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DRACONIC LEGISLATION.

The " Meetings Bill " which has just passed through committee m the Legislative Council, and only awaits its third reading m that Chamber is a very draoonio piece of legislation, having its origin, no doubt, m the Te Kooti episode of last recess. It was as originally drafted applicable only to the cape of aboriginal, natives. This is shown 'by the' preamble which reads as follows :— " Whereas it is a comnion praotice for' aboriginal natives m considerable numbers to travel through the country m a body, and also to appoint and hold meetings which are largely attended, add whereas such travelling through the ! oountry and the holding of such meetings frequently^ cause alarm to her Majesty's subjeots m the neighborhood, ' and create a reasonable apprehension that a breach of the peace may result, and whereas such travelling and meetings are also the occasion of serious loss, expense and inconvenience to the native inhabitants of the districts through which such travellers pass, or m which such fnee tings are held, and whereas it is expedient • therefore that some provision should be made whereby the evil effects of such travelling and meetings may bo prevented in' oertain cases, be it therefore, eto." Bat m passing through committee the enacting olauses have been amended so as to apply to meetings 'of Europeans as well as to meetings of Natives, the principal operative clauses now standing as follows : — " Whenever upon the report of the Resident Magistrate of any district concurred m by a Assessor, it shall appear -to the "Governor that persons m considerable numbers are for a common purpose travelling as a body through the country m such manner as to cause alarm and apprehension to Her Majesty's subjects, or calculated to cause useless or unnecessary expense, loss and inoonvenience to some of Her Majesty's native subjects, it shall be lawful for the Governor by writing under his hand to declare suoh travelling to be illegal, and to authorise some discreet and proper person to caution suoh persons that their proceedings are illegal, and thereupon require them to disperse forthwith. If any persons to the number of 20 or more, notwithstanding being so cautioned and required to disperse as aforesaid, shall remain or continue their travelling together, everyone of them shall be guilty of an offence under this Act, Whenever it shall appear to the Governor, and that any meeting proposed to be held for a common purpose is calculated to cause alarm and a reasonable fear that the publio peaoe will be endangered, or to cause unnecessary expense, loss or inconvenience to some of Her Majesty's native. subjects, it will be lawful for the QoT.-ftO- by p-O-alflkV-aftUoi- to ptoWbit the holding of such meeting. Every person who without lawful exqtjse, the proof whereof shall bp on the person qharged, shall attend or be present at any meeting so prohibited as aforesaid, not less than twenty other persons being also present, shall be guilty of an offence under this Act." By subsequent sections it is provided that persons offending against the Act may be arrested with or without warrant, and on summary conviction before an B,M, or any two Justices of the Peace may be fined m any suca not exceeding £100, and may also be required to enter into recognisances to ; keep the peace and be of good behaviour and especially not again to commit any offence under the Aot. It may be conceded perhaps, that some legislation is necessary to prevent the recurrence of similar cases to that of To Kooti's journey to Poverty Bay, hut even so iy iB open to graye doubt if bq drastic and sweeping a measure as this Meetings Bill is either necessary or advisable. We shall be surprised if the House of Representatives pass it into law without material amendment.

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DRACONIC LEGISLATION. Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2206, 22 August 1889

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