Lawyers call for abolition of sedition laws

Timothy Selwyn was charged with sedition for putting an axe through the PM's electorate office window. Photo / Kenny Rodger

Timothy Selwyn was charged with sedition for putting an axe through the PM's electorate office window. Photo / Kenny Rodger

The Law Commission has formally called on Parliament to abolish laws which prohibit rebellion against the state or the inciting of lawlessness.

Commission President Sir Geoffrey Palmer said the archaic offence of sedition was too wide and unclear and had been used to muzzle unpopular political speech.

Last year the commission asked for comment on its view that sedition laws should be repealed following police reviving the dormant law.

The review followed Timothy Selwyn being found guilty of sedition after he put an axe through Prime Minister Helen Clark's electorate office window and in a pamphlet called on others to commit similar acts in response to the foreshore legislation.

The Court of Appeal yesterday rejected an appeal for the conviction saying it was sound in law.

The man was also jailed for unrelated charges of benefit fraud, but the case provoked concern about the use of sedition laws.

More recently a barman in Dunedin was charged with sedition after he published a promotional pamphlet offering students the chance to win a petrol-soaked couch and swap a litre of petrol for a litre of beer.

Sir Geoffrey said today after hearing submissions the commission had decided it was "high time" sedition laws were removed from the statutes.

The Commission's report, Reforming the Law of Sedition, tabled in Parliament today recommends the seditious offences set out in sections 81 to 85 of the Crimes Act 1961 be repealed and not replaced.

"Where behaviour that would be covered by the existing sedition provisions needs to be punished, it can be more appropriately dealt with by other provisions of the criminal law," Sir Geoffrey said.

"By abolishing sedition, we will better protect the values of democracy and free speech."

Sedition is a historic law intended to protect the Crown from attempts to undermine its authority. In New Zealand law it also stands as an offence of inciting lawlessness and disorder.

The commission said in its report to Parliament that offences such as incitement to break laws, conspiracy and treason remained in statute and charges of sedition invaded the democratic value of free speech for no adequate public reason.


A statement from Tim in prison…

“The Court of Appeal has not properly understood the context of the statement and has effectively ruled that there is no freedom of speech in regard to communicating with the media.”

“The Court’s decision is an abomination to justice, an assault on the press, a muzzle on dissent and a green light to police excess and as such I will fight it to the last millimeter.”

“It cannot stand. I am bitterly disappointed and aghast at the ruling”.

Tim Selwyn


1 comment:

Ana said...

Clive Edwards out on bail but can't leave Tonga

Nuku'alofa, Tonga:

WILLIAM Clive Edwards, the Tongatapu No. 3 People's Representative has been released on bail but is not allowed to leave the country.

Tonga's Acting Police Commander Taniela Faletau said today, that Clive, a former Minister of Police was arrested on Friday, January 2 and charged with two counts of sedition. The charges were related to the destruction of the Nuku'alofa Central Business District by a mob on November 16, 2006.

Clive was released on bail on Saturday afternoon, after spending Friday night in prison. His bail included $2,000 pa'anga that was guaranteed by himself. There were also two sureties, at $1,000 pa'anga each, and he was prohibited from leaving the country.

Clive is the fourth People's Representative to the Tongan parliament to have been arrested, charged and released on bail in connection with the events of November 16, 2006. The other three People's Representatives were 'Isileli Pulu, 'Akilisi Pohiva and Lepolo Taunisila.

Taniela said that Clive would appear in the Nuku'alofa Magistrate's Court on February 19.