In August, the police introduced Taser stun guns despite growing opposition to their use. The government attempted to introduce immigration legislation which could expose asylum-seekers to danger and raised concerns of prolonged and arbitrary detention. The Solicitor-General did not authorize a prosecution of domestic terrorism suspects using new anti-terrorism laws instead the suspects were charged under ordinary criminal law.
Taser stun guns
In August, the police commissioner approved the introduction of Taser stun guns to be used by the police in situations where they fear physical injury to themselves or others. This approval was given without an independent and impartial inquiry and despite concerns raised by civil society organizations and the objections to the use of Taser stun guns of the UN Committee against Torture. In August, the New Zealand Mental Health Foundation stated that the use of Tasers would “raise the possibility of additional trauma for people in mental health crisis”. According to the Foundation’s analysis of the use of Tasers from September 2006 to August 2007, Tasers were fired in 50 per cent of cases involving mental health emergencies, but only in 11 per cent of criminal cases.
"...19 per cent of women and five per cent of men reported being subjected to sexual violence."
Refugees and asylum-seekers
In July, the government tabled an Immigration Bill which had provisions for passenger screening at the point of departure to New Zealand. The Bill would allow withholding of reasons for denial of entry, and would deny the applicant access to judicial review.
Concern was expressed that the passenger screening process outlined in the Bill could expose asylum-seekers to harm if they were denied permission to board an aircraft when they were facing persecution, including possibly torture or death, in their own countries. The Bill also contained provisions that raised concerns about the possibility of prolonged and arbitrary detention.
Counter-terror and security
In October, the Solicitor-General, who is required to authorize prosecutions under the Terrorism Suppression Act, decided there was not enough evidence to prosecute in the case of 12 domestic terrorism suspects. The 12 suspects, plus six others suspected of related incidents, were instead charged with firearms offences under criminal law. In November, five of them were also charged with participating in a criminal gang.
In August, the government initiated a review of sexual violence legislation to improve the criminal justice response to sex offending. From 1997 to 2005, 19 per cent of women and five per cent of men reported being subjected to sexual violence. Maori women were at a greater risk of sexual violence than non-Maori women.