You could try going to court to flush out legal advice on Police powers – but don’t expect a hearing in a hurry

It shouldn’t be necessary, in the circumstances, but the Government is being urged to release the legal advice it has received about Police being able to enforce the lockdown rules.

National’s Justice spokesperson, Mark Mitchell, today  issued a press release saying the government has a duty to release this advice.

There is “huge confusion” among the public about what the rules are, with both the Prime Minister and former Police Commissioner contradicting each other, Mitchell contends.

“Even now with the Section 70 notice from the Ministry of Health it’s important New Zealanders understand what powers the Police have and how those decisions have been made.

 When the entire country is in lockdown, the case for public interest could not be higher and far outweighs any decision to withhold the advice, says Mitchell.

“We have never experienced a situation in this country where people’s civil liberties have been eroded so quickly and without clear direction. The public has a right to know the legal advice which allowed this to happen.”

According to Mitchell, Parker “arrogantly” told the Epidemic Response Committee that if people don’t like the advice being withheld – they can take it to court.

Mitchell counters:

“The public has been incredibly understanding and compliant during these extraordinary times. They have a right to know how decisions are being made that affect them. The Attorney General should waive legal privilege and release the advice.”

He should have sought clarification of Parker’s steering aggrieved citizens towards the  courts to flush out the advice on Police powers.   

True, a headline recently blared: Coronavirus: NZ Courts to stay open amid further Covid-19 restrictions

This was atop a report in the New Zealand Herald saying New Zealand courts will remain open. 

But it also said proceedings will be prioritised and the number of people allowed in the courthouse will be limited.

What counts as a priority?

The Herald report went on:

Chief Justice Dame Helen Winkelmann has written to the legal profession advising them that it is her expectation that the courts will remain open whatever the alert level is because they provide an essential community service.

In the letter, Winkelmann said cases that affected the liberty of an individual, personal safety and those which are time-critical would be given priority.

But on the Justice Department website, we found advice under the heading COURT CLOSURES DUE TO COVID-19.

This said:

IMPORTANT: Due to the current COVID-19 situation, some courts will be closed or operating with limited capacity.

Public access to courts is being limited for safety reasons. You can only enter the District Court or High Court for criminal proceedings if you are required to be there for business of the court.

Witnesses, complainants, supporters and members of the public cannot enter the courthouse without advance permission of the presiding judge. To get permission to attend proceedings in person, please contact 0800 COURTS. This request cannot be made in person as all counters at the courts are now closed to the public.

Please contact 0800 Courts (0800 268 787) to see whether your matter is scheduled to be considered by the court during Alert Level 4. Your lawyer may also be able to help you with this information.

Our suspicion is we won’t get too far in a hurry if we go to court to winkle out legal advice given to the government on any limits to Police powers to enforce the lockdown rules.

One thought on “You could try going to court to flush out legal advice on Police powers – but don’t expect a hearing in a hurry

  1. Reblogged this on The Inquiring Mind and commented:
    Parker was extremely arrogant at the ERC, but then this regime is always arrogant at any attempt to hold it to account. This issue must be pursued, but do not rely on the NZ media, they are too busy fawning over Ardern in the hope of securing a government handout


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