Tuesday, 18 July 2006

Jail time for sedition accused

Tim Selwyn attacked the Prime Minister's office window late one night as part of a muddled protest against the Foreshore and Seabed Act. No one was hurt, and nor were they intended to be. As a symbol, he chose to leave an axe embedded in the broken window as he and friends scattered pamphlets to explain the 'action.' The broken glass, explained the leaflets, was a symbol of Labour's broken promises; the axe apparently a symbol that related to the axe famously used by Hone Heke to cut down the Government's flagpole at nineteenth-century Waitangi.

As I said, it was all rather muddled.

Selwyn pleaded guilty to the charge of vandalism. On top of that, he was charged with sedition for the leaflets left at the site of the broken window, and also for five leaflets which were left in Ponsonby Rd as some sort of press release, and which sought to explain the 'action' for the media and to offer them some soundbites for their news reports later that day. Selwyn was charged with sedition for both sets of literature, being found guilty only of the 'press releases.' The offending line, the jury decided was the invitation for "like-minded New Zealanders to take similar action of their own." My own reports on all this can be found here. As Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn explained during the trial:
The definition [of sedition] is so broad as to criminalise virtually any criticism of the government. And historically, that is exactly how the law of sedition has been used in this country: as a tool of persecution for those whose political opinions were deemed "non-mainstream."
Today he was sentenced.

He received two months. Not for vandalism, but for sedition. Herald report here. On top of that:
Selwyn was jailed for a further 15 months ... on dishonesty charges, including obtaining passports, birth certificates, benefits and four Inland Revenue Department numbers under the names of dead people.
"The sentences," notes the Herald, "are to be served one after the other." Think what you will about the latter offences, but I don't know anyone else who's been jailed for that length of time for those sort of offences. There seems to be an element of vindictiveness in the sentencing. To paraphrase a line 'borrowed' by a commenter at Selwyn's blog:
Cornered the boy kicked out at the State...
the State kicked back
a lot fuckin' harder...
Tim Selwyn's friend Bomber Bradbury (yes, that Bomber Bradbury) concluded his own post on his friend's sentencing with this:
Let me end by saying that everyone makes mistakes, even though some would label Tim a hypocrite for attacking the state from the right wing, yet steal off it at the same time, I must say in his defense that the radical man he has become is very different from the radical young man he was.
Tim Selwyn has been jailed for sedition. I just thought that needed repeating. I'll leave you to think about the implications of that for political debate in this country. While thinking about it, you might want to ponder the comments of Idiot/Savant, which he ends with this rather mixed thought:
The worry now is that the police will use this law to crack down on "non-mainstream" political speech, exactly as they have done in the past. The only way to prevent that is by repealing the law. Hopefully we'll see some progress on that front soon.
More on that later.

LINKS: 'Sedition' posts at Not PC
A step backwards for freedom of speech - No Right Turn, Scoop
Jail for axe attack on PM's office - NZ Herald
Tim Selwyn - Tumeke!
Selwyn sentenced - No Right Turn (Idiot/Savant)

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Law, Free Speech


  1. And perhaps you should point out that on the same day ex Minister Taito Field was cleared of all charges, police decided that prosecution wasn't in the public interest and the PM said he had just made an error of judgment. Sentences that have become all too familiar in the last years.

  2. Good point Berend.

    Also, as you point out PC, it is interesting they lump in a 10 year old offence with the sentencing.

    It looks to me like they were counting on "welfare bludger" to run interference with the sedition charges.

    Last week a women was found guilty of ripping off $60,000 worth of benefits. The judge said it was serious enough to warrant a prison sentence. And then gave leave for the women to apply for home detention. So Tim's sentence does seem disproportionate as well as calculated.

  3. Witch hunt!

    The witch caught a peon who offended her...

  4. I agree with the spirit of this post, PC, but Selwyn's no hero. But I guess being a principled defender of free speech means being a defender of free speech for Nazis, pedophiles, and Tim Selwyn.

  5. "Think what you will about the latter offences, but I don't know anyone else who's been jailed for that length of time for those sort of offences."

    * 2 years, 5 months
    * 3 years

  6. May I remind you Justin of Ayn Rand's point that "in the transition to statism, every infringement of human rights has begun with the suppression of a given right's least attractive practitioners."

    The current statists in power know that the best way to get support for this sedition prosecution is to make Selwyn less attractive than he is. Even knowing that, that's no excuse for you to equate him as you just have with paedophiles and Nazis. Shame on you.


    Just we can compare: The two-year five-month sentence is for $100,000 of benefit fraud.

    The three year sentence is for benefit fraud of $200,609, which the judge says "probably put it in the top 10 offences of its type in New Zealand."

    By this standard Selwyn's offending is minor, ancient (though still reprehensible), and being used hear as a convenient way to spin sedition, where the real crime is to have such an offence on the books.

  7. Correct, PC. When the news was announced yesterday, reporters were largely referring to Selwyn's other crimes, with the (absurd) sentence for (the absurd crime of) sedition being somewhat buried.

    Aka the age-old strategy of muddying the waters.

  8. "Aka the age-old strategy of muddying the waters."

    Just like that 'billion dollar leak' spin a few weeks back that all the dumbarses lapped up so eagerly.

  9. "Just we can compare: The two-year five-month sentence is for $100,000 of benefit fraud."

    fair enough point - Tim's sentence is certainly proportionately harsh, compared to the level of offending that those other benefit fraudsters committed.

    My point was that other people have gone to prison for benefit fraud. PC couldn't recall anyone who'd been jailed for "those sorts of offences" - I was just listing a couple of examples where they had.

  10. Noizy, I thing the words you're mising in that quote are "for that length of time."

    PC said he couldnt recall anyone jailed for that length of time for those offences.

    That said, it woudl be useful if anyone has the figures of recent sentences for these things to tabulate them so we can compare properly.


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