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Prohibition of Gang Insignia in Government Premises Bill

MEDIA RELEASE – For immediate use, 7 November 2012

Prohibition of Gang Insignia in Government Premises Bill could breach rights

The Prohibition of Gang Insignia in Government Premises Bill is inconsistent with the right to freedom of expression protected by the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, the New Zealand Law Society says.

The Bill prohibits the display of gang insignia in government premises.

Presenting the Law Society’s submission on the Bill to Parliament’s Law and Order Committee today, Robert Hesketh said the Bill should not proceed past select committee stage. If it does proceed, the Law Society recommends that key provisions be redrafted.

Although it does not comment on the policy underlying the Bill, the Law Society believes the Bill is drafted too widely and breaches the right to free expression – as was the case with similar measures enacted in 2009 to prohibit the wearing of gang insignia in the Whanganui District.

The Law Society also believes the Bill is unnecessary. There were already a variety of existing laws covering the actual behaviours the prohibition of gang insignia was designed to address, Mr Hesketh said.

The Law Society says the prohibition would limit a range of free speech, including culturally or politically significant expression which may not be intimidatory or confrontational.

“Gang insignia” is widely defined in the Bill and does not differentiate between displays of insignia that are intended to intimidate or confront, and displays that are not, the Law Society says.

If the Bill is to proceed, the Law Society recommends that the definition of “gang insignia” should include the requirement that the signs, symbols and representations that display gang affiliation would also tend to intimidate the public or incite confrontation between gangs.

The Law Society also recommended the offence should be changed to state that no person may display gang insignia at any time in government premises where such display could reasonably be seen as giving rise to a real risk of the occurrence of intimidation, harassment or intimidation, Mr Hesketh said.

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