Dot­com fans rally for un­der­dog

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION/NEWS -

Pub­lic opinion can em­brace some un­likely peo­ple as he­roes. In this part of the world, pub­lic sym­pa­thy for colour­ful fig­ures who defy au­thor­ity is as old as Ned Kelly.

More re­cently, it has in­cluded the likes of Ge­orge Wilder, the prison es­ca­per who be­came a rene­gade folk hero in New Zealand dur­ing the early 1960s.

So we shouldn’t be sur­prised that the pub­lic seems to have taken flam­boy­ant in­ter­net en­tre­pre­neur Kim Dot­com so thor­oughly to its heart.

Last week’s court rul­ing was the lat­est round in the Dot­com saga that be­gan in Jan­uary with the po­lice raid on his Auck­land man­sion.

Es­sen­tially, the High Court has de­clared the war­rant re­lied on by po­lice to search Dot­com’s house was in­valid, thus ren­der­ing il­le­gal the seizure, copy­ing and for­ward­ing to the FBI of items found in the course of the po­lice op­er­a­tion.

No-one yet knows what impact – if any – the court rul­ing will have on the more im­por­tant ques­tion of whether Dot­com will be ex­tra­dited to the United States to face a range of charges.

Log­i­cally though, one would have thought that since ev­i­dence il­le­gally ob­tained by the po­lice was ruled in­ad­mis­si­ble in the re­cent trial of the Urew­era raid de­fen­dants, the same stan­dard would ap­ply to the ev­i­dence un­law­fully seized in the raid on Dot­com’s house.

Amer­i­can courts, of course, have the power to ad­mit il­le­gally ob­tained ev­i­dence if the charge in­volved is deemed to be se­ri­ous enough.

How­ever, be­fore that point is reached, a New Zealand judge will need to rule on whether suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence ex­ists for the ex­tra­di­tion of Dot­com to pro­ceed – and now the po­lice ac­tions may have sent al­most all the ev­i­dence rel­e­vant to that de­ci­sion into a le­gal limbo.

The last 12 months haven’t been happy ones for the po­lice.

High-pro­file pros­e­cu­tions have failed in the Ge­orge Gwaze and Bill Liu cases.

The gains from the Urew­era pros­e­cu­tions fell well short of the orig­i­nal ex­pec­ta­tions, and the way the po­lice have been dragged into po­lit­i­cal cir­cuses such as the Ep­som Tape and ACC in­ves­ti­ga­tions will have done nothing for the pub­lic’s faith in po­lice neu­tral­ity.

Win or lose the ex­tra­di­tion pro­ceed­ings, Dot­com will still re­tain the op­tion of su­ing the po­lice for com­pen­sa­tion over the vi­o­la­tion of his pri­vacy with an il­le­gal war­rant, and for the un­law­ful tak­ing of his prop­erty. Fair enough, some would say. The dawn raid in­volv­ing he­li­copters and 70 armed po­lice al­ways did look like overkill, like some­thing more ap­pro­pri­ate for an at­tack on the Bin Laden com­pound.

It sug­gests not only that po­lice man­agers have been watch­ing too many movies – but also, that our po­lice were far too keen to com­ply with re­quests from their FBI col­leagues to swoop on Dot­com’s man­sion and grab ev­ery­thing in sight that might con­ceiv­ably be use­ful to the Amer­i­cans.

Such tac­tics serve to ex­plain the groundswell of pub­lic sym­pa­thy for Dot­com. The chubby en­tre­pre­neur is now widely seen to have been the sub­ject of heavy­handed po­lice ac­tions out of all pro­por­tion with the threat he poses to so­ci­ety.

Af­ter all, the main ‘‘ vic­tims’’ of his al­leged crimes are me­dia cor­po­ra­tions that are seen to be no friends of the pub­lic, or even of the artists whose in­ter­ests they claim to rep­re­sent.

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