtues, like courage, but we don't. When that Labour crew, so aptly described by John Tamihere, have gone, their crusade against tough and honest police must go too. The police culture must work in scarred streets, far away from the leafy suburbs and manicured apartments of the anointed of the justice establishment.

The message to ordinary New Zealanders is simpler. "You have a right to defend yourselves and your families and your properties and your neighbours against criminal predators. You may use whatever force is not disproportionate. Cool hindsight judgement will not be allowed to substitute for your decisions under pressure. If you are prosecuted and win, you will not be left out of pocket."

The law should try to ensure that criminals are afraid, not their victims.

*The full policy can be found at



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