Transnational Crime Bill undermines freedom of association

Green MP Keith Locke is concerned that the Transnational Organised Crime Bill could lead to New Zealanders being found ‘guilty by association’ through membership of a gang.

“People could be convicted when the don’t actually participate in any of the gang’s criminal activities,” said Mr Locke, Green member on the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee, which reported the bill back to Parliament yesterday.

“The bill has transformed the treatment of gangs in the Crimes Act. Previously gang members could only be convicted if they ‘intentionally promoted’ the gang’s crimes. Now they only have to be ‘reckless’ as to whether their ‘participation’ in the gang ‘may contribute to the occurrence of criminal activity.’

“This is going down a very dangerous path of guilt by association,” said Mr Locke.

“The main purpose of the bill is to deal with ‘people smuggling.’ Even here the definition of the smuggling crime is too loose. Airlines who inadvertently let an illegal migrant on a plane could be up for a $500,000 fine for being ‘reckless’ in their checks. The law could also catch-out good samaritans, like Raoul Wallenberg in the Second World War, who helped refugees escape Nazi-occupied Europe.

Mr Locke said there were also good clauses in the bill, such as those combating the trafficking of workers, which will help stop mainly-Asian workers being brought here illegally and forced to work in sweat shops and massage parlours.

“One very good change in the bill was the removal of the obligation on employers to determine the immigration status of their workers. This would have caused widespread discrimination as employers took the easy course and signed up only those who looked like New Zealanders and had good Kiwi accents. The responsibility will now be on workers to tick a box on their IRD form, saying they are here legally,” said Mr Locke.