Saturday, June 27, 2015

Violence and mayhem in the night - a Human Right?

Another shooting tragedy in the USA must make a lot of us think. But before we in New Zealand rush into print about the inability of American people to adapt their views and legislate on gun control or race issues we should reflect on what was announced last week about the liquor regulations in Auckland.

The draft regulations proposed quite substantial changes to the availability of alcohol on Auckland streets at night. There has been a lengthy period of public consultation with strong support from health authorities, the Police and the general public. 

But lobbying by the “hospitality” industry has successfully and substantially watered the proposals down. It’s as if the Auckland public’s right to tolerate a large amount of violence, injury and general mayhem in the overnight streets is as precious to them as the American right to bear arms is to the American Rifle Association. At least the latter have an interpretation of their Constitution to bolster a thin case.

Not so in this country.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Sir Peter Williams

I see Sir Peter Williams has died.

I've been watching his journey with prostate cancer for some time. I got diagnosed a couple of years earlier than him. We're almost exactly the same age. We've had a similar journey for quite a few years. And, in different ways, we have tried to be people who would made some kind of contribution to society. But our lives crossed only once.

It was half a century ago. We shared an illegally fast trip to Auckland airport in his car to meet a member of my church who was to be a client of his for the next couple of years. There was a problem involving an iron bar and the head of an off-duty detective. Peter called me as a character witness in the Court case. Both relatively young and early in our respective careers, we developed an immediate respect for each other. 

We never met again. But his passing touches me today. I followed with great interest his work with the Howard League and passion for prison reform. I received his book for Christmas and enjoyed his account of the cases he selected (yes, the one I was involved in was not on his list as particularly memorable). But most of all I was simply moved by his philosophy of human nature and his motivation to remain on the side of defence throughout his professional career. 

An extraordinary man. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

An end and a new beginning

The High Court judgment went against Lecretia Searles. Her right to be given assistance to end an unbearable existence is declared to be subject to the Crimes Act. And we now understand that she heard the disappointing news just a few hours before she died.

But the debate she has stirred up is clearly going to continue. There has been huge coverage in the public news media. The End-of-Life-Choice petition is circulating and will be presented to Parliament in a few weeks. And the leader of the ACT party has announced he will draft a private member's bill to go into the Parliamentary ballot box and take its chances of being debated in the context of a conscience vote.

It seems a long road ahead for those of us for whom the issues might become quite sharp and real in the coming months or years. But at least the journey is beginning again.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Goodbye, Lecretia!

I have just head that Lecretia Seales died of natural causes a few hours ago. I feel personally and intensely bereaved by the loss of a lady I never met. 
Her bold approach to the High Court for a declaratory judgment that her general physician should be able to give her the means to end her life when she chose will now have no relevance for her. 

She didn't die for a "Cause". She just died. Indeed, she never said that she would necessarily take steps to end her own life. But she argued, persuasively, that if she were in intolerable suffering, she should have that right.

Now she is gone and her argument is ended. But perhaps the judgment that is yet to be delivered may drive a wedge into implacable parliamentary resistance to even discussing the matter.