Keith Locke on the Policing (Storage of Youth Identifying Particulars) Amendment Bill – first reading



The Green Party disagrees very strongly with the previous speakers on the Policing (Storing of Youth Identifying Particulars) Bill, including Lianne Dalziel, who said this is a good process. This is just reinforcing this Parliament’s reputation for being the fastest legislator in the West. The Green Party got hold of the bill just last night—an advance copy of the bill. It had not at that point been tabled in Parliament; no member of the public knew anything about it—its name, its content, or anything else. In fact, the public would not have any chance at all to find out about this bill until we started debating it in this House. At the time we started debating it in this House, the bill and the regulatory impact statement were tabled in the House. So the public and any people who might be concerned with the legal issues involved in this legislation are totally shut out of this process. If this bill is being rushed through in an hour or two here, anyone outside of this Parliament just does not know anything about it, and cannot correct anything we may be doing wrong in passing this legislation. We do not know, for example, whether the Auditor-General has done a New Zealand Bill of Rights Act audit on this particular thing.

In the Standing Orders Committee there have been submissions by various institutions, including the Human Rights Commission, about the speed with which bills pass through this Parliament without sufficient time for people to make submissions. The Human Rights Commission has talked about how it is a problem when people have only 4 weeks to make a submission, and things like that. In this situation, the public is totally shut out of the process, and we have concerned citizens, lawyers, etc., holding seminars. I think a seminar was held in Wellington recently on the frequency of urgency and bills being rushed through—all of these problems in our Parliament—and now we are telling these people that a bill can just be rushed through in a couple of hours, without anyone knowing about it, and without the parties in the House knowing anything about it in order to do any research on it. They find out about it only the night before. In terms of the regulatory impact statement, we were given a copy of the bill last night, but I could not get hold of the regulatory impact statement, because that was not live on the website. I have seen it only just now, after the discussion on the bill has begun. I do not know anything about the Attorney-General’s report, if any.

There is discussion here about how we made a mistake in the previous bill. Well, what better way to make another mistake than to rush a bill through in a couple of hours without any real consideration by this Parliament, let alone by a select committee, let alone by submissions to a select committee. It is just totally—well, I was going to say unethical; I think it is unethical to proceed in this manner.

What is the problem? There are two levels. One level is whether we have made a mistake, and whether people who do not have a conviction through the Youth Court, but have a discharge and things like that, should have their identifying details not kept by the police. There is an argument that even though their action has been defined as a mistake, that situation of their details being kept could continue. Basically, we do not want to label young kids with a record, and they might be targeted, etc. So there is a substantive debate involved here, as well as a technical debate. But even if we accept the Government’s argument and Labour’s argument that there was a mistake, and that this needs to be corrected, why does it need to be corrected in this manner? Will civilisation in New Zealand collapse if there are one or two appeals as a result of the alleged mistake made here? Do members think a whole lot of lawyers will be running around? Most people going through the Youth Court want to get it over with and put it behind them. Will they suddenly engage a lawyer, and will the lawyer make an appeal, and will they have their conviction scrubbed on the basis of their information being illegally held by the police for a period? I cannot see it happening. Even if there were one or two cases—and I cannot see, really, that there would be more than one or two—that is not justification for rushing this bill through Parliament as it is, or for having a whole retrospective process.

Retrospectivity is very bad, and people will rightly criticise us for that. Sure, this Parliament can make very serious errors that have gigantic consequences of billions of dollars and all sorts of heartache for people. This is not one of those errors. Let us look at the statistics provided. I have just rushed through a bit of a reading of the regulatory impact statement in the few minutes I had before I had to get up to speak on this bill after the regulatory impact statement was made available. It says 775 cases per year have their identifying details matched with a subsequent crime scene, and that some of these cases might have been based purely on a link between the identifying particulars evidence from the previous event to this event—some of these cases. But nobody really knows how many appeals would be made on that basis.

As the previous speaker said, even if the identity information from the previous event were taken into account by the judge, which would be against the law in terms of the law as it has been for the last couple of years, that does not mean that the conviction would be deemed to be invalid, if there were, as there is in most cases, other evidence for the commission of that particular offence. It is all a very murky area. In fact, it is one that should be looked at by the select committee. What is wrong with a select committee actually getting into this sort of thing? Then we find out that the police knew about this issue in October 2010. Jacqui Dean, the National speaker, disclosed that. How come, if it is believed that a mistake was made in the previous 2008 legislation, how come we did not go through a considered process, with the parties in this Parliament informed, and did not go through a proper select committee process to correct this error?

It is just not good enough. The regulatory impact statement said that if just 20 percent of these cases were appealed, it would be $20,000 per case, or $6.2 million—I cannot see that 20 percent of the cases would be appealed anyhow. But what is the price of justice? What is the price of this Parliament having a proper procedure of a bill through the House, including a select committee. This is not a case where we need to violate that process. The substantive issue is very much debatable.

The Green Party would like to get a bit of legal advice on this. We are not all expert lawyers who can suddenly decipher the 2008 Act and this amendment and work out exactly whether it is right. We cannot do that in the half an hour that we have been allowed in this Parliament from hearing the bits of information from the other speakers. We do require the assistance of research staff, the Parliamentary Library, informed public lawyers, debate with other parties in this House, proper select committee process—all of those things, which are an essential part of our democracy, have been violated. We used the example of a similar event that was very distressing to the Green Party a couple of years back. A bill was introduced into the Parliament on extended parole. We knew about it only at the time it was introduced in a period of National urgency. It was deemed to be a technical bill. Then we found that there was a very critical Attorney-General’s report on that very same bill. The Green Party struggled to analyse it and we voted against it. The other parties did not. But it was a big abuse of process for that to happen.