When the new Solicitor-General David Collins QC (left) received $400,000 a year in legal aid payments from the government and his predecessor Terrence Arnold QC (right) was appointed directly to the Court of Appeal after criminally concealing evidence in a Coroner’s inquest, the camp culture in the Office of the Solicitor General of New Zealand was shown to hit demostrable new lows. One law partner wishing to remain anonymous for obvious reasons called the office “a cesspool of corruption”.
People lament how the Catholic Church quietly shifted pedophile priests in the 1970’s and 1980’s to other parishes rather than take appropriate action. Knowing now how widespread the practice was, the question as to how the situation could become so insufferable for so long remains as unanswerable to most people as it is unthinkable.
As a society we look for easy answers. Blaming heinous crimes on one monster is acceptable. Conversely, believing an honourable institution could act in an inherently heinous manner defies reasonable comprehension. Yet, if history has taught us anything, it is that unbridled trust and lack of proper vigilance are two of the biggest factors that make us vulnerable to such abuses.
Advance to the year of Our Lord 2007 and we find the Office of the Solicitor General of New Zealand has been exposed as a clandestine clearinghouse for legal abuses by club member lawyers. And like the altar boys who raised the alarm in the 1970’s, those now raising the alarm are being attacked as liars and punished for simply doing so. So bad has the situation become in the Crown Law office that few lawyers with integrity now see working there as a dignified pursuit. Firm reasons for this abound, although few outside the legal profession are currently aware of the dour situation. Most simply do not want to believe it. Kiwisfirst will only list a few of the worst examples.
In recent years judges have increasingly relied upon the Solicitor General for support. When public resentment over certain judges being caught out for viewing porn movies on the job, sexually harassing staff and altering official court transcripts resulted in the NZ Government’s creation of the Office of the Judicial Conduct Commissioner in 2004 to hold judges accountable, the Solicitor General conspired with the New Zealand Law Society and powerful judges to ensure the new oversight had no effective power. They saw the appointment of former Law Society President Ian Haynes, a political operator and one of the largest recipients of governmental largesse in the legal profession. As a partner with Kensington Swan, Mr Haynes’ firm received $2.26 Million in legal aid during the last fiscal year. Mr. Haynes’ lucrative livelihood relies on keeping judges happy. It is more than ironic then that his appointment and capacity has been publicly labeled by the Crown Law office as ‘independent’. The truth is very different and can be seen in Mr Haynes’ failure, since taking office, to find even one of the 250 formal complaints he has handled against various judges worthy of a merely a formal investigation.
As a legal insider, Mr Haynes is privy to information. A great deal of it. He would know, for example, that former Solicitor General Terrence Arnold QC was repeatedly protected by judges and the Crown Law office against allegations of legal negligence and criminal misconduct. High Court Justice John Wild QC alone intervened twice on Mr Arnold’s behalf. More importantly, Haynes would know that none of this sordid past prevented Mr Arnold’s appointment directly to the Court of Appeal bench. Sure, such an egregious past did threaten Arnold’s appointment to judge but the New Zealand Law Society and Crown Law office both aggressively campaigned for his appointment and New Zealand Bar Association President Jim Farmer QC wrote a letter on behalf of the legal profession in his support when the going got tough.
It should be apparent that many of the key players have a ‘QC’ suffix to their surnames. It is indicative that membership in the ‘QC’ club does have its privileges. The designation of “QC” stands for “Queen’s Counsel” – lawyers who are endowed legal status and gratuitous treatment by the New Zealand Courts. No Queen’s Counsel in New Zealand has ever been convicted of a crime or of serious misconduct despite many credible stories of outlandish misconduct by some through the years.
It is noteworthy that an assistant deputy director Solicitor General, Grant Liddell, was put in charge of the wind up of the Serious Fraud Office in August 2007 to ensure further scandals did not crop up before the body was put fully to rest.
Now with Arnold in the Court of Appeal, the new Solicitor-General David Collins QC is taking advantage of his friend to consolidate his base of unbridled power. Collins wasted little time in his first three months on the job. This was most evident when he approved the overblown Police terrorist charges against 20 New Zealand citizens, dropping the case only when public pressure exposed the extreme heavy-handedness of the operation. During the same period, Mr Collins killed a Parliamentary Select Committee investigation into Vince Siemer’s false imprisonment by High Court Judge Judy Potter on the basis that the matter was sub judice (currently before the courts and therefore off limits to Parliament) when it clearly was not. A total of eighteen uncontested witnesses have provided evidence against Ms Potter.
In another blatant contravention of his position as the highest law enforcement officer in the land, Mr Collins sent a letter to website host Enlighten in July threatening legal action against the company by his public office on the sole basis he considered one of the domains Enlighten was hosting contained defamatory material – this despite the New Zealand domain itself never being the subject of any legal proceedings.
This level of corruption is unprecedented in New Zealand. It is worth recalling that the citizens of Nazi Germany were as law-abiding as Kiwis are today. Then, as now, the perversions began with systematic control over the Courts and silencing of the independent press. Few realize how close New Zealand came to the precipice over the “Tuhoe Terrorist” case. This time the Solicitor General reversed his course, but what about next time? That the supposed evidence used to keep the accused held without bail for a month is still being suppressed by Court order shows how serious close to tyranny we still are.
Why is the New Zealand media not reporting this important news? The troubling answer is they understand the inner workings of the Court as well as Mr Haynes does. Hence, in this game of survival, it is difficult for many to consider the future of their children when the pressing concern is watching their back.