Editorials 9 April 2010

The Herald has advice re Waihopai:

There seems no real point in the Crown’s mounting a $1.1 million damages claim against the spy base attackers. It may be an open-and-shut case in which all that has to be proved is that damage was caused and that the three members of the Ploughshares peace movement were responsible for it. But it would be a pyrrhic victory. According to one of the trio, teacher Adrian Leason, the men have less than $1000 between them. The Crown would receive little, or nothing, after spending a considerable sum bringing a civil case. At the same time, it would provide the trio with a platform to further expound on the satellite station and their view of its role in the Echelon electronic eavesdropping network.

I agree.

“Claim of right” is enshrined in the 1961 Crimes Act for cases such as those involving people who have unwittingly bought stolen goods. It defies belief that the framers of that legislation envisaged it being used by men who freely admitted cutting through the fence surrounding a spy station, breaking into the base and slashing an inflatable plastic dome covering a satellite dish. The trial judge had his doubts, reserving a question of law relating to “claim of right”.

The Crown’s right of appeal is severely circumscribed. But the Solicitor-General has concluded, quite rightly, that the case raises major questions about the appropriateness of the Crown’s being required to prove that an accused acted without “claim of right” being used again in similar circumstances. He has, therefore, referred the matter to the Justice Minister. After a review, the Cabinet will decide if the Crimes Act should be amended to stop the defence being used in situations like this.

And I hope and expect Cabinet will do so. Otherwise it will be open season on government buildings.

The Dominion Post finally has its say on Easter trading:

In Wellington, regional chamber of commerce chief Charles Finny believes the law is nonsensical. “We see no reason why the state should be prohibiting people from opening. It should be up to the retailer or restaurant,” he says, arguing that the capital’s growing status as a tourist destination demands change.

Has the time come for a courageous government – that probably counts this one out – to sponsor legislation that permits shops to open throughout Easter, doing away with the quaint notion that the issue is for individual MPs’ consciences, and shop owners to decide for themselves whether or not they want to open?

The believes so.

I want to see the shop trading restrictions repealed. They are nonsensical, archaic and inconsistent.

However I don’t think one of the very few issues upon which MPs have a free vote, should become a party issue.

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