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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 24th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Why are state employees above the law?

27 September 2018

I've written before about the dubious distinction between "unlawful" and "illegal" in this country.

It seems that if we (the great unwashed) break the laws of the land, we are deemed to be acting illegally and, if caught, prosecuted and convicted, suffer penalties which may vary from a fine through to a lengthy term of imprisonment.

Laws without penalties attached for their breach are useless laws.

How many people would we find speeding on our roads if there was no fine or other censure for exceeding the posted limits for example?

So the courts are empowered to punish those who show contempt for the laws of the land, and that is how it should be.

However, if you break the laws of the land whilst in the employ of the state, no such regime of penalty applies.

The reality is that if a state-employee breaks the law whilst performing their duties, their actions are not deemed to be "illegal" at all, merely "unlawful".

Now this has to be the single largest injustice in this country.

We've seen countless instances where the rights and freedoms of NZ citizens and residents have been trampled by state employees in ways that utterly breach the clearly written laws of the land -- yet nobody is held accountable to the extent that they are fined or imprisoned. Indeed, they don't even lose their jobs!

Scores of NZers were spied on by the GCSB in clear breach of the law -- nobody was punished for that *crime*.

Kim Dotcom's house was raided by armed forces, he and his family was held at gunpoint and most of his assets were carted off by state servants in an action that the courts ruled to be against the law -- but once again, none of those who made the conscious decision to break the laws put in place to protect the public, were punished for their contempt.

Scores of NZers were stopped, searched and detained by armed police in rural NZ on the premise that there were "terrorists" afoot. Yet again, an action that was in breach of the law and nobody was fined or imprisoned for their breaking of the law.

And now it's happening again!

According to this RadioNZ story, MSD has been caught "unlawfully" using fake names on legal documents.

If you or I were to forge a name on a court document, I suspect we'd get a pretty significant punishment for doing so -- but despite having been previously warned that this practice was against the law, MSD staff ignored that warning and continued the practice.

By engaging in this practice, MSD had "breached Ms L's right to natural justice" and also "there was no legal authority for the [MSD] committee to issue decision using fictitious names".

The judge ruled that the ministry "did not act lawfully when it took the extraordinary step of having members of the committee issue their decisions using fictitious names and signatures".

Okay, so people have (very clearly) broken the law -- what's going to happen to them?

Answer: absolutely bloody nothing!

Is it any wonder therefore, that we continue to see state employees flouting the very laws that have been put in place by parliament to (supposedly) protect the citizens of the country from abuse?

Surely this is just as much of a joke as removing the penalties for speeding, rape and murder would be.

Why do we sit around and accept this double-standard?

What the hell is wrong with people?

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