Monday 27 November 2017

A Moral Victory: The Supreme Court Rescues Our Judiciary From Itself.

The Last Line Of Defence: What is wrong with our justice system that the judgements of its lower courts have so often been overturned and criticised by the Law Lords of the UK Privy Council and, more latterly, the judges of our own Supreme Court?

THE SUPREME COURT has finally declared the deal struck between the Department of Labour and Pike River boss, Peter Whittall, “unlawful”. A moral victory for Sonja Rockhouse and Anna Osborne, certainly, but hardly a victory for the New Zealand justice system. Though the Supreme Court came through for the plaintiffs in the end, the High Court and, more worrying still, the Court of Appeal, had both earlier rejected their legal team’s arguments. Had these two women not been as tough as the Pike River rock, their gruelling legal journey all the way to the Supreme Court might never have been completed. It would still be legally acceptable for delinquent chief executives to buy their way out of a conviction. Significantly, too much time has passed for Mr Whittall to be hauled back into court.

What is wrong with our justice system that the judgements of its lower courts have so often been overturned and criticised by the Law Lords of the UK Privy Council and, more latterly, the judges of our own Supreme Court? Why, for example, did it require a determined journalist, an Aussie jurist and a bloody-minded prime minister to give Arthur Alan Thomas justice? Why was New Zealand’s Court of Appeal so manifestly unequal to that task? And why was Peter Ellis unable to rely upon that same Court of Appeal to clear his name? In other jurisdictions, all the victims of the moral panics induced by false “Satanic Abuse” accusations had their convictions overturned in their countries’ courts of appeal. Not here.

It’s almost as if the New Zealand courts are afraid of acknowledging the occasional mistakes that all highly complex human institutions are bound to make. That once the State, or the Courts, have determined a person to be guilty, and an institution innocent, then that judgement must be upheld at any cost. Those exercising authority over their fellow citizens have been robed, like the Pope, in the vestments of infallibility. Thus protected, their judgements are only very rarely overturned.

Those filling the high seats of our justice system are not only reluctant to overturn the decisions of their colleagues in the lower courts, but they seem equally reluctant to hold accountable their peers in public administration and corporate management. And woe betide any members of the judiciary who so forget themselves that they condemn wrong-doing in high places in memorable and evocative language. When Judge Peter Mahon called the testimony of Air New Zealand to the Erebus Inquiry “an orchestrated litany of lies”, the national airline appealed to his brother judges to have the offending words struck out. They happily obliged!

This ingrained reluctance to hold New Zealand’s most powerful citizens and institutions to account, renders our justice system contemptible in the eyes of those who look to the judiciary for protection against the growing power of the state and its agencies. As if this failure wasn’t serious enough, the judiciary’s all-too-obvious reverence for the wielders of power in New Zealand society has, over many decades, seeped down into the minds of the broader population, contaminating the pool of potential jurors.

The near impossibility of securing a conviction in even the most egregious cases of police officers breaking the law is, in part, a reflection of the judiciary’s failure to educate the public in the supreme importance of making sure that those entrusted with the enforcement of the law understand how absolutely they are professionally and personally bound to uphold it. It is not difficult to understand why, earlier this week, after learning of the acquittal of two Police officers charged with kidnapping a 17-year-old youth, Dr Dean Knight, a senior law lecturer at Wellington’s Victoria University, tweeted: “I worry the rule of law took a hit today.”

It’s as well the Supreme Court chose the same week to reaffirm the principle that, in a nation of laws, it must remain utterly unacceptable for persons charged with offences to avoid conviction by simply handing over a great deal of money. Until the members of this country’s highest court intervened, the Labour Department’s refusal to present evidence against Peter Whittall had provided the critics of our judicial system with a seemingly irrefutable example of the way in which the powerful are able to close ranks against people like Sonja Rockhouse and Anna Osborne – making a mockery of their expectation that all citizens will be treated equally before the law.

Had they not, then the words of the Ancient Scythian philosopher, Anacharsis, would have been borne out in their entirety:

“These decrees of yours are no different from spiders’ webs. They’ll restrain anyone weak and insignificant who gets caught in them, but they’ll be torn to shreds by people with power and wealth.”

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Saturday, 26 November 2017.


Unknown said...

Hear hear! It is long past time for an attitudinal change in the judiciary and the police and in public servants generally.

greywarbler said...

Perhaps it is our size and isolation that makes us prone to dropping the barriers to privilege or money influencing the way that laws are administered. It may be now the world has been successfully colonised by the uber wealthy that we have altogether lost the plot and vision that we had years ago. Perhaps the style now is to draw the screens and look inwards at one's decor.

countryboy said...

“What is wrong with our justice system that the judgements of its lower courts have so often been overturned and criticised by the Law Lords of the UK Privy Council and, more latterly, the judges of our own Supreme Court?”

Well, I think I know. Perhaps, in this instance, what I think I know is incorrect but there in lies my problem. I don’t think I’m wrong so I risk annoying others with my drum banging. Fortunately for me, I don’t give a fuck.

I think our ‘ legal system’ is tainted by, poisoned by events that occurred back in the late 1880’s.
The stain from corruption was set into our political mandate and it’s never seen the Jiff bottle.
Therefore, to this day, our legal/political system is diseased with corruption.

Back in 1884, I think it was, NZ began shipping refrigerated meat and dairy to Europe/UK.
In NZ, farmers were beginning to agricultural-ise the lands, therefore and such like.
Vast amounts of money must have been flying about. Just look at the hugely expensive vintage buildings of Dunedin, Oamaru, Timaru, Wellington etc. I myself owned an old post office built in 1911. It cost £2139 /10 shillings.

Now, this is where it gets fruity.

NOTHING, has changed since 1884. And by that, I mean people still poo. Therefore they must eat. And we all know that if you don’t eat, you don’t poo and if you don’t poo? Yes. That’s right. You die.

We’re told, by the same ‘government’ that claims hand-holding rights to our farmers that producing foods is no longer where our money’s at. It’s in tourism. Is it polite to eat tourists? No. It’s not. Not yet anyway. 72 or so years ago, a few folk( volk) in a town under German siege ate their war-dead others so maybe there’s something to that?

All that aside... What keeps rolling in? In vast amounts, particularly given there are a scant 52 thousand people deriving their sole income from the land as ‘ Farmers’. ( Source Dept Stats’. )
Money Baby. Lots and lots of lovely money.
There are one or two who asked, "But how to keep hands on all that lovely money? Keep it away from the primary industry who grow the stuff, keep it away from the general citizenry of NZ/Aotearoa, can’t have another bloody MJ Savage spending our money on the poor and the working class! "

So, the crooks simply abstracted the law, changed a few Acts, tweaked the media and now lie in bed, spent with old age and once they’re dead they’ll leave us with a tangled web of lies, bullshit, a twisted and corrupt legal system dealing with a dysfunctional population of once ordinary folk who now try to untangle and/or not to fall victim to the crooks carefully laid out institutionalised lies.

If I was in a position to ask for such a thing, I’d ask for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into every single dark corner of our economy, politic and Court. Imagine seeing the rats running for it?

I talk to farmers down this here way and most still defend the Natzo’s. They stand there leaning over with a bung hip or two, covered in green shit, up at dawn, exhausted and asleep at dusk.
They have absolutely no idea what’s going on. And I mean that literally and generally. They only know what they see on thu tee vee and we all know who runs that particular show. Another thread to the web that leads, via the Banks and lawyers, to the Courts who must, like it or not, protect their Masters wishes.

Geoffrey Waring said...

Nothing changes. This excerpt from 'Conversation during (American)Civil war' says it all.
Law, an orderly system meant to govern human society, to establish justice, to advance the progress and enlightenment of the human race. Yet that system, that civil cosmos – to which I was so passionately committed – embraced and protected the most wretched evils, entrenched the powerful in their unjust privilege, oppressed the poor and weak most relentlessly and wickedly, yet at every step – at every step – sang hosannas to itself as some kind of divinity. The "Law" – oh, what a hush of reverence surrounded that word, how deeply that reverence and respect penetrated the heart. Well, my heart, anyway. But in these last few years we have seen – in intense, concentrated, microscopic view – the truth about the law, a truth which too often escaped us in the slow unrolling of peacetime. The truth that there is no law, no Platonic Form out there to which we give paltry representation. There is only power: power in conflict with power, power seeking to drive out power, to establish its dominance, maintain its privilege. Power…acquiesces to law – sometimes – but it never, never bows to it. Power goes along with the law when it is convenient to do so, when it is not too restrictive, when it demands little more than the occasional sacrifice – for the powerful are certainly not above throwing one of their own to the mob when circumstances require. But when it comes to the crisis, power shreds the law like a filthy rag and has its own way. And then you see that the law is nothing but a rag, to be torn and patched and fitted to power's aims. The worst atrocities I have seen or heard of in this war have been committed wholly and completely under the law. This thing I held in such reverence was, is, nothing but a scrap soaked with blood and shit."

Nick J said...

I never quite understood the manner in which our politicians have consistently tried to avoid justice. Tena Pora merely the latest to have to battle for fair compensation denied by a stony faced National government. Ditto David Bain in whose case the government went to excessive lengths to avoid payment, slandering a foreign judge who was brought in to recommend when he did not do so favourably. And then the sad case of Peter Ellis...the list goes on.

Now I m getting to the point where I regard this willful denial of fairness to go with a personality type that does not care for the victim of a miscarriage of justice, nor for a failing of the system. What is that personality type? Narcissistic? Unempathetic? Sociopathic?
Or just plain belligerent on behalf of a system that they will support to the end as infallible because it gives them power and advantage? None of these are attractive options.