New Zealand police blocked from laying terrorism charges

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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Following dozens of raids across New Zealand a few weeks ago, the Solicitor General has advised the Police Commissioner, Howard Broad, the New Zealand Police may not lay charges against those arrested under the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002.

On October 15, when the raids occurred, 17 people were arrested and twelve of those were referred from the police to the Solicitor General, David Collins QC, to lay charges under the Terrorism Suppression Act. His consent was needed to lay charges relating to the act. Those arrested were charged with breaching the Firearms Act, however.

Mr Collins came to his decision due to insufficient evidence that there was planning or preparation of a terrorist act of any kind by those activist groups raided, and that the Terrorism Suppression Act is "complex and incoherent". He said that it would be difficult to currently apply the Act to a domestic terrorist. "The key reason I am not prepared to authorise prosecutions under the act is there is insufficient evidence to establish to the very high standard required that a group was preparing a terrorist act."

Those raided included various Māori and environmental activists who had been alleged to have undertaken training in terrorist camps.

Mr Collins does state though that he is not criticising the police based on his decision. "Nothing could be further from the truth. They have acted entirely appropriate in referring the evidence to me."

Some of the evidence will be made public in future firearm charges, but some will be withheld from the public Mr Collins regrettably said.

However, Mr Broad admitted that no other laws had been breached, and charges could not have been laid under the Crimes Act.

Currently, Parliament is proposing amendments to the Terrorism Suppression Act. Due to the use of the Act in the police raids, there are currently widespread protests. Parliament was briefly locked down on Thursday when a small delegation of protesters came closer than is customarily permitted.

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