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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Remote control

I have not read the other 53 paragraphs, but contempt of court - or of parliament - is a valid reason for detention in custody and a habeas corpus hearing has determined that it is so in the Vince Siemer case. I know little of the facts beyond this NZ Lawfuel article via NBR:

Solicitor General orders the arrest of publisher Vince Siemer

In a dramatic move to get the job done, the High Court this morning ordered police to immediately arrest website publisher Vince Siemer and bring him to court for alleged criminal contempt. Mr Siemer faces up to three months in jail and a big costs bill.

He deliberately failed to appear in the High Court at Auckland to answer contempt of court proceedings brought against him by solicitor-general David Collins.

Contempt proceedings were brought after details of a suppressed decision given by Justice Helen Winkelmann in the long-running Urewera 18 firearms raids case were published on Mr Siemer’s website.

He refused to remove the details and Justice Geoffrey Venning was told they were still on the website this morning.

After hearing discussion on whether Mr Siemer had legal aid or had engaged lawyer Evgeny Orlov, inquiries by the court disclosed legal aid had not been granted and Mr Orlov had no instructions.

“This is a serious contempt,” Justice Venning said.

The courts now have a remote control law so prisoners don't have to appear in person with the judge, just on a monitor. The state can still effectively keep people incommunicado by way of the monitor system if they never have to appear in front of an actual judge and in open court. The politicians have been patting themselves on the back that the bill was changed to make it clear that the trial itself must be in person if the defendant insists. But what of habeas corpus and other non-trial hearings where that is not guaranteed?

Eventually the only communication with the outside for prisoners is going to be via a monitor and all the public will ever see is scrawled notes.
It must be much easier to say no to a monitor or to stamp a letter as declined than to do it face to face.

Siemer wants us to go to his Kiwisfirst website. What am I (not) looking for? Winkleman's bio page. Not flattering, but he must have far worse things to say about others. It's not that contemptuous. It may be this article that has large parts redacted from 17 September 2009:

here's an extract:

In a sour note to Justice Winkelmann's historic ruling, Her Honour ordered her findings suppressed from the media, seemingly to save embarrassment to the Police, as well as fellow High Court Justice Judith Potter - who was the judge [**CENSORED BY THE NEW ZEALAND GOVERNMENT**]. In stark contrast to this current shroud of secrecy, the Police raids and massive arrests consumed "mainstream media" coverage for weeks in New Zealand when they occurred two years ago, as well as prompted breaking news bulletins around the world. In 2007, Judge Winkelmann herself read out, in open Court and in front of national TV news cameras, the very worst evidence from the Police affidavits - before ordering the affidavits themselves concealed by judicial order from the public.

What started out as a prosecution under the Terrorist Suppression Act 2002 by Solicitor General David Collins in 2007 has now been diluted into an Arms Act 1983 prosecution. In November 2007 S-G Collins backed down from the Terrorist charges after a month of mass protests brought attention to the lack of credible evidence being publicly released and resulted in increased suspicion concerning the NZ Court's blanket order suppressing the Police affidavits.

I can't find anything that might be the subject of contempt here. He might have had it pulled or edited it out to make it compliant within the last day, however it's hard to tell. The case has Orwellian potential: not just in a court that doesn't say what you are supposed to have done wrong, or in the imposition of an indefinite prison term for it, but now the only legal process for you to fight it can be carried out impersonally on closed circuit cameras without ever having a right to appear in open court.

Media Law blogger Steven Price had little sympathy for where Siemer's last round of contempt proceedings ended up.


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