Claim of right defence being restricted after Government lose case

One of the problems with bills amending the Crimes Act is that they sometimes contain disparate provisions, some of which we support, others we oppose. The Greens voted against the Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2) at its first reading last night, particularly because it effectively removes the defence of ‘claim of right’ that was successfully used by the “Waihopai Three” to defeat a charge of criminal damage after they had deflated a dome surrounding one of the satellite dishes at the spybase. The amendment in the Bill narrows the long standing “claim of right” common law defence down to almost nothing – that is, in offences against property, such as when a person “steals” property genuinely believing it to be their own.

Traditionally, this defence provides protection for people acting in the greater good, or obeying a higher law, and it is inappropriate that the Government is seeking to so limit its application just because they have lost a court case. I elaborated on this in my

speech in the House last night


We do support the intention of another part of the bill to put more sanction on assaults on children. We hope the Select Committee will tease out these provisions to remove any suggestion that

people already suffering in abusive relationships will be penalised further

for not coming forward with evidence of abuse. The greatest need is for

extra social support for families in difficulty

. There is also the possibility that the extra penalties in the Bill could make family members even more reluctant to go to the Police, and in that sense be counterproductive.