Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Crystal balls and other delicate bits

I had a comment recently that I ought to try writing a blog about something positive. It’s a tempting thought and God knows I’ve scanned the news sites looking for some really good local positivity. The fact is; although there are some good things going on they don’t offer the same amount of scope for being lampooned  (unless I pick on our local media) or making a valid ethical or political point.

So I decided instead this week to make a positive prediction.

I predict that 2012 will be a very good year for lawyers in New Zealand. Now you might think that a pretty lame prediction considering that by income standards at least, most years are good for lawyers in NZ. But I mean it will be a good year for them because of the number of interesting legal conundrums that will arise, for the most part from the actions of our Government.

It has already opened in fine style with the Electoral Commission finding that the ‘Boogie down with Jianqi’ radio show was in fact an election programme. It would seem the EC possess the ‘nads to stand up to the Government, unlike the BSA, or Justice Winkelmann, or the Ombudsman. Now let’s see if our Police Commissioner is a real man or too scared about his promotion prospects to prosecute.

What makes this one even more interesting is the fact that at present it is Mediaworks that is in the gun and not Jianqi. Surely by taking part he would be responsible as well – in fact the main culprit. Mediaworks (who by some strange coincidence had a Government guarantee of around $45M given to them last year) were simply accessories before during and after the offence. The Prime Muncher was responsible for putting himself on there.

Consider this; If Joe Bloggs asked his neighbour to borrow his truck so he could go and do a ram raid on his local liquor store, then it would be Joe who would have the book thrown at him while his neighbour would be prosecuted for the lesser crime of knowingly providing him with the means to commit the raid. I can’t see why the Radio Jianqi affair should be any different. However I’ve no doubt a bunch of very highly paid counsel will be arguing that out soon.

Speaker and general oddball Backward Smith has bumbled out early with a politically motivated ruling that could also lead to legal action, although I sense there could be a reprieve for him if the PSC disagree with his ruling.

I am reminded of a similarly stupid lapse of judgement by the same Gaylen look-alike a few years ago when he explained that Asians were ideally suited for fruit picking because of their tiny wee hands. It’s a miracle he didn’t wind up with a large Chinese basketballer’s mitt around his scrawny little throat to remind him that people of all races come in all shapes and sizes.

Of course the PSC might agree with Lockwood that it is fine to discriminate against deaf people but not those in wheelchairs or those who want Maori translation. Hopefully they will write that down as I just did to see how ridiculous it is and allow the Greens to get their Mojo working. If not I see tears before bedtime for ol’ Backwards and shouts of glee from some highly paid lawyers.

The legal profession has already done very well out of the Tuhoe raids case and will no doubt continue to do so for some time yet. I really don’t know what was going on in Tuhoe country at the time, but clearly something was. Whether it was illegal or not might be another matter. Unfortunately when somebody as high profile as Tame Iti is involved the issues often become clouded as other agenda from him and his opponents come into play.

It is clear, however that the Police exceeded their powers, which is, let’s face it, not that unusual for them. What makes this a bit different though is their insistence that the ends justified the means. This is what the US Government calls accepting a bit of collateral damage and what Adolph Hitler called the path to the final solution (or something similar). If Government and Police want the law to be respected they need to apply it in an ethical and fair manner. The minute you start cutting corners and skipping over people’s rights you are on a slippery slope. It’s a bit like opening that box of chocolates you know you shouldn’t eat, just to have one, or maybe two, or three won’t really hurt, will they......?

There is one more case that will keep a lot of lawyers very busy and very well rewarded, and that is the Megaupload (of bollox). This is another case that has a very dodgy feel to it.

I don’t know a great deal about Kim DotCom (such a silly name), but from what I can see, his case is going to open quite a few cans of worms and I doubt they’ll all be able to put back into the cans afterwards. The FBI seems to think he’s a cross between Al Capone, Timothy McVeagh and Charlie Manson. Charges include money-laundering (what do you use; I use Earthwise ultra concentrate); racketeering (so he’s a bit noisy) and copyright fraud – but here is where the lawyers will really get busy.

Owners of copyright are entitled to full protection against theft of their works, but the Feds are trying to make him and his company liable for the actions of third parties over which they will have limited control. It is a bit like trying to make a record store owner liable for the actions of somebody who buys a CD from their store and takes it home and makes a load of copies which he then sells to others. The store owner can’t possibly know the guy is going to do this and is engaged in a perfectly legitimate and honourable trade selling CDs in the first place. I can’t see how the Megaupload thing differs in that respect. However I’ve no doubt a coach load of lawyers will make enough money out of arguing it to put a deposit down on a small Greek island. I hear they might be going for quite reasonable prices soon along with quite a lot of other European real estate. But the lawyers will need to act fast to beat the bankers to it.     

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