David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

David Fisher: Kim Dotcom might enjoy another summer

Kim Dotcom fronts media after appearing in Auckland District Court for the decision on his extradition. Photo / Nick Reed
Kim Dotcom fronts media after appearing in Auckland District Court for the decision on his extradition. Photo / Nick Reed

It seems highly likely Kim Dotcom will get to enjoy another New Zealand summer after this one.

One way or another, I expected the question of Dotcom's extradition to be resolved this year. It looks like I'm wrong.

The district court ruled in December that he and three others were eligible for extradition on the criminal copyright charges leveled against them by the FBI.

Today, the High Court set the date for the appeal as August 29 -- more than six months from now and eight months from the district court's decision. It's not scheduled to finish until mid-October.

The charges relate to Dotcom's Megaupload website, which was shut down in a global raid in 2012.

Yes, that's four years ago.

The delays to this point have, to a great extent, been understandable. The Crown failed to cover itself in glory from the outset, and genuine questions needed judicial answers over discovery, illegal spying and search warrants.

We've done that. Sure, the damages case against the GCSB and police continues is largely secretive hearings, but Dotcom and the other plaintiff, Bram van der Kolk, don't have to be there to reach resolution.

But the key issue has now been heard and the court's answer is extradition. Right or wrong, that's what the appeal will decide -- but who expected it to be decided so far down the track?

The Crown today pushed for an earlier hearing but was defeated. The issues, said Dotcom's team, were very complex and needed time to air. The High Court penciled in a date when the first signs of spring are starting to show.

Sure, there are complex issues around the interpretation of the Copyright Act and its applicability in the United States' application for extradition. The appeal is on narrow grounds and targets that precise, single, issue.

Complex as those issues are, it seems unlikely they have become more so since they were thrashed out at the district court. The 10-week hearing spent enough time on this to establish everyone knew the issues well.

Everyone can again display their expertise at length after the High Court scheduled the appeal for eight weeks from the end of August. That means it is scheduled to wander through to mid-October. Expect further appeals after that.

Guilty or not, liable for extradition or not, whatever -- Dotcom looks likely to welcome in the 2017 New Year in New Zealand.

When I interviewed Dotcom on December 21, two days before the decision, he reckoned it would be another two or three years before the question of his extradition was answered.

I doubted this. I had thought the case had stretched the bounds of reasonable to a point where the district court decision would lead to quick justice -- one way or another -- and a resolution. There's $10m in taxpayer's money soaked up in Crown legal fees on this case.

It seems justice just doesn't move that fast.

There is often criticism of Dotcom for the delays in the case. He's not alone in this. Both sides have caused delays at one time or another, for one reason or another.

I see no fault in either the Crown or Dotcom. Each will be eager to fight their case to the best of their abilities and to the extent the law allows.

For Dotcom, too, every day in New Zealand is an extra day with his kids. Any parent would understand that desire.

But what of our justice system, which first saw Dotcom and his three co-accused on January 20, 2012?

Justice delayed is said to be justice denied. At this stage, it's fair to ask whether it is the public being denied justice because of the glacial speed at which the system works.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

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David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

David Fisher started as a journalist in 1989 and has worked in community, provincial and national newspapers in New Zealand and abroad. He has won a number of journalism awards, twice been named New Zealand’s Reporter of the Year and been made a Press Fellow to Wolfson College at Cambridge University. PGP Key here.

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