National Party police spokeswoman Paula Bennett had a relatively simple job to do on Sunday – get up and make a policy statement which included a previously-announced plan to separate drug-dealing gang members from their guns.
Instead, apparently in her enthusiasm to beat the law-and-order drum in an election campaign, Bennett ended up declaring that some people “have fewer human rights than others”.
Her suggestion that gang members have fewer rights than the rest of us was met with rightful condemnation.
Wellington human rights lawyer Michael Bott said the move would put New Zealand on the “slippery slope to fascism”. Christchurch sociologist Jarrod Gilbert – author of a book about gangs, Patched – said the policy was “cynical and dangerous”.
Prime Minister Bill English was in damage control mode yesterday, trying to backtrack on Bennett’s comments. “Sometimes we don’t say the right thing – that happens,” he said.
He assured people that human rights are “embedded in the system”.
Indeed they are. New Zealand’s Bill of Rights Act succinctly and clearly guarantees our freedoms in about 2000 words. Section 21 states unambiguously: “Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure, whether of the person, property, or correspondence or otherwise.”