I heard this story briefly on Radio New Zealand last night on my way home from work.
A 37 year-old Greymouth man, Allistair Patrick Brooker, won a Supreme Court appeal against his earlier conviction for disorderly conduct. He had stood outside the home of a local police officer for 15 minutes playing his guitar and singing a little ditty about the officer’s conduct during a warranted raid on his home in the middle of the night.
The Supreme Court quashed the conviction on the grounds that Brooker was exercising his rights to protest, guaranteed under New Zealand’s Bill of Rights, even though it might cause annoyance to the cop concerned The Supreme Court issued a brief media release after the decision was handed down. Here’s a taste:
By majority, the Court has concluded that, taking into account Mr Brooker’s right to freedom of expression guaranteed by s 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, his behaviour had not in these circumstances been disruptive of public order and was therefore not disorderly in terms of s 4(1)(a) of the Summary Offences Act 1981.
You can read the full judgment via the Scoop website.
Of course, the police union (if we can call it that), the Police Association, is outraged. Association President Greg O’Connor said the decision undermines the authority of the police and denies them the protection they need to do their jobs.
Oh yeah, like this will stop the rozzers from using capsicum spray, or tasers. Do you think it will interfere with their ‘right’ to jack up suspects, or bash people?
Unfortunately for Mr Brooker, his troubles may not be over. He and his partner, Sheryl Ann Goodger, are currently on remand for allegedly trespassing at the home of Greymouth district superintendent Vern Morris. The couple’s recent appearance in Greymouth District Court was reported in The Press on 21 April 2007.
It seems that Mr Booker is a serial protestor, which is not a bad thing. During his appeal he told the Supreme Court that he had been on many protests, his first as a 10-year-old.
As an adult I’ve never lived in a nation with a bill of rights until coming to New Zealand. Here’s the important section about democratic rights:
2 Democratic and Civil Rights
You have the right to
• freedom of expression
• freedom of peaceful assembly
• freedom of association
• freedom of thought, conscience, religion and
As a New Zealand citizen over 18 you have the right
to vote and to be a Member of Parliament.
So long as you are lawfully in New Zealand you
have the right to freedom of movement and
residence in New Zealand.
You have the right to practise your own religion or
So my right to practice a religion of my choice is enshrined here, but there’s no mention of not having a religion. Is aetheism a belief, or a lack of beliefs. And what about my right to protest violently?
Maybe I should write a protest song and sing it badly (I don’t sing any other way) outside the home of the Supreme Court justices till I get my day in court.