So common is political foolishness that it has become barely remarkable. But wrong in principle and crooked in logic, Judith Collins' effort last week was a special example.

In a newspaper column, Collins expressed outrage that charges relating to the Red Devils Motorcycle Club were dropped due to what Justice David Collins described as "serious misconduct" and possible "serious criminal offending" by police. She bristled at the suggestion that any action be taken against the offending police officers.

Judith Collins is of the view that police can break the law in performing their duties based on the rationale that their job is dangerous and important. She was defending, among other things, the police forging a court document.

If your instinct is to say, "That doesn't sound too bad", then pick the best-intentioned cause you can find, forge an official document to support your pursuit of it, and then see if you gain sympathy from the police and courts.


In 1970, police planted a cartridge case to secure a conviction against Arthur Allan Thomas. Would Judith Collins defend that? I doubt it. If that's the case, somewhere between forging a document and planting evidence she draws a line. Might it not be an idea, then, to draw that line at what the law allows? If not, then why have law?

The ease with which this issue can be summarised is evident in the fact that barrister and legal commentator Graham Edgeler did it using that briefest of platforms: Twitter.

Judith Collins said: "It is simply outrageous that serious criminal offending by a dangerous gang be allowed to go unanswered." Edgeler's Tweet simply mocked her obvious hypocrisy: "But it is not simply outrageous that serious offending by police will go unanswered."

The reason the state pursues criminal cases - rather than them being pursued by those who have been offended against as in civil cases - is that all offending is seen as an attack on the state. It's part of the social contract that the great Enlightenment thinkers left us. In a very real way, defending the illegal actions of the police is an even greater threat to law and order than that posed by most of the crooks they are chasing.

If you are of the view that the police were wrong but are lamenting that the Red Devils and their friends may have got away with murder, then you need not worry too much. At an earlier hearing, Justice Simon France described the offending overall as "moderate, and not involving directly any victims of violence".

Before the investigation started, the police had called the newly formed Red Devils an organised crime group. Yet despite months of undercover work and the use of numerous electronic recording devices, they found nothing to uphold that claim.

Indeed, by forging a court document, swearing a false oath and committing other wrongs, one might reasonably argue that the most significant organised criminal offending was undertaken by the police themselves.

Any time that is even remotely possible, it ought be roundly and strongly condemned.

In instances like this, we should be grateful for the separation of state powers and an independent judiciary.

Judith Collins's view on this is frightful. A former justice minister should not need reminding that the integrity of the justice system is paramount. And that the police are not above the law.

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