Douglas Ewen, barrister and member of the NZCCL, has written to Solicitor-General Una Jagose about what he views as unreasonable and unlawful changes to bail and sentencing practice during the current COVID-19 lockdown.
He says that, contrary to the Solicitor General’s advice, the Bail Act does not allow for bail to be withheld because a person either has or might have COVID-19, nor does it allow for special conditions to be imposed on those grounds.
He notes that the NZ Bill of Rights Act protects against discrimination based on health status, and that while the Health Act has explicit exclusions for this, the Bail Act does not. Therefore the advice of the Solicitor General “appears to constitute unlawful discrimination”.
I accept without reservation that your directions to the Crown network are intended as good-faith measures in a time of national crisis, but it is at times like these that the need to respect human rights is at its highest. Every incursion into civil liberties is invariably premised on some perceived immediate need in the interest of the wider public. That is what makes such incursions so pernicious.
I strongly urge you to reconsider your position.
Read the full text of the letter.