Hail to Joe Karam, and Dunedin’s Colin Withnell QC who selflessly campaigned against what they believed to be a miscarriage of justice. Whether Bain is innocent or not, they have upheld one of the finest traditions of our civilization – tireless effort and personal sacrifice on behalf of a non-relation, in defence of a principle.
The Privy Council decision is also a catastrophic affirmation of the size of our loss when we abandoned our right to neutral international referees. Joe Karam called this morning for the resignation of the two Supreme Court judges who refused an appeal while on the Court of Appeal. That kind of erosion of confidence in the quality of justice in New Zealand was inevitable from the moment the “indigenisers”, led by Hon Margaret Wilson, got their hands on the tiller.
They lied blithely, claiming it would save money. In fact, as those of us who fought abolition in Parliament warned, the Supreme Court has been vastly more expensive than the Privy Council.
Whose decisions are inferior is irrelevant. The right of appeal to neutral outsiders was a priceless assurance of integrity for our otherwise unhealthily small hot house legal cabal. Even if it was not needed to keep our judges honest, the prospect of appeal outside made it pointless to try to stack our judiciary with political cronies. Now of course it is tempting.
Our legal profession thinks its privileges are justified by their championing of the the rule of law, of the rights of the citizen against the state. Some individual lawyers do that, typified by the lawyers who have worked on the Bain case, and others such as rights lawyer Tony Ellis. But to me as an MP their advocacy as a ‘profession’ was marked by cowardly group think, often self interested, and suffusing political correctness.
This last Privy Council case is a sad measure of our exposure to that group think.