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VINCE SIEMER REPORT: ‘A PUBLIC PROTEST AWAY FROM TYRANNY THE OPERATION 8 SAGA’

 

 

www.kiwisfirst.co.nz/index.asp?pageID=2145845331

A PUBLIC PROTEST AWAY FROM TYRANNY THE OPERATION 8 SAGA

What exactly occurred in the Urewera forest in 2006 – 2007 which resulted in mass police raids, arrests and seizures from Northland to Christchurch and Palmerston North to Ruatoki?

Fear of terrorism gripped New Zealand with a vengeance on 15 October 2007.

News wires lit up with images of black ninja clad members of the Police armed defender squad executing search warrants against 35 individuals at 51 locations across the entire north island of New Zealand, as well as Christchurch, “in respect to any building, box, vehicle, receptacle, premises or place”.

NZ Police Commissioner Howard Broad convened a press conference to announce what was unfolding was a coordinated police response to a home grown terrorist conspiracy.

The Commissioner made it clear that the imminent danger to society compelled him to act earlier than he had hoped or planned. Almost five years earlier to the day, New Zealand passed the Terrorist Suppression Act, the expressed purpose of which was “to make further provision in New Zealand law for the suppression of terrorism”.

This seemingly fortuitous piece of legislation was about to face its first test, in a big way.

In the hours that followed the breaking news, armed police set up roadblocks at “high risk” locations, forcing passing motorists from their cars and taking their photographs. Residents of the remote town of Ruatoki were held hostage in their homes. Police brandishing automatic weapons showed their overwhelming presence in rounding up the “terrorists”.

Mainstream media claimed their sources reported the suspects had military training camps in the Urewera hills, where they wore paramilitary uniforms and stockpiled weapons and napalm.

Similarities with Al Qaeda terror plots and talk of guerrilla training tactics were mentioned in vague terms. New Zealanders were stunned. Nineteen people would be arrested; eighteen held without bail. Countless others were subjected to raids and seizures but never charged.

The police response to claimed terrorism on our shores made news headlines around the world. In the weeks that followed, it became clear that only the police and government account was getting through to the public. The culprits were behind bars.

Defence lawyers, as they mustered to the challenge ahead, were encumbered by a legal culture that what happens in the courts of New Zealand stays in the courts. NZ lawyers are indoctrinated to believe that shining a light into court proceedings prejudices justice.

A problem for police in these mass arrests was that many of the accused were well known in New Zealand. They were a disparate group of Tuhoe sovereign activists, union organisers, avowed anarchists and fringe political elements. They were not only generally law abiding, they were – at least until now – peaceful activists. What seemed to connect them was an invitation to the Ureweras by Tuhoe at some point during the covert surveillance to discuss common political interests.

In a demonstration which was rare given the apathy-prone New Zealand psyche, Kiwis took to the streets in large numbers to protest what many came to view as oppressive government action, if not tyranny.

This public display of displeasure was considered by many in the know to be instrumental in the Solicitor General refusing a month later to pursue prosecutions under the Terrorist Suppression Act 2002.

In doing so the Solicitor General stated the evidence and the poor wording of the Act each created a legal barrier to prosecution under it. Those held for the four weeks in prison without bail while the Solicitor General had pondered his options were finally let free.

The defendants are now charged with various weapon charges; at least five are also charged with participating in an organised crime group (a novel reach for police based upon their evidence). From the onset, police were in solidarity but the defence was in disarray. Many Maori and community activists recognised that increasing public awareness was key to achieving transparency and the interests of justice.

Conversely, prominent Auckland University Law Professor Jane Kelsey strongly advocated a veil of secrecy, which included suppression of the Crown’s detailed allegations against the 18 publicly labelled as terrorists. While publicly advocating the defence position (she would later adopt the enigmatic call to “drop the charges” against the accused), Ms Kelsey’s fierce fight for secrecy – including writing numerous letters to the Solicitor General calling for prosecution of TV One, the Dominion Post and Kiwiblog for breaching the court suppression orders in their reporting of facts in the case – helped criminalise informed debate and allowed the unfettered police version to rule the day.

The blanket court suppression orders would be accompanied by orders from the Court that the defendants not associate with each other. Related search warrants and seizures occurred for months afterward, including the offices of some of the defence lawyers!  Many of those charged – and some who were not charged – had their property confiscated.

At dawn on 21 February 2008, twelve detectives and uniformed officers in seven vehicles raided the home and office of kiwisfirst’s publisher in connection with news reporting of the raids and evidence. The search warrant, signed by an unidentified “deputy registrar of the district court”, was to confiscate Vince Siemer’s library card, a tropical print shirt and anything that might connect him to the accused – or with their lawyers.

Police seized every electronic device and business record they could find, failing to provide an inventory of what they took. They later claimed they took too much to account for on the day. A subsequent application to the High Court at Auckland for disclosure of the police affidavit used to obtain the warrant was rejected by Justice Hugh Williams after police objected to producing it. It remains suppressed to this day.

Despite no charges being laid, only some of the property seized has been returned.      Early on, seemingly nothing could prevent the public being fed the blinkered State account of events. In addition to being publicly branded as terrorists, TV stations played a newsreel of accused Tame Iti shooting a NZ flag on the ground at a marae so many times that if royalties had been paid him Iti would be a rich man.

When revoking bail for the only defendant granted bail (Jamie Lockett, by District Court Judge Josephine Bouchier) Auckland High Court Justice Helen Winkelmann read out select quotes from the suppressed police affidavit in open court, including “I’m declaring war on this country”.

Winkelmann claimed such statements demonstrated how dangerous Lockett was.            The message, played out in black robe splendour for the press cameras, was the presumption of innocence ought not apply in this case. The police affidavit selectively read from by the judge remained suppressed.

Three and a half years on and still no trial in the cards for the accused, few in New Zealand realise what Winkelmann J relied upon to invoke public fear was nothing more than a impulsive rant from a man who had been the subject of intensive police surveillance and torment for 18 months, including the separation of his shoulder in police custody.

The aggrandising of the police case continued outside the courtroom, including allegations that Prime Minister Helen Clark had been physically threatened and that a plan was afoot to assassinate U.S. President George Bush. It turns out that the alleged threat to harm the Prime Minister was a phone call to Parliament from a man saying he had something to give her at Ellerslie racetrack.It was dealt to by her security staff giving the man a stern warning.

As revealed during the Solicitor General’s 2008 prosecution of Fairfax News for printing excerpts from the police evidence, the plot to assassinate President Bush included catapulting a bus onto his head.

These are a few of the tidbits of evidence that derived from the mammoth 13 month covert police surveillance codenamed “Operation 8”, which placed hidden cameras along roadsides and staring into citizens’ homes, bugs in their cars and bedrooms, tracked their bank accounts and included interceptions of their phone, electronic and personal communications.

In the Ureweras, listening devices and cameras were placed among the trees. In this remote area, many residents hunt for their sustenance. The social culture is one of nature. As such, it is common for the native bush to be a venue for meetings and recreation.       The community, centred in Ruatoki, also has a strong predilection toward Tuhoe sovereignty. This is where the seemingly revolving TV image of Tame Iti shooting the NZ flag with his rifle on a marae dovetails into the story.

The police evidence reveals alarms sounded at the police Special Investigation Group when surveillance picked up bravado texts that declared Tuhoe had to go to war to obtain sovereignty, chatter that Tame Iti had an AK 47 and eavesdrops that government agitators were travelling to the Ureweras for shooting escapades once a month or every other month.

What few people realise is the police evidence indicates eleven to thirty people would go out for the morning to the woods with four to a dozen rifles. Shooting at trees became the backdrop to a day of bonding and discussing similar interests. Such discussions might include open disdain for the police, the government or whatever. It may have included talk of hanging the Queen and obviously included Rambo style fantasies.

Before the Terrorist Suppression Act, such talk might have passed as a free and democratic right to those who had demonstrated no intention, opportunity or ability to carry out such bluster.

Under the Arms Act 1984 in New Zealand, a person can be charged for carrying or possession of firearms by association. Hence, using the example above, all eleven on an outing can be legally charged with an offence which could carry a penalty of up to a $4,000 fine and/or three years prison.

This is not to suggest that the police case is contrived and ought not to have been acted on in some fashion. Contrary to recent rumours, there is evidence that the accused did at least handle guns. The talk among a number of the accused of Al Qaeda and IRA style suicide raids, making bombs, armed struggle and employing insurgent interrogation techniques was, and still is, quite disturbing.

As are, at first sight, police surveillance images of rifle toting men wearing balaclavas and camouflage in the woods. Certainly the police believe this was not appropriate behaviour for grown men, and perhaps they are right. But anyone with experience in such extensive and protracted police surveillance immediately came away with the conclusion “is that all they have?” when reading the police evidence.

Armed raid of someone’s home, seizure of their possessions and being held without bond seems a disproportionate response to talking shit and being caught holding a rifle in the woods. The photos of the accused in camouflage and balaclavas (balaclavas are as common in Ruatoki as hoodies are in south Auckland) appear silly in comparison to the photos of how police were attired on the day of the raids.

And no one would expect the police to include any tapped conversations that might allude to such exercises being a motivational, if not misguided, tool to create cohesion and resolve among Tuhoe activists fighting for an element of sovereignty in the hills when putting forth their prosecution.

Given the broad scope and depth of intrusion in the protracted surveillance, it is perhaps telling that the police evidence culled from this covert surveillance included an account of eavesdropping at a café that was so noisy that police admitted they could not make out the conversation.

What they did hear was one of the men say “fucking police”. This two word remark, admittedly given no context, would become part of the police evidence used in support of obtaining the 51 search warrants. Similar examples were far too common in the evidence.

If the police were guilty of cherry picking comments and partial sentences from months of electronic surveillance to trump up their case, their informants were perhaps guilty of worse. No one knows for sure the extent of this or even how many informants the police used in Operation 8, but the police affidavit in support of securing the search warrants is replete with redacted references to the information relied upon from them.

One identified informant allegedly let off of charges of passport fraud was contacted for this story by kiwisfirst. The man with direct links to at least one of the accused surprisingly claimed not to know about the mere fact of the prosecutions. What appeared early on to be a runaway train had few fingerprints on the wheel. Police procedure required briefing Cabinet beforehand, but this may or may not have immediately trickled down to Crown Law.

Prime Minister Helen Clark gave reserved support to the police operation. Police Minister Annette King and Attorney General Michael Cullen were out of their depth and, presumably, were perfectly content to take the ride.

How much Solicitor General David Collins knew about the police evidence, or lack thereof, before the raids is unclear, but his office would be the focal point as the accused languished in prison.

Part of the police strategy involved painting a pattern of past offending. Past traffic violations and even public protesting had been submitted to the Auckland High Court to bolster applications for various warrants from High Court Justices Lang, Potter and Venning.

After the arrests, the slightest hint of personal misconduct underpinned the need to keep the individuals in prison. Rangi Kemara was claimed to be the “main suspect” in the hacking of the National Party website in 2004 and Lockett was described as having been “previously arrested”.

From the police evidence, it appears the 2004 hacking into the National Party website provided the genesis of Operation 8 itself. Though no one was ever charged in connection with the hacking – which entailed uploading anti-National Party images to the website – the operation seemed to take on a life of its own.

It developed that Kemara had been granted a firearms licence and had a large collection of guns, as well as a fondness for wearing camouflage clothing and engaging in war games. It appeared to snowball from there. If Tuhoe activists were running a “quasi military training camp” bent on producing terrorists in the Ureweras as police asserted, they were far from stealth or even sufficiently equipped.

At least initially, open invitations went out to pretty much any individual or group whose political views were at odds with the government’s view. What police asserted to be military regalia was in fact ordinary camouflage clothing which some of the accused routinely wore out in public.

The so called training exercises did not have enough guns to go around and police would count less than 200 shots ringing out on one “training” day. Still, according to the police portrayal, an eavesdropped conversation snippet concerning the making of bullets and bombs punctuated the magnitude of the Armageddon plans.

As with Iraq, the weapons of mass destruction were apparently never found.

It is understood that in addition to a fair number of hunting rifles, the police raids did confiscate the AK-47 (a .30 caliber semi-automatic weapon which is not illegal and whose design dates back to the 1940’s), a Glock 19 blank-firing pistol, a sawed off shotgun, at least one specialised high powered rifle, as well as a .22 caliber rifle in Wellington.

Curiously, given the huge hype and subsequent expense and secrecy surrounding this endless prosecution, there is a document on Wikileaks which purports to be a U.S. Embassy wire from Wellington in late 2007 stating NZ police advised the accused are not likely to face custodial sentences – information which begs the question of why the police are determined to paint a picture of home grown terrorism, let alone put the taxpayer through the mega-million dollar expense of prosecuting their own citizens, for the realistic expectation of collecting a $4,000 fine.

Such massive expense on the taxpayers’ backs might be remotely justified if they were hearing any truth after a month, a year, or coming up now on four years. Instead, the High Court has become a black hole of truth, justice has been denied through inordinate delay and the only ones who have seen trial are the Dominion Post editor Tim Panckhurst, who was acquitted of contempt for breach of suppression orders in 2008 and kiwisfirst publisher Vince Siemer whose trial on the same charge concluded last week and is awaiting a reserved decision.

The Operation 8 court prosecution now has all the hallmarks of a staged event.

In the vacuum of truth and the absence of any resolution, the accused have already been given their sentence. They have been branded terrorists for almost four years, their lives have been put on hold, those who had personal assets have seen these wither away toward their defence and the personal cost of fighting the endless resources of the State have taken their toll on every one of them.

This month the defendants were told their trial will not now occur until at least February 2012. Meanwhile, the fight over what is evidence, what can be used and what the mode of trial will be might as well be occurring on Mars.

The Supreme Court has reserved its decision into whether High Court Justice Winkelmann or the Court of Appeal was correct as to the legality of some of the police warrants on Tuhoe land after a hearing in May.

Another Supreme Court hearing is set to challenge the accused being denied their statutory right to trial by jury. All of this has been deemed top secret by order of the New Zealand courts. No judicial reasons were given as to why this is so.

That Maori have filed a United Nations human rights complaint over the episode might provide at least part of the answer. Secrecy is the time tested method of damage control used by the NZ government and courts. From the Mt Erebus plane crash to the Berryman Bridge collapse to the Operation 8 prosecution, little has changed in this respect.

Inconvenient truths such as Air New Zealand management’s culpability in the Erebus crash and the NZ Army’s improper use of laminated timber which caused the death of a man when the eight year old bridge collapsed are furtively kept out of the official court record. In this historical context, denial of trial by jury in the Operation 8 prosecutions is worrisome. Judging from past experience this contravention of a statutory right has to do with relying on a Crown Judge to give the appropriate winks and nods and spin to the facts.

There is also the hope that after so many years of being kept in the dark, the public will have lost interest over what created the 911 headlines in 2007.

Crown prosecutor Ross Burns is undeterred by the passage of time. In the Siemer contempt trial, Burns stated non-custodial sentences are appropriate “in the case of a few of the minnows” but that the Crown is determined to seek varying levels of prison time for those who attended more than “one or two camps”.

Two of the accused have already accepted the prosecution’s offer of non-custodial sentences. The rest seem destined to await a trial. In the meantime, Burns’ law firm Meredith Connell is milking the public treasury as the standard bearer for the crown prosecution.

An Official Information Act request by kiwisfirst, seeking to know the cost to date of the prosecution, has not been responded to as this article is posted. #

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June 18, 2011 Posted by | VINCE SIEMER REPORT | Leave a comment

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

Time
Thursday, June 9 · 9:00am – 10:00am

Location
2 Molesworth St, (opposite Parliament Buildings) Wellington.

Created By

More Info
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.
www.kiwisfirst.co.nz

Hope to see those of you who can make it outside the Wellington High Court! I’ll be there. Penny Bright
https://waterpressure.wordpress.com/

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

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.

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THE PURGE OF INCONVENIENT LAW

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.

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LOSING THE PLOT

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.

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(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)

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BLACK ROBES, WHITE LIES

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.

June 7, 2011 Posted by | Fighting corruption in NZ, Human rights, VINCE SIEMER REPORT | Leave a comment

KIWISFIRST: VINCE SIEMER REPORT: ‘WILLYWOOD’

WILLYWOOD

31 May 2011
The resurrection tour of disgraced Supreme Court Justice Bill Wilson (pictured) swings back into action with an interview scheduled to run on TVNZ‘s weekly Court Report program 16 June. Despite the actual interview not scheduled until 14 June, it is being touted as one of explosive revelations, with criminal defence lawyer-host Greg King bragging on facebook he could sell tickets.

Supreme Court Justice Wilson resigned last October amid revelations he ruled in favour of his bank (BNZ) and business partner (Alan Galbraith QC) when on the Court of Appeal. Since then, Wilson has given one interview – to his lawyer’s wife, Deborah Coddington of the NZ Herald – where he claimed he had done nothing wrong and chastised the government Ministers for not rushing to his defence. Though Wilson has since told friends he intends to expose the widespread partisanship of his erstwhile judicial colleagues which proved his indiscretions tame in comparison, do not look for the King interview to expose any secrets, despite its billing.

One reason is Wilson has been paid buckets full of money to remain quiet.  In addition to the well-publicised million dollar payout that precipitated his resignation from New Zealand’s highest court, kiwisfirst was tipped off that Wilson is also receiving large government superannuation payments. However, in response to an Official Information Act request, the government has refused to disclose the amount, citing privacy as the reason why taxpayers cannot know how much of their money Wilson is getting.

Notwithstanding this ongoing largesse, Wilson understands his agreed silence cannot be enforced since confidentiality agreements are not enforceable to cover up criminal activity. The former judge has been reservedly astute in playing this card. Consequently, judges and his Queen’s Counsel mates are falling over Wilson to placate him and bring him back into the fold. Powerful QC’s such as James Farmer and Colin Carruthers reportedly have his ear, but his relationship with one-time great mate (Chief Justice) Sian Elias is by all accounts still strained. While Elias was as supportive of Wilson as practical through the ordeal, it still rubs at Wilson that Elias’ was guilty of much more egregious offending, yet has come out above the fray.

Meanwhile, Green List MP Dr Kennedy Graham’s bill which would require judges disclose their pecuniary interests is in Committee, bogged down by political infighting and recent events in Christchurch.  Attorney General Chris Finlayson has proposed an alternative legislative overhaul to the Judicature Act, quietly telling judges on the powerful Rules Committee that they will be allowed to write what effectively will be a Clayton’s Act as to how they conduct themselves if he has his way. This approach fits with Prime Minister John Key’s attempt to promote New Zealand as a corrupt-free zone for international investors, along the line of Singapore. The Prime Minister has repeatedly told his ministers that exposing judicial corruption is off limits as it will undermine public confidence.

New Zealand is virtually unique in the world’s democracies in refusing to consider corruption exists or implementing processes to look for it. As kiwisfirst reported twice in the last two years, Transparency International New Zealand receives 1% of its funding from memberships and more than 90% from the NZ government on the proviso it focuses its work off shore on the smaller Pacific island nations. Several of TINZ’s New Zealand directors are government employees who also run consultancy firms which specialise in obtaining government grants for their clients.

June 7, 2011 Posted by | Fighting corruption in NZ, VINCE SIEMER REPORT | Leave a comment

KIWISFIRST: VINCE SIEMER REPORT: ‘DELAYS BY JUDICIAL CONDUCT COMMISSIONER SUBJECT OF COURT CHALLENGE’

DELAYS BY JUDICIAL CONDUCT COMMISSIONER SUBJECT OF COURT CHALLENGE

7 June 2011
Barrister Francisc Deliu has filed a claim in the Auckland High Court against the Office of the Judicial Conduct Commissioner, seeking writs of mandamus directing the JCC to address a complaint against District Court Judge David Harvey (pictured) filed more than a year ago and the District Court to produce the court transcript which Mr Deliu says supports his allegations of judicial misconduct.

The claim also asks for a ruling that both have acted unlawfully by failing to properly investigate the complaint and produce the relevant transcript.

The five page claim alleges the JCC failed his statutory duty to progress complaints promptly by sitting on the judge’s response for over 9 months and by refusing to request the court transcript on the basis he did not want to be seen to “assist” the complainant with his complaint.

The JCC has the statutory power to obtain court transcripts in his investigations and does so as a matter of routine. After initially agreeing to provide a copy, the District Court registrar reneged, stating in a recent letter that no transcript would now be provided. No reason was given.

Despite a statutory requirement to promptly process complaints alleging judicial misconduct and an amendment to the prevailing legislation doubling the JCC’s human resources, the Office of the JCC has several complaints as much as 3 years old. Backlogs of complaints increased 600% in the three years to 2010. The next annual report from the JCC is due in August.

Judge Harvey has been the subject of several past and current complaints and was personally sued in 1994 in a case which Harvey won on appeal on the grounds of judicial immunity. Two current complaints against Harvey concern his combative demeanour, including personal threats to counsel without provocation.

June 7, 2011 Posted by | VINCE SIEMER REPORT | Leave a comment

‘KIWISFIRST’ – VINCE SIEMER REPORT: ‘POOR NZ JUDGMENTS RESULT OF POOR SKILLS’

POOR NZ JUDGMENTS RESULT OF POOR SKILLS

5 June 2011
“What sort of madness has infected our legal system when what would be misconduct for a barrister becomes routine – and consequence free – for a judge?”  -A. Molloy Q.C.

As civil litigants increasingly avoid the Courts, and embarrassing judicial decisions in criminal cases are more visibly being spun at the appellate level, lawyers are beginning to publicly vocalize dissatisfaction at the poor quality of judicial appointments and the dire consequences of a lack of specialised courts in New Zealand.

What once was a rallying cry that our smallness made the courts more adaptable to necessary changes in the law, has resulted in one-size-fits-all justice from judges ill-equipped in the areas of laws they are ruling. The dog’s breakfast of court precedents which ensue undermine the vary fabric of the rule of law, stymie economic growth and make a mockery of NZ jurisprudence, as evidenced in recent critiques from NZ LAWYER and a trust law analysis paper by senior Queen’s Counsel Anthony Molloy. Both confirm the lack of judicial specialisation is resulting in judicial decisions which do not rise to the minimal expectation of litigants or the prevailing law.

Barrister Anthony Grant, speaking in the 6 May 2011 issue of NZ Lawyer kindly intoned “With four million people, it is very difficult for us to be a cradle of legal excellence in all areas of the law” as he issued a clarion call for what he labelled “the Hong Kong enhancement” – drawing on international jurists to augment skill deficiencies on the NZ appellate bench.

Mr Molloy QC is less guarded, suggesting the Court has adopted the metaphorical view in its own practices that a family doctor can perform neurosurgery because her medical degree qualifies her to do so. In the NZ courts, this has resulted in former-prosecutor judges writing non-sensical, if not dangerous, decisions in the specialist areas of trust and fiduciary law, based upon little more than their gut feelings as lawyers. Conversely, commercial-lawyer judges routinely make a mess of criminal cases, resulting in far more appeals than would be expected, or even tolerable, in a competent court system. The consequence is increasing consternation regarding NZ court rulings among prominent legal scholars around the globe.

Ironically, Attorney General Chris Finlayson agreed when National came into power three years ago, phoning Mr Molloy to praise his prior critique of judicial skills in areas of legal specialisation “Cuckoos in the Nest” and to express his personal commitment to improve judicial competence through specialisation. But since then Prime Minister John Key made it clear to his caucus that he considers identifying weaknesses in the NZ legal system will undermine his attempts to portray New Zealand as a legal bastion for global investors along the lines of Singapore, Delaware in the U.S. and the Netherlands. The problem for the Prime Minister – and the country – is that foreign investors find it hard to miss when a High Court judge, incompetent in the areas of fiduciary or trust law, declares “the appropriate way of looking at the defendants’ financial situation is to do so globally and ignore the fact that the home is settled in a trust. This is a device which has been used for the benefit of the defendants”, as in the recent ruling Matarangi Beach Estates Ltd v Dawson, or, as occurred in Harrison v Harrison, the Judge ruled discretionary beneficiaries have “no rights enforceable in equity”.

Mr Molloy, the preeminent expert on fiduciary and trust law in New Zealand, indicated his increasing embarrassment at international conferences when being confronted by his peers with capricious NZ court judgments which, in the words of distinguished contract law Professor David McLaughlin, fail to “display any feel for the underlying principles and purposes of the relevant law.”  He is equally concerned by the Law Commission’s April 2011 reference, without apparent doubt or discussion, to at least one very dubious line of New Zealand cases asserting an alleged “inherent jurisdiction” which appears to flatly contradict leading cases in other jurisdictions.

Molloy’s personal alarm echoes a recent report by the International Funds Services Development Group that “lack of depth and requisite skills in the High Court and Court of Appeal is emphatically an issue of fact and it is not a mere issue of perception.”   Despite the Prime Minister’s attempt to perpetrate the myth abroad and ignore the reality at home, Mr Molloy prudently notes the contrast with the specialised and precedent-distinguished courts of Jersey and queried, “How much of your trust work would you shift from a jurisdiction in which the trust judgments command that level of admiration, to a jurisdiction in which incompetent trust advice, argument, and judgments such as those I have been describing are routine?”

June 7, 2011 Posted by | VINCE SIEMER REPORT | Leave a comment

VINCE SIEMER REPORT: ‘POLICE CONCEDED MOST EXPENSIVE PROSECUTION IN HISTORY IS LIKELY TO RESULT ONLY IN FINES’

9 May 2011

www.kiwisfirst.co.nz/

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.

May 9, 2011 Posted by | Fighting corruption in NZ, Human rights, Internationally significant information, VINCE SIEMER REPORT | Leave a comment

VINCE SIEMER REPORT: ‘THE PURGE OF INCONVENIENT LAW’

THE PURGE OF INCONVENIENT LAW

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.

April 21, 2011 Posted by | Fighting corruption in NZ, Human rights, Internationally significant information, VINCE SIEMER REPORT | Leave a comment

VINCE SIEMER REPORT: ‘LOSING THE PLOT’ – The Urewera 18 apply to the Supreme Court over Court of Appeal’s rejection of trial by jury.

17 APRIL 2011

http://www.kiwisfirst.co.nz/

LOSING THE PLOT

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.

April 17, 2011 Posted by | Human rights, VINCE SIEMER REPORT | Leave a comment