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March 2, 2009 | by  | in Opinion |
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Editorial – Guilt Upon Accusation

John Key has thrown down his cast and postponed (and perhaps stopped) the implementation of Section 92A of the Copyright Amendment Act. Kia ora rationality, kia ora.

I care about the implications of the insertion of laws like Section 92A into my anus New Zealand’s statute books. As someone who believes in the rule of law, privacy of the individual, social contract, yadda yadda yadda—all those things which make living in a democracy bearable—I decided to sit back and see what happened.

The main argument against the amendment is that it would mean guilt upon accusation. How different is that from any other law we have? The tenuous link I am about to draw, and probably fail to explain properly, is that guilt upon accusation is already with us. Just shrouded slightly behind subtle guises.

Two friends of mine moved to Invercargill last year. Small town New Zealand at its worst. Cutting a long story short, their landlord didn’t like the fact that they were “living in sin” and were intelligent, culturally inclined urbanites from Wellington. Think landlord from hell, but not in a way that goes against any laws. But then things got serious. After a particularly dreadful couple of dealings with the landlord, the bitch called a flat inspection.

My friends decided to record the whole situation on a dictaphone. Just in case things got ugly. So the landlord and her husband come over. Tempers flare. Words are spoken in raised voices. Landlord leaves. Landlord goes down to the police station and claims that she was assaulted. Police refuse to take the recording of the event. Take one of them in for questioning at 10.30 at night, over a week after the incident. Friend ends up having to go to Court and plead for diversion.

No real investigation. Just assumption of guilt. Scary thing is that this kind of story isn’t so hard to come by. Outback Nazi law-enforcement in rural New Zealand is inbred, festering and all too common. You have little communities reminiscent of Hot Fuzz-type social control. Anything to keep up appearances.

Arthur Allan Thomas case. Thomas accused. Found guilty. Wasn’t him. But he fit the bill.

Lundy case. Lundy accused. Facts don’t fit the murder. Shit, he’s still guilty. Fucking fat git.

These are high profile murder cases that are being fucked up. People are being accused. People are being found guilty without the benefit of a rational, logical fact-based timeline of events that categorically prove they are breaking the law.

This isn’t even mentioning the trial by media that every high profile case in New Zealand is subjected to *cough* Veitch *cough*. Under the guise of public interest and opinion, editors opine and spurt mindless drivel across the pages of newspapers and magazines. Shaping and influencing what potential jury members may think about a case. The concept of guilty till proven innocent is now the basis of most crime stories.

How could the police possibly get an investigation wrong? Which leads us back to Thomas, Lundy et al. Popular crime dramas like the CSI franchise and NCIS, all paint the inevitability that the police, the scientific-method, Horatio Cane’s sunglasses and one-line soliloquies are always right. Why would you question the evidence that the policeman in the dock is giving, when you could question the evidence that an accused murderer is giving? Catch-22.

We go through the elaborate throws of this judicial process, but do we actually get justice? We have a system that puts more emphasis on arguments, perceptions and accusations than on fact. It is subject to the prejudices of the juries’ minds.

So this whole Section 92A thing is just the lawmakers being brutally honest. A natural progression of the neoliberal reforms of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Delivering regulatory power into the hands of private companies. Meh. Roll over Beethoven. I’m off to enjoy the internet before the Invercargill police department kicks down my door and stops me looking at the Salient site because we don’t attribute all the pop culture references, YouTube videos and German scat porn you guys know and love.

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The editor of this fine rag for 2009.

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