Monday, 17 November 2014

Cafes and convictions

Here in Wellington we are counting the days to the next local body elections. Incumbent mayor Kerry Prendergast is campaigning on her vision of the city which seems to involve cafes, aimless motorway extensions and visits by celebrity sports men a sort of lifestyle magazine editor's vision of a city really. The readers of one such magazine apparently recently voted our fair city 12th in a survey of global liveability. One wonders whether the readers of that magazine where told about our city's bullying liqour ban which is criminalising a significant number of the city's ratepayers. Anyone crossing into a designated section of the CBD with a container of alcohol whether in a car or on foot is liable to a criminal conviction being entered against their names along with a maximum fine of $20000. No disorder or drunkeness is required to offend the bylaw. Simple possession of alcohol is enough. The mayor and the police say that officers warn people before arresting. If that's the message then it is not getting through to the officers responsible for enforcing the law. I have seven clients at the moment who are charged with this offence none of whom have been warned before spending up to a night in the cells and being put at risk of conviction. The police will also say that they have to deal with offences involving alcohol in the central city far too often. I don't doubt them but we should be addressing these substantive crimes and encouraging the people who commit them to examine their use or abuse of alcohol. Criminalising behaviour which is at best part and parcel of the modern urban experience and at worst poor manners is not good civic policy or the mark of a great city.

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