Rule of Law

I noticed something.

I’ll put it in really small words so that Armstrong can understand: the government is proposing to intervene in cases before the courts, changing the rules halfway through for the benefit of the prosecution. Both are an affront to the rule of law, the idea that no-one is above the law, no-one can be punished except by law, and that no-one can be convicted except by due process of law (consistency of process – not changing the rules halfway through to stack the deck for one party or another – is part of this). And that’s not some “constitutional nicety”, but what distinguishes us from arbitrary despotism.

A competent political journalist would be aware of these concepts. Sadly, for Armstrong it seems that they’re above his pay-grade. If its not horse-race stuff, then he’s just not interested.

Yea… but here’s the thing.

  1. This isn’t as cut and dried as Idiot makes it out to be. The Supreme Court decision was split. Given 2 of the finest legal minds in the country thought what the police did was legal, can anyone blame mere policemen for thinking it was?
  2. Idiot is castigating John Armstrong for not taking his personal view of the law change, claiming that this is “an affront to the rule of law, the idea that no-one is above the law”. But there’s been another time in recent history when the law was changed to affect a cases before the courts. And in that case, the government was not the distant prosecutor seeking to bring justice, the MPs involved were the actual accused parties.
As DPF put it at the time: (see also this )

This means Labour have explictly voted to kill off a lawsuit against themselves. This is even more repugnant that what Muldoon did as he did not stand to personally benefit from his actions in Fitzgerald v Muldoon. This also cements in place the big lie that Labour pushes that the Auditor-General changed the rules. The AG is adamant he did not, and this lawsuit would have allowed a Judge to decide whether or not the pledge card was legal under the current rules.

And what was Idiot up to while this atrocity was being passed? Well, sneering at Don Brash for having the temerity of protesting against Labour stealing public money to fund it’s campaign.

In fact, he didn’t have much to say at all about the lawsuit at all.

In short:

Changing  the law to allow criminal behaviour by those changing it: OK, and not particularly interesting.

Changing the law to allow criminals to be bought to justice: Not OK, an affront to the rule of law, arbitary despotism, sky is falling etc etc.


(The sad thing is, I have sympathy with Idiot’s view. We must guard our rule of law very carefully, and not rush through retrospective changes under urgency. Just because the government makes it legal does not make it right.)


  1. The proposed legislation has a sunset clause in a year’s time so that more considered legislation can be drawn up. It is therefore very clear that this is intended to “plug the gap” caused by the unexpected judgement from the supreme court. This is precisely what urgency was designed for.

    1. Yes, when you take a calm approach it isn’t as bad as some are making out.

      I see elsewhere that Idiot is bashing the government for not pushing the issue. but the fact is that modern governments have all sorts of things on their plates so that happens sometimes.

    2. This wasn’t unexpected. The High Court judge who heard the argument first found the police acted illegally. The Law Commission advised everyone in 2007 that there was no power for the police to do this. Parliament is currently acting on recommendations to give police the power to do this. That police couldn’t do this legally is not a surprise.

  2. The Supreme Court decision wasn’t 3-2 on this point. All five found the police behaviour was illegal.

    Two thought that, despite the illegality, the evidence should still be admissible against all defendants. Two thought that, because the illegality was so bad, the evidence shouldn’t be admissible against any of the defendants. One thought that the evidence should be admissible against against the defendants charged with serious charges, but not admissible against defendants charged with more minor charges.

  3. Sorry, yet another comment:

    This isn’t changing the law so that serious criminals can continue to be prosecuted; as the Supreme Court decision showed, that can happen anyway.

    What this is doing is changing the law so that law-breakers don’t have to face the consequences of their illegal actions. It’s just that in this case, the law-breakers are police officers.

    Finally, the validating legislation, as bad as it was, had a specific section that said that the criminal liability of those involved was unaffected.

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