Sedition trial starts tomorrow

The trial of Tim Selwyn, for sedition, starts tomorrow. It will be NZ’s first sedition trial for 80 years or so.

Back in November 2004, Selwyn protested against the Foreshore and Seabed Bill by smashing a window with an axe at the PM’s (unoccupied) electorate office. However this is not what the trial is about – he has already pleased guilty to “conspiracy to commit criminal damage”.

Incidentally I support a penalty which will deter for smashing the window. In no way do I support attacks of MPs electorate offices – electorate agents already have to put up with a huge amount of crap.

But these charges of “seditious conspiracy” and “making a seditious statement” relate to the pamphlet he left which said:

Tonight concerned Pakeha vented their anger and disgust at the Government’s attempts to steal by confiscation and without consultation, Maori land in the form of the Foreshore and Seabed Bill by attacking the electorate office of the Prime Minister.

The broken glass symbolises the broken justice of this issue and we call upon other like-minded New Zealanders to commit their own acts of civil disobedience to send a clear message that such injustice can never be accepted.

Now I don’t agree with the pamphlet, but charging someone with sedition is massive overkill. The sedition laws are so vaguely worded such as S81(1) of the Crimes Act

(a) To bring into hatred or contempt, or to excite disaffection against, Her Majesty, or the Government of New Zealand

Well technically this blog could get me hauled up on sedition charges most days.

No Right Turn points out that in 1989 Sir Geoffrey Palmer proposed abolishing sedition as a crime, as speech which poses a threat to public order can be prosecuted under existing laws relating to incitement. His conclusion was:

Sedition should not be a crime in a democratic society committed to free speech. Libelling the government must be permitted in a free society.

I agree.

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