Pages tagged "Paul Burns"

  • Man arrested and charged for ‘offending’: FSU to defend


    19 April 2024

    Man arrested and charged for ‘offending’: FSU to defend 

    Paul Burns was arrested after engaging in a debate in a public space and the Free Speech Union will defend him in court next month. This is yet another example of an unjust and unlawful arrest by Police based on someone’s views says Nadia Braddon-Parsons, Communications Manager for the Free Speech Union. 

    “Burns was standing on Lampton Quay holding a sign that said, ‘$100 to the 1st person who proves that slavery is more evil than abortion’ with $100 worth of notes taped to the sign. 

    “He was approached by a group of young people prepared to engage in the conversation. They argued that because of overpopulation, abortion is justified. Burns responded to their argument with, “if you think that the world is overpopulated, then why don’t you kill yourself?”.

    “Burns was handcuffed, taken to Police cells, and charged under section 1(4)(b) of the Summary Offences Act. He will appear in court on 17 May. If convicted, he’ll be fined $1,000 and acquire a criminal record. 

    “The man who assaulted a woman at Albert Park was discharged without conviction. Burns simply engaged in a debate. Our justice system has its priorities seriously wrong. 

    “This arrest follows the dangerous pattern of ‘catch and release’ that we’re seeing from the Police. Here the Police have taken words out of context and acted prejudicially.

    “It is unacceptable to be punished for engaging in debate and holding strong views on a subject, no matter how provocative. That is not how democracy works.”


  • Is this the new normal we want?

    A semi-interesting fact about me is that I believe I am the only individual in New Zealand who is both a practising doctor and barrister. While the two professions often require different skills, I pursued both for the same reason.

    My desire to care for people. 

    It's the same reason that led me to take this role of the Chairperson of the Free Speech Union. I simply can't sit by and see injustice occur. 

    That's why I'm writing to tell you the story of a case we've just taken on, standing with a man called Paul Burns who I'm defending in court on behalf of the Free Speech Union.

    You may ask why he is before the Court. Good question.

    Well, (brace yourself, now) according to the police, Paul engaged in a debate in a public place. For that, the police arrested him and charged him with a crime of speaking with "an intent to offend"!

    If he is convicted he will be fined $1,000 and acquire a criminal record. 

    You can't make this stuff up... punch a granny in the face at a protest, and you'll be discharged without conviction. Dare 'offend' someone with your opinion, and the police will turn up with handcuffs. 

    Is it just me, or has the system got its priorities incredibly wrong?  

    There need to be serious consequences for indifference to basic liberties.

    I know these are issues you care about. Together, we’ve had meaningful impact before. I'm writing to ask if you will join us in defending all Kiwis' right to speak freely. 

    Paul Burns has a strong view on abortion - one that, personally, I don't share. But far be it for me to let that get in the way of us defending his speech rights. 

    Paul feels so strongly about abortion that he wants debate it in public, and he puts his own money on the line to do so. 

    Taping $100 worth of cash to a sign, he offers this money to anyone who 'proves that slavery is more evil than abortion.' He stands on the street in Wellington with his sign and debates his opinion with anyone who chooses to stop and engage with him. He is forceful but polite and respectful, and only locks horns with people who are interested.  

    Paul's sign

    Several weeks ago, he was speaking with a group of young people, when one of them claimed that abortion is not only not evil, it is a good thing, because there are too many people in the world.

    Because of climate change, depopulation is needed, so fewer births are good. To this, Paul asked him, according to that logic, why don't you kill yourself? That is it. That is what he said. 

    It's a provocative question, for sure, but one that follows in the context of the discussion. If the world is overpopulated, how do you justify your existence?

    Apparently the police have not heard of irony. It is a standard debating tactic to turn a person's own logic against them to try and show what is wrong with it. It is not meant to be taken literally.

    Paul was not telling people to kill themselves. He was arguing exactly the opposite: killing is wrong. A child of ten understands how arguments like this work.

    But Paul was arrested for it. His trial is scheduled for the 17th of May. 

    When I was first approached about this case, I was sceptical. Every week, individuals approach us with stories of suppressed speech. Often, when we look into them, it's quite a different story. 

    But in this case we have the police's word for it.  The document below is the official Summary of Facts that is placed before a court when a person is charged with a crime. Read it for yourself. 

    Statement of Claim

    A society in which we are not able to publicly voice opinions or ask questions that confront others is a society in which we are all much poorer - and obviously, less free. 

    We currently have half a dozen cases before the courts or tribunals, defending a series of Kiwis who have been charged with a crime for saying something. 

    If we don't stand with them, who will? It’s in moments like this that I believe we each have a role to play. 

    Join us, again. As I stand in court for Paul, would you join us and help us fund this fight?

    Last week, we announced that the charges brought by police against Daniel Maxwell, a supporter we were working with, have been dropped. 🎉Daniel was arrested and charged for peaceful protest. 

    This week, we announced we are suing the police for the wrongful arrest of Lucy Rogers, a counter-protestor in Auckland. 💪

    There is a wider picture here. Police are arresting and charging people for simply expressing themselves. Open societies have understood for hundreds of years that it is not a crime to state your opinion, even if other people do not like it. It is a sinister turn in the life of our nation that police officers, even at a senior level, no longer understand that. 

    This is what keeping up the fight looks like, but we can't do it without you.

    I will represent Paul in the Wellington District Court for free. However, the wider campaign takes resources. We will do the work. But, frankly we can't run the organisation without money. 

    Thank you for joining us in the fight to keep Kiwis' speech free. 


    Dr. Roderick Mulgan
    Council Chair

    Free Speech Union

    P.S. Last week, we reported the Human Rights Commission was taking a free speech case to the Court of Appeal. But not in favour of free speech, in favour of hate speech laws. 😲

    Paul's is the sort of case the Human Rights Commission should be supporting, or even the Council for Civil Liberties. But instead, it's up to us to ensure justice; would you chip into the fight?  

You might also like: