Steven Price

My book

Media Minefield

Guide to NZ Media Law

Official Information Act

Official Information Act

Bill of Rights Act

Media law resources

Feeds (RSS)

« | Main | »

Stormin’ Norman

By Steven | June 21, 2010

So police have investigated the incident in which Greens leader Russel Norman claimed to have been assaulted by members of the Chinese delegation who wrenched a Tibetan flag from his grasp on the grounds of Parliament… and concluded that there is “insufficient evidence to substantiate any assault charges at this time”.

Police say the “available footage” and information from “a number of people who witnessed the incident” was not enough to support a finding of assault. That’s surprising, given the phalanx of journalists and hangers-on who were around. But let’s assume it’s right.

Still: why was the word of an MP not enough to substantiate an assault charge? (The only possibility that doesn’t leave me gob-smacked is that it’s hard to work out precisely who committed the assault. In that case: what steps have police taken to try to ascertain the identity of the alleged assaulter?)

[Update: Colin Espiner has watched footage and seems to doubt there has been any assault. I haven’t seen the footage. But I think it would be difficult to rip a flag from someone without committing a (technical, at least) assault.]

Also: why is the PM apologising to the Chinese when they appear to have committed a contempt of Parliament?

Topics: General | 9 Comments »

9 Responses to “Stormin’ Norman”

  1. Anon Says:
    June 21st, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    I think you are assuming that the assult is against Russel rather than by him…

  2. Steven Says:
    June 21st, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    Yes, given that he’s complained of assault and no-one else has.

  3. ross Says:
    June 22nd, 2010 at 8:41 am

    > why was the word of an MP not enough to substantiate an assault charge?

    I would’ve thought the answer was obvious – MPs are known for being economical with the truth, with telling porkies, with lying. Heaven forbid that we should accept an MP’s word at face value.

  4. Justin Says:
    June 22nd, 2010 at 9:49 am

    *sigh* although I fully support old Norman’s right to protest after watching the footage I did think the claim of assault was nothing more than attention grabbing (and quite effective it was too). Good on the police for not making a mountain out of an anthill… but shame on the PM for feeling he needed to apologise for anything.

  5. Graeme Edgeler Says:
    June 22nd, 2010 at 11:47 am

    1. From the snippets of footage I’ve seen on the news, it appeared to me that Norman (also) assaulted one of the security personnel, perhaps going so far as to take himself outside the protections of the defence of movable property in section 53 of the Crimes Act.

    2. I cannot see a contempt of Parliament. The following example, taken from the examples of contempts in S.O. 401, is as close as you get: “(l) assaulting, threatening or intimidating, a member or an officer of the House acting in the discharge of the member’s or the officer’s duty.

  6. Steven Says:
    June 22nd, 2010 at 11:55 am

    1. The possibility that Norman also committed an assault does not mean that he was not himself assaulted. Again, you might like to explain how wrenching a flag off someone who doesn’t want to release it does not involve an assault…
    2. That also covers 401 (l). But I was thinking of 410(m):
    “obstructing or molesting a member or an officer of the House in the discharge of the member’s or the officer’s duty”. They put up an umbrella between Norman and the VP to stop him seeing the flag Norman wanted to draw to his attention on behalf of his party and constituents, and then took that flag away from him. I’m not sure that this is contested.

  7. Graeme Edgeler Says:
    June 22nd, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    you might like to explain how wrenching a flag off someone who doesn’t want to release it does not involve an assault

    You may have noted my use of the word “also”.

    Perhaps I can get even more ludicrous. Was there an intention to permanently deprive Russel of his flag? If so, it may constitute theft. A theft accompanied by violence is a robbery. A robbery committed by more than one person is an aggravated robbery. Perhaps he should go for the king hit?

    That said, the police don’t seem interested, so let’s hope he has his contempt complaint handed in to the Speaker by 2pm. Although I’m not convinced that waving a flag about Tibet on the Parliamentary forecourt is an MP’s “duty”.

  8. Steven Says:
    June 22nd, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Hang on. Is my assault argument ludicrous? Or is it one you accept by your use of the word “also”?

    I can’t see any evidence of an intention to keep the flag. You still haven’t explained how wrenching it from Norman is not an assault. Perhaps you mean it’s a minor and technical one and not worthy of prosecution. That seems a fair point.

    I’d be interested in your definition of “duty” that excludes Norman’s attempt to deliver a political message that accords with his party’s foreign policy to a visiting leader on the grounds of Parliament.

  9. Graeme Edgeler Says:
    June 22nd, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    Of course I haven’t explained how wrenching a flag from Norman isn’t an assault. I accept that there was one. I suspect, but don’t know, that “duty” probably has a limited meaning, although that would be for the Speaker/Privileges Committee to consider.

    I’d be interested in a definition of “deliberately attempting to mislead the House or a committee” that means that giving a false answer to a supplementary question is okay, but that seems to be the case, because one can only mislead the House in “a situation of some formality (e.g. a ministerial statement, a personal explanation, a minister moving the first or second reading of a Government bill in his or her name, or possibly replying to a primary question).”


    That said, I’d very much like him to have a go, because I don’t believe it’s on.


You must be logged in to post a comment.