After Thursday’s release of previously secret Crown Law advice the government has hit the spin cycle. On top of that they have been trying to bully media organisations to remove the story, and have even set some journalists on the trail of trying to identify the leaker.

Barry Soper is a bit peeved at the machinations of the government and David Parker in particular. He echoes my article on the same topic.

The Beehive was spinning hard last night over leaked Crown Law advice to police over the lawfulness of the lockdown. The fact that it’s in draft form is to me irrelevant.

Police seemingly accepted the advice, agreed with the advice, and then used the advice to inform its response.

The draft advice was read by Police in-house lawyer Bill Peoples who then forwarded it to Police Commissioner Andy Coster, Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement and Chief Advisor to the Commissioner Travis Mills on the morning of Saturday, March 28, saying “this is consistent with our internal advice“.

Within 90 minutes, Clement summarises it, saying “Police do not have the power to detain individuals, stop vehicles, enter property, search individuals or property, or conduct surveillance over individuals or property in order to enforce the isolation campaign”.

That email was sent to Police Area Commanders and to Coster and Mills. Clement describes the advice as “CL (Crown Law) advice to Police about legal powers”.

There is no mention he or Peoples consider the draft nature to be a concern.

Succinctly put and slays David Parker’s claims that the Crown Law advice was a draft. David Parker could clear all this up very quickly though, by simply releasing the “final” Crown Law advice, if such a thing exists.

That there was a problem with enforcement was no surprise to Professor Andrew Geddis, who after seeing some of the leaked advice, surmised police didn’t have the power to enforce the lockdown in the way they were.

Enter a man who I believed was clearly panicked – Attorney-General David Parker – last night. He says the Crown Law advice is in draft form, despite evidence the police treated it as anything but.

He issued a statement that said the documents were not the “considered advice” of Crown Law:

“Recent speculation that the Government’s legal advice had thrown doubt on the police enforcement powers under Level 4 is wrong,” he said.

“That speculation is based on draft views provided to agencies for feedback. That was not the considered advice of Crown Law, which was that there was no gap in enforcement powers.”

Parker, and the rest of the Government including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, have steadfastly refused to release the Crown Law view.

But, in a sudden twist, Parker has revealed he will introduce legislation to Parliament to cover off level 2 of the lockdown next week.

He was offered the same course of action by the National Party for levels 4 and 3 but declined the offer.

One has to wonder: If the legal case was watertight why would he need to legislate for the much more relaxed level?

Exactly. If there are no “gaps” in the legal position why the need for urgent legislation to close gaps that supposedly don’t exist?

For the public this may mean little.

So what if Crown Law told the Government what it was doing wasn’t by the book?

The public complied with the rhetoric, stayed inside and avoided each other, hardly anyone ended up in hospital and 89 per cent of those who caught the virus have recovered.

The fearful public had been repeatedly told by the Prime Minister to treat everyone as though they had Covid 19.

So what if the law didn’t support what have been the most draconian regulations ever imposed on New Zealanders?

Well, if we accept we are required to live by the rule of law it’s vitally important.

The rules can’t be used to instil fear with threats of arrests that may not be lawful.

There was ample time and opportunity for the Government to prepare the necessary paperwork.

If they failed to do so, it raises questions of why not. Is it arrogance or sloppiness?

Either way, if they have done it properly – through proper rule of law – is to take this country to a place that none of us would want.

Again, spot on. If we are willing to let the government act ultra vires on this then what is there to stop them acting in an ultra vires manner to do something else…like…making a select ethnic group wear a yellow identifying patch on their clothes?

The Prime Minister should have called a press conference and apologised for breaking the law and explained it was done for our own benefit. If she had done that the public would probably have accepted her apology. Instead she channeled her internal colectivo and went into cover-up mode.

To prove that, late on Friday afternoon the government dumped hundreds of documents into the public arena, claiming that it was a “proactive release”. They also claimed that “a small number of documents and some parts of the released documents would not be appropriate to release and, if requested, would be withheld under the Official Information Act 1982”.

One could rightly argue that those unreleased documents are precisely the ones needed to be seen.

This is nothing but flannel, to try to bury the rather embarrassing fact that the government illegally locked us down and in the process destroyed jobs, businesses and the economy.

I suspect they know how much trouble they are in with the judicial review and are trying to hoodwink us all into thinking, wrongly, that they are open and transparent.

The BFD. Cartoon credit BoomSlang

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Barry Soper on the Government’s Spin on Illegal Lockdown
Cam Slater

Cam Slater

As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news,...