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Thursday, July 15

Reform of ‘claim of right’ law a waste of everybody’s time

An inordinate amount of Government time and energy is being misspent on reforming the ‘claim of right’ law after its use in the trial of the Waihopai Three, Green Party Human Rights spokesperson Keith Locke said today.

In March three men were found not guilty of intentional damage after they deflated a dome at the Waihopai spy station. The Government has just announced it plans to either reform or repeal the 'claim of right' defence successfully used by the defendants in the Waihopai case.

“The Key Government is overreacting to the not guilty verdict in the Waihopai trial,” said Mr Locke.

“There is a common-sense justification for the ‘claim of right’ defence. Most people would support someone breaking down a door if they believed someone inside was in distress – even though damaging the door might technically be a crime.

“The Waihopai Three believed they were also helping people in distress. They offered proof that the Waihopai spy station had been used to spy on nations opposed to the disastrous war in Iraq.

“None of the legal changes suggested by the Ministry of Justice has much merit.

“A ‘reasonableness’ element – as suggested by the Ministry of Justice - does not need to be added to the law, because juries will always take this into account.

“The defendants will presumably provide evidence for their belief as in the Waihopai Three trial.

“This doesn’t mean we should reverse the ‘burden of proof’ from the prosecution to the defence,” said Mr Locke.

“In the end, defendants have to get their arguments past a Kiwi jury.

“There are a lot of urgent things for the Government to be spending its scarce resources on. Tinkering with the ‘claim of right’ law is not one of them.”