New Zealand Police’s decision to arrest Kiwis during alert level 4 despite being advised they had little legal basis to do so “undermines the rule of law” in New Zealand, the former Attorney-General believes.
The comment from Chris Finlayson comes just hours after leaked emails to NZ Herald revealed that police were told by Crown Law that they had little to no power to enforce lockdown rules.
Finlayson, a former National MP who served as Attorney-General for nine years between 2008 and 2017, says it’s clear the police have acted beyond their powers during the coronavirus crisis.
“We’re a society that is governed by the rule of law, which means the state can’t exercise power over people without the legal authority to do so,” he told Magic Talk host Ryan Bridge on Monday.
“Where do they get this legal authority? From the laws, and the laws should leave no one – not you, nor me – in any doubt at all about what our rights and duties are.
“I’m not surprised that Crown Law has provided that opinion, and I find it very troubling that people were arrested and certain actions taken without a proper legal basis. That total undermines the rule of law in this country.”
What happened is very serious. The Police decided to implement the wishes of the Government as opposed to enforcing the laws of the land as passed by Parliament. Those two things are very different.
Finlayson says he doubts those arrested for breaking lockdown rules will be prosecuted, as Crown Law’s advice proves police don’t have a leg to stand on.
Those arrested may have a case for wrongful arrest.