Blanket ban on prisoner voting goes to Supreme Court today - what MPs have said about the ban in the past

A Supreme Court appeal by the Crown kicks off today over whether a blanket ban to removing prisoner voting rights is inconsistent with the Bill of Rights.

Prisoners are not allowed to vote in New Zealand, after a 2010 policy change removed the right for any prisoner with less than three years of their sentence to vote. 

Arthur Taylor Source: 1 NEWS

In August last year, the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal by the Crown over the 2015 ruling that found the blanket ban to be inconsistent with the Bill of Rights, after inmate Arthur Taylor took the issue to the High Court. 

After the High Court ruling, Jacinda Ardern, who at the time was the Labour Party justice spokesperson, told NZ Herald the ruling was a "wake-up call" for the then National-led government, saying the ban was "full of contradictions and inconsistencies". 

"Parliament has a responsibility to respect fundamental rights for all. The Government now has a responsibility to assure all New Zealanders it understands that," she said to NZ Herald at the time.  

At the beginning of 2015, Labour's Kelvin Davis said Labour would "restore the right for prisoners with sentences of less than three years to vote in central and local elections". 

Minister of Justice Andrew Little told 1 NEWS this month he could not comment on the issue, due to it being in front of the court. 

Last week on TV3's Nation, new National Party leader Simon Bridges was asked his view on whether prisoners should vote. 

Mr Bridges thought the previous 1993 law which only allowed prisoners with less than three years on their sentence to vote was still in place, instead of the 2010 blanket ban that did not let any prisoners vote.

Mr Bridges was in parliament for the 2010 vote, and participated in the debate.

In 2010, Hansard documents have Mr Bridges saying in the bill's first reading: "Every so often Parliament gets to debate questions of pure principle. The issue here is whether serving prisoners should have the right to vote. My answer, at a principled level, is absolutely not."

"My grandfather fought in a world war, but did he do that so that serving prisoners could vote? Voting is a fundamental right, but it is also a precious one. By committing serious crime, prisoners opt out of the social contract between citizens and the State, and they lose the right to vote."

He described his speech as "superb" in the second reading, saying it "set out very clearly the rationale for this bill". 

In last week's interview, eight years later, Mr Bridges said: "I think the answer that we came to in Government was under, is it two or three years? Yes. Where they're in for really serious lags and really serious offences, no," he said.

Host Lisa Owen then told him no prisoners could vote, and asked if he supported giving the vote to prisoners with three years left of their sentences.

"Is there an issue with prisoners in prison not having the vote, do I feel prissy about that? Am I worried about the Bill of Rights implications? No I'm not."

Previously, both the now-Minister of Finance and Minister of Education also spoke during the debate of prisoner voting rights. 

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said in the first reading of the 2010 bill: "We struggle to get the people who are more likely to go to prison on to the electoral roll in the first place, yet this bill removes them from the electoral roll. It is not justified. It will further marginalise them from our community."

Finance Minister Grant Robertson described it in the second reading as "a disgraceful attack on democracy". 

He said it was "a petty, spiteful attempt to try to curry favour with a populist issue". 

Despite the critique of removing voting rights to prisoners, there are no current members' bills or policy proposals to remove the ban. 

The Green Party previously gave their support to reinstating the right for prisoners to vote. To make changes in parliament, Labour would need the support of both the Greens and NZ First. 

When asked their stance on prisoners voting, a NZ First spokesperson said: "This is no policy on this and the Caucus will discuss it if it comes up."

Tania Sawicki Mead, director of JustSpeak told 1 NEWS she hoped changing the law would be a priority for the government. Source: 1 NEWS

Tania Sawicki Mead, director of JustSpeak, a youth criminal justice advocacy group, told 1 NEWS she hoped changing the law would be a priority for the government. 

"It is incumbent on all MPs to consider the legislation they vote for, and to degree they violate the basic human rights of people affected," she said. 

"You have to tread really carefully when you're removing basic human rights that are afforded to all of us."

"It's tempting for some MPs to take the easy way out, and suggest further punishment and isolation for people who have committed crimes but it benefits all of us when we think of the long term outcomes."

She said Labour had "indicated they're not happy with this piece of legislation and they've got the momentum and the opportunity to do something about it".

"We all understand that people who have been in prison will at some point come out again. We should all want to do things that we can to ensure when they do come out they have an opportunity to participate in our society in a way that is beneficial for everyone.

"The idea is that it follows as a natural punishment is not really fair because people who are in prison already being punished by having their liberty removed, and not to mention various other restrictions on their rights."

Prisoner in jail cell. Source: 1 NEWS



The Hastings' Four Square that sold four winning first division Lotto tickets

Hastings was the lucky home to four winning first division Lotto tickets last night.

Flaxmere's Scott Drive Four Square was the winning shop and TVNZ1's Seven Sharp meet with the owner.

"We have five first division winners in Flaxmere, and we have got four of them," owner Becky Gee said.

"Usually one shop gets one but one shop got four, unbelievable."

Last night there were 40 first division winners, who each get $25,000.

Ms Gee says she doesn’t know who the winners were yet, but says hopefully she’ll find out soon.

"Hopefully it’ll go to people who need it, to pay a lot of bills."

Lotto confirmed that one person purchased four of the winning tickets, which means they take home $100,000.

It turns out Scott Drive Four Square is where to buy a winning ticket. Source: Seven Sharp

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Watch: Three re-entry options for Pike River Mine explained in 3D graphic

Mining experts are gathered in Greymouth to look at the risks involved in the three re-entry options for the Pike River Mine, and 1 NEWS has explained the options using a 3D graphic.

The bodies of 29 men remain in the West Coast mine following an explosion on November 19  2010. Re-entry would allow experts to search for the bodies and gather evidence about the disaster.

The project is so unique the army have been called on to help with planning. Source: 1 NEWS

The graphic shows the lie of the land above the mine and two distinct areas of the mine underground.

The mine drift, or access tunnel, starts from the entrance to the mine and runs 2.29 kilometres to what's known as the workings.

The workings are where the coal was being extracted and were the last locations of the 29 miners. The workings area contains a network of more than four kilometres of tunnels.

The first re-entry option is going in through the current entrance as it is now, with no secondary exit.

The second is the same but with a large bore hole made to provide a means of escape.

The other option is to create a new two-metre by two-metre tunnel about 200 metres long from up on a hill, to connect with another area for ventilation and a second exit.

Safety is the biggest priority and the findings will be reviewed over the next month.

After an explosion at the West Coast mine on 19 November 2010, the bodies of 29 men remain in the mine. Source: 1 NEWS

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Taranaki man denies killing Waitara teenager in crash

A Taranaki man charged with dangerous driving causing death following an accident that killed a Waitara teenager last month has denied the offence.

The 37-year-old appeared in the New Plymouth District Court today where he also pleaded not guilty to charges of possession of cannabis, possession of utensils to consume methamphetamine, speeding and refusing to give a blood sample.

On 28 August, Olivia Renee Keightley-Trigg, 18, died after the man allegedly crashed into her on State Highway 3 between New Plymouth and Waitara.

The court heard that at about 6am the defendant was travelling towards New Plymouth when he crossed double yellow lines while overtaking another vehicle and drove into the path of Ms Keightley-Trigg.

Keightley-Trigg is one of 12 people to have been killed on the stretch of SH3 in the last 10 years.

The defendant was granted interim name suppression until 26 September, pending an appeal being filed over its potential lifting.

Defence counsel Paul Keegan argued that publication of the defendant's name could prejudice his right to a fair trial.

But Crown prosecutor Detective Sergeant Dave MacKenzie disagreed, telling the court that the defendant's right to a fair trial could be protected via other means.

Judge Garry Barkle said he was inclined to lift the name suppression in the interests of open justice but noted Mr Keegan had signalled his intention to appeal any such decision.

Judge Barkle therefore extended interim name suppression until 4pm on 26 September, pending an appeal.

The defendant, who has elected trial by jury, was remanded in custody to reappear on 22 November for a case review.

rnz.co.nz

Olivia Renee Keightley-Trigg.
Olivia Renee Keightley-Trigg. Source: NZ Police


Christchurch Hospital sees seven people suffering severe affects of synthetic cannabis in 24 hours

Seven people have been treated in the last 24 hours at Christchurch Hospital's Emergency Department who're thought be be severely affected by synthetic cannabis.

In a statement the hospital says the emergency department has seen a number of people suffering from "probable severe synthetic cannabis toxicity, with seven people treated in the past 24 hours and three needing admission to the Intensive Care Unit".

Paul Gee, Emergency Medicine Specialist, Canterbury DHB says there has been a noticeable increase in patient attendances at the Emergency Department for side effects of synthetic cannabis use. 

He says some have minor adverse effects but others are more serious. Last month a man suffered a cardiac arrest after using synthetic cannabis but was successfully resuscitated.

Toxicology analysis has identified the substance taken by the patients as either AMB-FUBINACA or AB-FUBINACA.

AMB-FUBINACA has been linked to numerous deaths in the North Island during the past year.

"There are dangerous synthetic drugs available and taking them could seriously harm or kill you," Dr Gee said.

Drug and addiction help can be accessed at Tuhauora, Christchurch’s Central Coordination Service chchaod@odysseychch.org.nz or call the Alcohol and Drug Helpline 0800 787 797.

They're calling for the drug to be classified as Class A – the most harmful and dangerous.
Source: 1 NEWS