Thursday, 30 April 2020

Police continue to stonewall on lockdown legal advice


“The Government can encourage respect for the law and confidence in Police by releasing the Crown Law advice on the legality of the lockdown”, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Today at the Epidemic Response Committee, the new Police Commissioner continued to stonewall on the issue of releasing legal advice on the lockdown, despite the clear public interest in seeing it.

“Police Commissioner Andrew Coster told the Committee that the Government’s COVID-19 response represents the ‘most unique’ set of legal controls placed on the public in living memory. Police have extraordinary powers and a large degree of discretion in how frontline officers use them.

“In addition to that, when the country went into lockdown on 25 March, there was serious confusion about what people were allowed to do and what powers the Police had. It was only several days later that the Director-General of Health and the Police Commissioner issued clear guidance and about the rules that citizens and Police officers were operating under. In the intervening period, members of the public were being arrested.

“The public needs to be assured that, during this period, Police were acting within the law and not simply operating on the basis of the Government’s public statements.

“For example, a police officer walked into a business that had been assured it could remain open and shut it down, but allowed an almost identical business down the road to continue operating. People have the right to know what laws were being used in this case.

“We know Crown Law provided legal advice prior to the Director-General’s section 70 notice and the Police Commissioner’s operational guidelines for Alert Level 4.

“But the Attorney-General, and both the former and the current Police Commissioner, have refused to allow the public to see Crown Law’s advice.

“The rule of law requires that rules are clear and publicly accessible. The Government has an opportunity to encourage respect for the law, and confidence in Police, by being open and transparent. New Zealanders deserve to the see the legal basis on which their civil liberties are being severely restricted.”