NZ SOLICITOR-GENERAL IS TRYING (AGAIN) TO GET VINCE SIEMER JAILED FOR ‘CONTEMPT OF COURT’ BY ALERTING THE PUBLIC TO THE DENIAL OF TRIAL BY JURY TO THE ‘UREWERA 18’ (Background information)
PROTEST OUTSIDE THE WELLINGTON HIGH COURT – SUPPORTING VINCE SIEMER
Thursday, June 9 · 9:00am – 10:00am
2 Molesworth St, (opposite Parliament Buildings) Wellington.
CHANGE OF PROTEST DATE!
Court case is now Thursday 9 June (not Wednesday 8 June).
So – PROTEST is now Thursday 9 June 9 – 10am.
(Then quiet solidarity support by being there, for those who can be there, inside the High Court.
Human rights lawyer Tony Ellis is defending Vince.
The Solicitor-General is trying to jail Vince Siemer (again) because Vince publicised J Winkelman’s decision that the Urewera 18 were being denied a jury trial.
Vince Siemer is defending FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION (again) and is facing imprisonment (again) for so doing. As with the Urewera 18 – the charges against Vince should (and must) be dropped.
It is now time for solidarity and support for Vince Siemer.
Hope to see those of you who can make it outside the Wellington High Court! I’ll be there. Penny Bright
7 June 2011
POLICE CONCEDED MOST EXPENSIVE PROSECUTION IN HISTORY IS LIKELY TO RESULT ONLY IN FINES
9 May 2011
In a Wikileaks disclosure posted on 28 April 2011, it is revealed at cable “7” that New Zealand Police advised the U.S. Embassy in Wellington in late 2007 that the 18 accused in the Operation 8 “terror raids” are likely to face fines not exceeding $4,000.
This revelation is the latest in a massive prosecution which has since cost taxpayers over $13 million ahead of trial and is the subject of a United Nations complaint against the New Zealand Police and blanket suppression orders by the New Zealand courts.
In related action, Crown Law has claimed to have spent over $100,000 prosecuting kiwisfirst publisher Vince Siemer for breaching suppression orders relating to these secret court proceedings. Siemer’s trial for publishing High Court Judge Helen Winkelmann’s December 2010 order denying the accused their statutory right of trial by jury is set to commence in the Wellington High Court on 8 June 2011. The Solicitor General David Collins is asking for Mr Siemer’s imprisonment notwithstanding the fact that even Crown Prosecutor Ross Burns has stated suppression cannot be justified in law and the accused in the case being reported on by kiwisfirst are realistically facing fines according to the Police.
Having been bankrupted by the New Zealand Courts, Mr Siemer is on legal aid. The cost of the trial is expected to cost taxpayers another $70,000 to prosecute and half this again to defend. This is assuming no appeal is necessary.
20 April 2011
The denial of trial by jury to the eighteen Operation 8 defendants by judicial decree is now before the New Zealand Supreme Court. Though the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, Judicature Act and Crimes Act all exhort the right to elect trial by jury, do not hold your breath that the Supreme Court will uphold the law and reverse the lower court decisions.
At the fore is the ease to which the still infant Supreme Court has repeatedly cast aside statutory guarantees to trial by jury in the most spurious fashion. The lower court reasoning that a jury would use improper reasoning in its decision-making against these 18 defendants sounds too Orwellian to stand in law. But the Supreme Court has been masterful in creating fictitious reasons why such laws have not mattered in the past.
Variously the Supreme Court has stated issues are too complex for juries, trials too long or, simply, made a broad reference that trial by juries are not fair to juries or judges, or have been denied in some case in some other country.
The seminal right to jury, which has been a linchpin in the English legal system for 800 years, is being destroyed by judicial fiat in New Zealand. If you think the effects will be benign, or even positive, consider the following Supreme Court decisions.
In 2009, the Supreme Court, when prohibiting trial by jury in Wenzel v Queen, surreptitiously tagged on an irrelevant opinion to obscure contravention of clear statute when it ruled “The proposed grounds of appeal are quite hopeless. First of all, it is an impossible argument that a fair trial requires a trial by jury.” The appeal did not state “fairness” as a ground: it relied upon Bill of Rights Act and Crimes Act guarantees. If this was not troubling enough, the Supreme Court relied upon a Canadian case, R v Lee, where the defendant did not show up for his jury trial, and then was denied one, as grounds why its decision to prohibit jury was consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Wenzel was facing 7 years in prison. In the subsequent judge-alone trial, he was sentenced to 5 years by District Court Judge Epati. In later overturning the verdict and ordering a new trial, the Court of Appeal pulled no punches in stating the Judge had failed fundamental principles of fairness and logic in finding Wenzel guilty. Equally troubling, the Judge dismissed charges against the lawyer who was Mr Wenzel’s co-defendant and gave that lawyer name suppression without justification and without providing reasons. Fairness by judge-alone?
In Solicitor General v Siemer last year, the Supreme Court covered up the fact that the High Court ignored Mr Siemer’s election to trial by jury by quashing the judgment and ordering a new conviction and penalty of three months prison, thereby meeting the Bill of Rights Act threshold for judge-alone trial. Proving the judges on the highest court are eminently more efficient at least than juries, the bench declared a new trial was not necessary because the Solicitor General’s unsworn submissions from the bar were sufficient to confirm guilt.
Then there is the case of Gregory v Gollan, where the Supreme Court, in 2009, reaffirmed the lower courts were correct to use discretion to deny Mr Gregory’s “application” for trial by jury. Gregory’s counsel responded to the Supreme Court that an “application” was not required and was not made. He asserted Judicature Act, section 19 A(2) gave Gregory the direct right to “require” a trial by jury. Because the Supreme Court’s actions were such a blatant contravention of the rule of law, Counsel requested Attorney General Chris Finlayson intervene in the public interest. Finlayson’s office responded simply that judicial independence effectively means judges can pick and choose which laws they want to apply in New Zealand. For its own part, the Supreme Court refused to be pulled into defending its seemingly lawless decision and simply ignored the evident inconsistency brought to its attention.
We may not consider this issue important now, but there are profound reasons why trial by jury is central to egalitarian legal systems. History will judge New Zealand jurisprudence on this issue of trial by jury. And history has shown us that public complacency is an elementary factor in degradation of the rule of law by those in power.
12 April 2011
The Urewera 18 have applied to the Supreme Court against the Court of Appeal’s rejection of their right to trial by jury.
Citing no right to appeal interlocutory judgments ahead of trial, the Crown prosecution opposes the Supreme Court considering the matter until at least after the scheduled trial in August, if at all.
In what is already the most expensive prosecution to taxpayers in New Zealand’s history, the result will be a mistrial if Crown argument is accepted and the Supreme Court determines post trial that denial of jury breached New Zealand Bill of Rights Act and Crimes Act guarantees. Strategically the Crown’s hope is that a fait accompli on judge alone trial will bolster the economic pressures on the Supreme Court upholding the lower court’s imposed discretion to deny this statutory right.
Meanwhile, it has been reported in the Whakatane Beacon that Tuhoe will back a request to solicitor-general David Collins later this month to drop all charges against the 18 defendants. After the September 2007 raids held many without bail on terrorism charges, public protests forced Mr Collins to reduce the charges to various weapons, drugs and gang charges. It is reported Tuhoe leader Tamati Kruger said iwi would endorse the request to drop charges, sponsored by lawyer Moana Jackson and Auckland University law faculty professor Jane Kelsey, adding “These people will never, ever get a fair and just trial.”
The original Police affidavit used to obtain the warrants to make the arrests which grabbed world headlines 3 ½ years ago suggests several defendants were charged because of their personal association with their co-defendants or for using offensive language in describing Police. Despite a court-ordered public suppression order of this police affidavit from day one, Auckland High Court Judge Helen Winkelmann read out key phrases for the TV cameras in court when revoking bail against one of the defendants Jamie Locket a week after the arrests. Those sensationalist excerpts, that “white men are going to die in this country” and “I am going to go commando”, were not given any context and were not representative of the police affidavit. Talk radio was ablaze in the days afterward, with many advocating reestablishment of the death penalty.
Three years later it was Winkelmann who denied 14 of these 18 defendants their statutory right to trial by jury on grounds jury members will likely use “improper reasoning processes” in reaching a decision and the trial is expected to be lengthy. As with the affidavit, the Judge suppressed her ruling from the public. It is this decision which the Court of Appeal upheld last month and the Supreme Court is now being asked to consider.
(The following article is not connected to the ‘Urewera 18’ case – but provides more information about what I consider to be the persecution of Vince Siemer. Penny Bright)
31 March 2011
Okay, Justice Hammond ruled in yesterday’s record $920,000 Court of Appeal ruling against kiwisfirst publisher Vince Siemer, “We have not had our attention drawn to any worse case of defamation in the British Commonwealth, and our own researches have not disclosed one.”
The judge who wrote New Zealand’s handbook on judicial conflict of interest would know. Hammond, after all, was the trial judge in 2001 who appointed Michael Stiassny, the alleged victim, receiver of the debt-free company with $175,000 cash at the centre of the case, and to whom Stiassny reported – “We had begun disbursing monies to unsecured creditors on the basis of our understanding that funds would be provided by shareholders to support ongoing trading costs as provided in our cashflow forecasts. We now have no such assurance and accordingly no further funds will be released to pre-receivership creditors”.
Judge Hammond had been formally requested to disqualify himself in Stiassny’s lawsuit against Siemer. When Hammond refused, Siemer took the refusal to the Supreme Court. Mr & Mrs Siemer both provided affidavits to the court swearing Stiassny bragged about Judge Hammond being his good friend and the Judge was a material witness to Stiassny’s alleged accounting misrepresentations. In response, His Honour provided a statement to the Supreme Court claiming he had no conflict because his previous involvement was before Stiassny became involved. When evidence was provided to the Supreme Court showing His Honour had lied – he not only appointed Stiassny but had dealt with Stiassny in the case over seven months – the Supreme Court issued this Minute. Any lawyer will tell you the most likely reason the Supreme Court would issue a Minute rather than the appropriate ‘judgment’ was to keep evidence of Judge Hammond’s material deceit out of the official record. Proving justice is blind, the judges on New Zealand’s highest court publicly stood by their orginal ‘judgment’ that “bias, actual or apparent, could never have been responsibly alleged”.
Same with the Stiassny defamation claim. Astute observers would have noticed the Court of Appeal earlier prohibited appeal against the defamation judgment, allowing challenge to only the quantum of the award. Why did it limit the statutory right of appeal? Could it be there is something the court is hiding?
The lynchpin in the defamation claim had always been whether Siemer was lying about the most powerful insolvency practitioner and employer of judges in New Zealand falsely labeling a solvent company insolvent. Understandable. If evidence existed that Stiassny wantonly labeled a solvent company insolvent, his professional reputation would be justifiably hammered. So forget about what Siemer says. The honourable Court of Appeal has declared Siemer is maliciously telling falsehoods and Stiassny is the poor victim – after preventing challenge of the defamation finding which was the product of a closed hearing where only Stiassny, his lawyers and the High Court judge met. That is right: the ‘trial’ itself was ex-parte. Rather, look at the two separate handwritten file notes of Stiassny’s lawyer Robert Fardell QC six months into that receivership (note that “Ferriers” refers to Stiassny’s insolvency company Ferrier Hodgson).
Long before his judgment yesterday, Justice Hammond was the subject of a Judicial Conduct Commissioner complaint over his alleged conflict of interest in this case. Now that Hammond has replaced Geoffrey Palmer as President of the Law Commission, expect the JCC, who has been sitting on the complaint for two years, to claim lack of jurisdiction. As any law-abiding citizen, Siemer has nowhere else but the Courts to turn for redress.
Such is justice in the New Zealand Courts. Anyone who believes this is an unusual situtation can be forgiven for not knowing how the courts routinely and secretly operate here. Perhaps it takes the “worst case of defamation in the British Commonwealth” to open the public’s eyes.
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