Legal rights activist jailed

CLIO FRANCIS
Last updated 05:00 03/09/2011

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A legal rights activist has been sentenced to jail after being found in contempt of court for publishing a suppressed judgment.

Vincent Siemer was sentenced to six weeks' jail in the High Court at Wellington yesterday after being found in contempt of court after a breach of court orders.

The breach came after Siemer published a judgment, which had been suppressed by Chief Justice Helen Winkelmann, relating to the Urewera police raids accused on his website last year.

Parts of the suppression order on the judgment were later altered so that it could be reported that the accused would be tried by judge alone. Siemer himself alerted the Crown Law office to the judgment's publication on his website by email.

In an unusual move, Siemer appeared for yesterday's sentencing via a video link from the High Court in Auckland.

The solicitor-general's lawyer, Madeleine Laracy, said the solicitor-general sought the maximum penalty of three months' imprisonment for the offending. "The adage that if the court does not condemn, it condones ... applies in this case."

Siemer's actions had been of a "deliberate, non-trivial nature", she said. "This is a person who has shown over and over again that he has not respect for the court process.

"That type of conduct is so damaging to the public confidence in our justice system."

Justice Alan MacKenzie said he was satisfied a short term of imprisonment was appropriate. The sentence was stayed for two weeks so an appeal could be lodged.

Siemer's lawyer, Tony Ellis, confirmed he would appeal against the conviction and sentence.

Outside court, Mr Ellis said his client had believed he would be jailed regardless of what happened at yesterday's hearing. "Mr Siemer will see this as a case of the judiciary singling him out because they see him as a nuisance."

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- The Dominion Post

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