Should evidence be destroyed, asks Sharples

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples is questioning whether evidence collected under the Terrorism Suppression Act should have been destroyed when charges under the act were dropped.

Sharples wants answers from police minister Annette King after secret police information pertaining to the terror raids was printed in national newspapers this morning.

"Those who are leaking the information are breaking the law. They are committing criminal acts themselves and are demonstrating contempt for the rule of law," Mr Sharples said.

He said publishing information out of context is dangerous.

"It creates bush lawyers out of us all, in itself heightening the sense of alarm that has already dominated the debate around terrorism," said Dr Sharples.

Tuhoe activist Tame Iti's lawyer, Annette Sykes, declined to comment on the publishing of police evidence.

"My comments will be left to the courts to determine. I've already made some representations to the courts," Ms Sykes said.

Earlier, an activist who opposed the police "terror" raids accused the force of leaking details of the case which were published today.

The police are investigating new publication of suppressed evidence in the "terrorism" case which led to raids around the country.

The Dominion Post and The Christchurch Press today revealed information the newspapers say they obtained from the 156-page affidavit police presented to Manukau District Court to gain search warrants five days before the raids.

Global Peace and Justice spokesman John Minto said police gave the information to media, and that doing so had undermined the rights of the activists.

He said an independent inquiry was needed, in which all the material would be published.

Meanwhile, Green Party MP Keith Locke has called on the Crown Law Office to take action against the Dominion Post over its decision to publish the excerpts.

He said the paper had "jeopardised the rights to a fair trial of all of those who will be facing arms charges in connection with these raids".

"All 16 people facing charges have now been smeared by these unattributed snippets, that they will not be able to contest in court because the surveillance evidence will not be admissible. There can hardly now be a prospective juror in the country who will not have been exposed to this prejudicial information."

Police are already investigating whether TV3 has documents which breach court suppression orders made after last month's police raids on alleged weapons training camps in the Ureweras.

Solicitor-General David Collins QC last week ruled against charges being pursued under the Terrorism Suppression Act against 12 of the 16 arrested in the raids.

Today he said it was illegal to publish intercepted information without authority. He will comment on the issue this afternoon.

A police statement issued this morning said: "The police investigation into publication of evidence relating to Operation Eight will include consideration of today's publication of material in the Dominion Post.

"Deputy Commissioner Operations Rob Pope says the scope of the investigation, announced on Monday, will be expanded to include the Dominion Post material, and any other publication which could be considered to breach court suppression orders or potentially compromise criminal proceedings."

A police spokeswoman would not comment on whether members of the police would be investigated. She said it could be "figured out" from the police statement.

TV3 gave some brief details on its 6pm news bulletin on Friday night of what was in the leaked documents, but at the last minute ditched plans to further discuss the material on Campbell Live after getting a warning from the Crown Law Office.

The Dominion Post says in an editorial it "has not taken lightly the decision" to publish the material.

"We believe we are acting within the law, we also believe we are acting in the public interest."

However, they all still face charges involving illegal possession of weapons.

It rejected any claims its actions could influence the trials.

Peter Williams QC said on Monday suppressed information leaked to TV3 and aired in part by the broadcaster jeopardised future hearings.

Mr Williams this morning called for an investigation into how suppressed information was leaked and its publication.

"I think there are two issues here. One is the right of the public to know matters of importance. But the other issue is the rule of law and the rule of law is quite clear that where evidence is inadmissible and where defendants have not had their cases completed it is contempt of court to publish that material," he told Radio New Zealand.

"The rule of law is of paramount importance to democracy and I would expect now the attorney-general or the solicitor-general to commence a high-level investigation, because this goes to the basic fundamentals of our legal system."

Mr Williams said The Dominion Post could expect a degree of public support for its actions, "and maybe their lawyers will be able, somehow, in a devious way, to justify the publication".

Attorney-General Michael Cullen was not commenting this morning.


Labour minister Shane Jones spoke to Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking this morning. Excerpts of their conversation are below:

Mike Hosking: What's happened in this country when you can round up 62 of your mates drive down the road and turn up at Parliament and get all this attention? This is isn't a Hikoi, this isn't real, I mean, you know c'mon?

Shane Jones: Yeah I think there's something more disturbing that I am hoping the media will turn its attention to. I rather suspect that a lot of the characters mixed up in this rubbish up in Tuhoe and various other parts are using the cloak of Maoriness to disguise and obscure criminality and soon as the cops round the buggers up and treat them as criminals the better.

*

Jones: I think there are two issues here, Mike. Number one, the dos and don'ts of a successful operation. At the end of the day Commissioner Broad can give an account of all that, but at a deeper level us as MPs we got to continue to assure people that their safety and their security is of paramount importance.

Now if there are people on P, doing drugs, screaming around with guns breaking the law in terms of arms control then they should face the full force of it cause there is a lot of kaumata Tuhoe want to get on with life, solve the historical grievances, and they are being eclipsed by the self-appointed king of Tuhoe Tame Iti and a number of people who appear to me to be criminals as opposed to genuine dissenters.

Hosking: Interestingly, the point that you make Shane is a good one in the sense that although we want to round this people up and although they are thugs and criminals allegedly I mean there are firearm charges and the law covers that and you don't need to be a terrorist do you?

Jones: Yeah I guess as the chair of our Maori Caucus the thing that we always struggled with, mate, was we just couldn't get our heads around that there was a conspiracy well-oiled, well-calculated to mame and murder and overcome the nation state from Tanneata. My experience of the place was people wouldn't have got up early enough to pull off such a stunt.

- NZPA, NZ HERALD STAFF, NEWSTALK ZB

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