Rosemary McLeod: Dotcom ought to be a sitcom

The latest fiasco has made a surprising martyr out of Dotcom.
The latest fiasco has made a surprising martyr out of Dotcom.

Breastfeeding mothers will have gasped at the report of police holding a teenage mother in their cells for 36 hours, separated from her baby.

The Upper Hutt 16-year-old mother will not forget, and it wouldn't have happened if two police probationers involved had normal human feelings.

If last week's reports are true, the teenager and a 14-year-old girl were photographed in public, strip searched - which means a woman had to be involved - and kept in police cells until they appeared in court, when the judge threw out the charges against them.

Expect lawyers to have a field day on their behalf, as they should.

It's basic: what kind of people would separate a breastfeeding mother from a 4-month-old baby? What kind of woman - one had to be involved in the strip search - would show no concern for her plight? Were no senior officers on duty? Did they not notice what the probationers were up to?

And why would nobody let either girl call her parents or a lawyer? Any TV cop show will tell you people have rights: you'd think probationer cops might have watched a few. But we should know better than to expect common decency on a lot of fronts.

Imagine being the sensitive claimants in the ACC breach of privacy that flung their personal files to the four winds, and imagine being offered $250 in compensation for the shock of what you'd been through, and the intransigent indifference of the corporation until it was absolutely forced to face reality. How hugely unimpressive and how costly that will prove when ACC is sued, as will undoubtedly happen.

Watching the lunacy of the Kim Dotcom affair is equally astonishing.

It really ought to be pitched as a sitcom.

John Key has apologised to everyone over the risible mishandling of his case, and as a result all the Government Communications Security Bureau's spying for the past three years is to be reviewed. That should be entertaining.

But first - Dotcom is in a strong position to sue over the abrogation of his rights. It would take a big man in both senses of the word not to.

Our spies don't have an impressive public record.

In their one and only major spy case, brought against economist and distinguished public servant William Ball Sutch, the high point in my memory is the discovery that rather than holding secret files to pass to a Russian contact, Dr Sutch had half an opened bottle of milk in his briefcase, being weirdly old-fashioned and thrifty.

A jury found him not guilty.

At that time university students were always detecting supposed Security Intelligence Service agents on campus.

Usually this was on the basis they had super-short hair, wore sports jackets and navy blue trousers, when everyone else was in beads and jeans, and were never seen to laugh, when everyone else was cackling under the influence of marijuana. We were probably right.

It takes all sorts, even the spy whose briefcase, containing his lunch, a copy of The Listener and a diary was found on a Wellington journalist's fence years back.

But isn't the work supposed to be deadly serious?

The latest fiasco has made a surprising martyr out of Dotcom.

Like some opposition politicians, I link Dotcom's situation to the illegal surveillance activities in the Ureweras five years ago, a Tintin escapade that culminated in fresh insults to Tuhoe.

After much trumpeting about breaches of the Terrorism Suppression Act and the Arms Act, after 300 police carried out dramatic armed raids on the Ruatoki community, just four supposedly dangerous dissidents ended up on firearms charges this year, and were found guilty of some of them.

I doubt anyone quivers in bed at night for fear of what they might have done.

The cost to the good faith of the community is one thing; the financial cost is another.

A hundred of us could pay taxes all our lives and hardly compensate the Upper Hutt girls, the ACC claimants and Dotcom.

Throw David Bain into the mix and we'll all be bankrupt.

The Dominion Post