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John MacDonald: When did ram raid bragging become free speech?

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Wed, 30 Aug 2023, 1:28PM
Photo / Hayden Woodward
Photo / Hayden Woodward

John MacDonald: When did ram raid bragging become free speech?

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Wed, 30 Aug 2023, 1:28PM

I know David Parker’s got a job to do. As Attorney-General, he’s got a job to do and part of that job is to run a fine-tooth comb through new laws to see if they stack up and won’t be more trouble than they’re worth. 

What I mean by that, is making sure they don't have so many holes in them that anyone who wants to could get all legal on it and either get away with whatever the law is designed to stop, or haul the government off to the likes of the Supreme Court. 

And that’s what David Parker, as Attorney General, is doing right now with this legislation Labour has been trying to rush through so it can say it’s cracked down on ram raiders. In particular, teenage ram-raiders who have been on the rampage up and down the country. 

Just today in Christchurch, for example, there’s a report about a 13-year-old who nicked dozens of cars - some of them used to do ram raids - and when the cops got him, he was just sent home to his family. And guess what? He went out and did it all over again. 

So the Government’s getting all hardcore on it and it’s got this new bill going through Parliament - “The Ram Raid Offending and Related Measures Amendment Bill”. 

And, as it stands at the moment, what it would do is create a new criminal offence for ram raids (with a penalty of up to 10 years), which would also be applied to 12 and 13 year-olds through the Youth Court. 

And if the ram-raid was filmed and put online, that would be an aggravating factor when it came to sentencing. 

But David Parker has put a fly in the ointment, saying that he reckons this would cause more harm than good. Especially when it comes to the kids involved in these crimes. 

So one of the concerns he has is that this tough approach doesn’t take into account the fact that teenagers’ brains are still developing and they are "unlikely to understand the impact of their actions or to comprehend criminal proceedings".  

Yep, here we go. The old frontal cortex argument. It gets worse, though. 

As well as saying that we would get a much better outcome sticking with the softly-softly approach we’ve got now, David Parker is concerned about breaching the rights of these out-of-control kids. 

What about the rights of the people whose businesses are being targetted night-after-night by these kids? What about the rights of the people who work in these businesses? What about the rights of the people who wake up in the morning and find their car stolen? 

The bit that I think really takes the cake for me, is what David Parker is saying about the new bill making filming a ramraid and posting it online an aggravating factor when it comes to sentencing. 

He's concerned it could violate these kids' right to freedom of expression. He thinks it could inhibit free speech. 

It would be easy to think, wouldn’t it, that after spitting the dummy because he didn’t get his way with the wealth tax stuff that David Parker is on a one-man mission to destroy the Labour government. 

I get that he’s wearing his Attorney-General hat and all that. But, aside from lawyers who are paid to try and get these scumbags off, who in their right mind is going to think that getting punished for filming a ramraid and putting it on TikTok is a bad thing? 

Who, in their right mind, is going to think that it inhibits free speech? That it violates the right to freedom of expression. 

Since when has a ramraid been an art form? Next we’ll be saying a ramraid is a piece of street art. We’ll be describing a car sitting in the front window of a jeweller's shop or a vape shop as an art installation. 

You’ll even be able to get Arts Foundation funding for it. Because if we’re going to have the Attorney-General saying that punishing people for filming ramraids and putting them online would inhibit free speech, that it would deny someone their right to freedom of expression, then let’s just go the whole hog and give these kids NCEA credits for it. 

It beggars belief, doesn’t it? 


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