New Zealand Law Society - Proposed terrorism suppression 'control orders' being rushed, says Law Society

Proposed terrorism suppression 'control orders' being rushed, says Law Society

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The New Zealand Law Society says the proposed terrorism suppression ‘control orders’ legislation is being rushed through Parliament with inadequate justification and insufficient scrutiny.

The Law Society has presented its submission on the Terrorism Suppression (Control Orders) Bill to Parliament’s Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade select committee and has recommended a number of significant changes.

The bill introduces a regime for control orders that may impose serious restrictions on people coming into New Zealand who are suspected of participating in terrorism-related activities overseas, without fundamental protections provided by New Zealand’s criminal and human rights laws.

Potentially a very broad group of people may be subject to the control order regime, and subject to stringent measures such as residential curfews and prohibitions on employment and having bank accounts, for up to six years. The regime extends to people who have been prosecuted but not convicted for terrorism-related activities overseas.

“The Law Society acknowledges the seriousness of terrorism-related activities and the need to deal expeditiously with threats to New Zealand’s national security. But the control orders would allow significant sanctions to be imposed on people, without any of the protections provided by our criminal justice system – including the presumption of innocence and requiring offending to be established by evidence beyond reasonable doubt,” Law Society spokesperson Professor Geoff McLay told the committee.

“Limitations on individual rights protected under the Bill of Rights Act and international conventions may be justified by legitimate national security interests. However, the Law Society considers such a regime should only be introduced following very careful consideration and evidence justifying it, which has not happened here,” Professor McLay said.

Furthermore, the Law Society is concerned that the apparent urgency surrounding the bill has left little opportunity for proper public and Parliamentary scrutiny.

“We recommend the select committee seeks advice and evidence to justify the wide scope of the bill, including evidence about the workability or otherwise of similar legislation in other jurisdictions,” Law Society spokesperson David Neild said.

The Law Society has recommended the committee considers several changes to the bill, to ensure due process and natural justice.

“Important protections are provided in other areas of the law where the state seeks to significantly restrict an individual’s liberty, and should be provided in this bill,” Mr Neild said.

And if the bill is to proceed, the Law Society recommends that it be subject to review in five years.