We don't like paying money to wife-beaters, rapists and other thugs. We don't like retrospective legislation. We don't like governments imprisoning citizens unlawfully.

But Prime Minister John Key must pick his Government's way through these "don't likes".

Because the Supreme Court has ruled that the Department of Corrections has kept prisoners unlawfully locked up. It appears hundreds are adversely affected.

Many were unlawfully detained for months.


There's no quirk or loophole. Corrections quite simply got it wrong. And their wrong-headedness was backed by the High Court and Court of Appeal.

It took the Supreme Court to point out the law as it's written and intended, fix the anomalies, and re-apply the New Zealand Bill of Rights.

No one has put their hand up or been held to account for the unlawful detention of hundreds of citizens.

Indeed, if anything, the Prime Minister has pinned the blame on the Supreme Court declaring the decision "out of left field".

That's nonsense.

The Supreme Court simply did its job. The only thing "out of left field" has been Corrections, the High Court and the Court of Appeal misreading Parliament's clear instruction.

And now the Prime Minister is out of left field in backing Corrections when the department was so egregiously wrong.

The Prime Minister says the Government is considering changing the law and doing so retrospectively.


But there's nothing wrong with the law. It's logical and clear. The problem lies entirely with Corrections.

The "change-the-law" response is political spin to disguise that the Government got it wrong and badly wrong.

The spin avoids having to hold anyone to account, and retrospectivity relieves taxpayers of having to compensate criminals.

But such a law would mean our Government has unlawfully incarcerated hundreds of citizens without consequence or accountability and, when caught, changed the law to make unlawful incarceration lawful, to dodge all responsibility.

We correctly question countries that unlawfully imprison people.

Making unlawful detention subsequently lawful only deepens the outrage. It would be a long way for us to fall should John Key drop us down that chute.