14 January 2010

We The People(s): Participation and Engagement in Government



The NZ Centre for Public Law is running a conference in early February (11th & 12th), exploring the public's engagement and participation in government. 

I'm one of the folk organising it (and speaking at it too) but it fair to say - I hope - that the line up looks really interesting.  I'd encourage people to consider attending.

NZCPL: "We The People(s)" [brochure and registration form]

11 January 2010

TID-BIT: The uber-Supreme Court?

I noticed this in the Weekend Post.  I figure the government must have secretly set up an uber-Supreme Court...

Convicted double rapist Maka Renata in Wellington - police
Police believe convicted double rapist Maka Renata, who allegedly breached his parole conditions in Christchurch, may now be in Wellington.

Renata, 24, last month completed jail terms for the two rapes - one when he was just 14 years-old.

He was released from prison under several conditions, determined by the Parole Board.

However, on December 23 he left the Christchurch address the board had ordered him to live at and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Detective Senior Sergeant Virginia Le Bas said police had received some good information which was being followed up.

"The most positive information suggests that Maka is in the Wellington area," she said.

Members of the public had called in with information about Renata being seen in other parts of New Zealand, however these sightings have been ruled out, she said.

Police are calling for Maka Renata to turn himself in, amid fears he may reoffend while on the run.

Anyone who might have seen Maka or who was perhaps providing him with assistance should contact their nearest police station immediately, Ms Le Bas said.

Renata, a medium build Maori, 166cm tall, was jailed for seven-and-half years after being convicted of rape committed in June 1999 when he was 14.

He and his foster father Dean Hiroki dragged a 26-year-old Wellington woman into an alley where they held a knife to her throat and took turns raping her.

He was sentenced to an extra three years in jail after sodomising his 15-year-old cellmate about 16 months later.

He was due to be freed more than two years ago but the Department of Corrections applied for a special Parole Act order to keep him in jail until his final release date.

RELEASE QUESTIONED

Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman Garth McVicar said yesterday that Renata's action proved he was not ready for release.

A law change was needed to make it possible to extend prison sentences, he said.

"Everyone seems to think it was in the too-hard basket."

If Renata did reoffend, legal action would be taken against those who had failed to protect the public, he said.

"We need to accept the fact that there are some people who can't be rehabilitated."

The Supreme Court has ruled that Susan Couch – the sole survivor of the Panmure RSA killings in 2001 – can sue Corrections for failing to give her duty of care, because her attacker was on parole when he offended.

That ruling is the subject of an appeal at present.


1 January 2010

Christmas and New Year messages: compare and contrast

As a Kiwi, I know which message speaks to me.  The words from our "de facto" head of state are much more relevant. 

A salient reminder that it's time to promote one of our own to the role of head of state.

Take 1: New Year Message, Hon Sir Anand Satyanand, Governor-General
GG: "New Year Message"

After the bustle of Christmas, the New Year is a time for everyone to treasure their family and friends. In the southern hemisphere, we are blessed with a festive season that falls in the summer months, allowing us to enjoy days on the beach, at the bach, at New Zealand's many parks or being at home with friends and family.

The New Year is also a time for making resolutions-to complete tasks, to break habits or generally to live up to our aspirations. While 1 January is technically no different from other days of the year, the fact that we make resolutions speaks of hopes that we all hold for the future.

2010 will be a significant year for New Zealand. It marks the 170th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, which established New Zealand as a modern nation, and the 65th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. These are two very contrasting anniversaries-one that speaks of partnership and togetherness and the other of a conflict that claimed the lives of more than 50 million people including many New Zealanders.

Ironically, the response of people after the War was not despair but a resounding vote of faith in the future. People established families and built stronger communities. As grandparents blessed twice in that regard last year, Susan and I are particularly conscious of the sense of optimism and hope that comes with the birth of a child. While people born after the War continue to contribute as leaders, this 2010 anniversary year is a reminder that new leaders are constantly emerging and that we need to nurture them.

The last year has been difficult, as New Zealand has been buffeted by parts of the economic crisis that has enveloped much of the world. Initially centred on the global financial sector, this crisis has caused business failures and job losses. In such an environment one might expect people to be despondent and downcast.

However in the ongoing journey as representative of the Queen, we have been continually impressed by our meetings with New Zealanders of many walks of life. Visiting regions as diverse as Westland, Otago and Taranaki, from the smallest settlements to the main centres throughout the country, opening new hospitals and school facilities, and in presenting a wide array of awards, we have sensed a firm feeling of nationhood and of optimism that extends beyond individual hopes, for our communities and our country. In particular we have observed the contribution of younger New Zealanders. Despite establishing families and paying off mortgages many are making a significant contribution to New Zealand's economy and society.

Undoubtedly individuals, families and communities have been hurt by the crisis, but New Zealanders' best qualities - ingenuity, tenacity and humour- have enabled them to rebound. Community groups and volunteers have responded to those in need, while businesses continue to create and market innovative products and services. New Zealanders have called on their tight connections to friends and family and proved that these are vitally important in times of adversity.

The New Year break is therefore not just a time to relax and take time off from the challenge of the economic crisis-it is a time to cement the bonds between those we care about and to invest time and thought into our relationships with young New Zealanders.

It seems fitting to suggest, 170 years after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi and 65 years after the end of the Second World War, that a challenge should go out to renew the spirit of partnership and hope that came out of both events. Tomorrow's leaders need the skills, confidence and support to take on the mantle of community leadership. We should all focus on identifying and encouraging these leaders whether they emerge in public positions, through voluntary service to others, in sport, education or business. I believe this is a New Year resolution proposal that we can all build on.
Take 2: Christmas Message, HM Queen Elizabeth II
Royal: "Christmas Broadcast 2009"
Each year that passes seems to have its own character. Some leave us with a feeling of satisfaction, others are best forgotten. 2009 was a difficult year for many, in particular those facing the continuing effects of the economic downturn.

I am sure that we have all been affected by events in Afghanistan and saddened by the casualties suffered by our forces serving there. Our thoughts go out to their relations and friends who have shown immense dignity in the face of great personal loss. But, we can be proud of the positive contribution that our servicemen and women are making, in conjunction with our allies.

Well over 13,000 soldiers from the United Kingdom, and across the Commonwealth - Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore - are currently serving in Afghanistan. The debt of gratitude owed to these young men and women, and to their predecessors, is indeed profound.

It is sixty years since the Commonwealth was created and today, with more than a billion of its members under the age of 25, the organisation remains a strong and practical force for good. Recently I attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Trinidad and Tobago and heard how important the Commonwealth is to young people.

New communication technologies allow them to reach out to the wider world and share their experiences and viewpoints. For many, the practical assistance and networks of the Commonwealth can give skills, lend advice and encourage enterprise.

It is inspiring to learn of some of the work being done by these young people, who bring creativity and innovation to the challenges they face.
It is important to keep discussing issues that concern us all – there can be no more valuable role for our family of nations.

I have been closely associated with the Commonwealth through most of its existence. The personal and living bond I have enjoyed with leaders, and with people the world over, has always been more important in promoting our unity than symbolism alone. The Commonwealth is not an organisation with a mission. It is rather an opportunity for its people to work together to achieve practical solutions to problems.

In many aspects of our lives, whether in sport, the environment, business or culture, the Commonwealth connection remains vivid and enriching. It is, in lots of ways, the face of the future. And with continuing support and dedication, I am confident that this diverse Commonwealth of nations can strengthen the common bond that transcends politics, religion, race and economic circumstances.

We know that Christmas is a time for celebration and family reunions; but it is also a time to reflect on what confronts those less fortunate than ourselves, at home and throughout the world.

Christians are taught to love their neighbours, having compassion and concern, and being ready to undertake charity and voluntary work to ease the burden of deprivation and disadvantage. We may ourselves be confronted by a bewildering array of difficulties and challenges, but we must never cease to work for a better future for ourselves and for others.

I wish you all, wherever you may be, a very happy Christmas.

Course Outline

Lord Justice Lawton in Maxwell v Department of Trade and Industry [1974] 2 All ER 122 said:

"From time to time ... lawyers and judges have tried to define what constitutes fairness. Like defining an elephant, it is not easy to do, although fairness in practice has the elephantine quality of being easy to recognise. As a result of these efforts a word in common usage has acquired the trappings of legalism: 'acting fairly' has become 'acting in accordance with the rules of natural justice', and on occasion has been dressed up with Latin tags. This phrase in my opinion serves no useful purpose and in recent years it has encouraged lawyers to try to put those who hold inquiries into legal straitjackets.... For the purposes of my judgment I intend to ask myself this simple question: did the [decision-maker] act fairly towards the plaintiff?"


This course examines the elephantine concept of fairness in the law, along with other contemporary legal issues.

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