Court of appeal expand Police powers

The Court of Appeal last week overturned a High Court ruling, significantly liberalising Police powers for search.  As part of the ruling, the Court of Appeal has ordered the public be kept in the dark, but the full judgment is available to lawyers on legal search engines such as Lexis-Nexis.

The appeal Judgment is part of the long-running “terrorist” prosecution which created a public backlash in October 2007, after Police cast a national dragnet on the assertion they had uncovered a paramilitary terrorist group conducting operations in the Urewera ranges.

The NZ government long ago retreated from initial public declarations that at least seventeen individuals represented a terrorist threat to the nation.  Solicitor General David Collins originally approved the prosecutions under the Terrorist Suppression Act 2002 but reversed himself a month later amid national protests, calling the Act incoherent and unworkable.  Fifteen people are still being prosecuted on lesser weapon charges.

After making headlines around the world in 2007, information on what is already certain to be the most expensive prosecution in New Zealand’s history has largely been sucked into the black hole of the Courts.

It was hoped that a trial could be set for next year.  However, the Court of Appeal reversal has defence counsel considering a Supreme Court appeal.

Almost all the defendants are legally aided.  Rodney Harrison QC and Annette Sykes appeared as lead counsel for the defendants before the Court of Appeal.