Almost three years ago, New Zealand police carried out a spectacular and aggressive armed raid against individuals accused only of copyright infringement.
Acting on allegations from the United States government and its Hollywood partners, officers of STG, New Zealand’s elite counter-terrorist force, raided Kim Dotcom’s mansion. The German-born businessman was detained along with his wife Mona and their children.
Mid 2012, a High Court judge found that the warrants used in the raid were overbroad and therefore illegal, but a February 2014 Court of Appeal reached a different conclusion.
While acknowledging that the warrants contained flaws, a panel of three judges at the Court of Appeal found that overall the warrants were legal.
Dissatisfied with the ruling, Dotcom took the case all the way to the Supreme Court complaining that the warrants were overbroad and lacked detail. The verdict was handed down today.
In another disappointing ruling for the Megaupload founder, this morning the Supreme Court found that the 2012 raids on Dotcom’s home were carried out legally.
Four Justices – John McGrath, William Young, Susan Glazebrook and Terence Arnold – dismissed Dotcom’s appeal while agreeing that the 2012 warrants were not unreasonably vague and general. Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias dissented, but her determination that there had been a miscarriage of justice was overruled.
One judge aside, the Court acknowledged that while the original search warrants were indeed deficient when detailing the alleged offenses, those shortcomings did not result in damage for Dotcom and his associates.
“The majority of the Court has decided that, although the search warrants were deficient in their description of the offenses to which they related, these defects did not result in any miscarriage of justice to the appellants,” the Court wrote in its summary.
“While the search warrants did not specify that the offenses were against United States law, or that the offenses were punishable by two or more years’ imprisonment, this did not cause any significant prejudice to the appellants.”
When taking all circumstances into account, including the explanations given to Dotcom by police carrying out the raid, the Court found that Dotcom (and fellow claimants Finn Batato, Mathias Ortmann and Bram Van Der Kolk) were given enough detail about the alleged offenses to which the search warrants related.
Dotcom, who along with his co-appellants will have to pay court costs of $35,000, aired his disappointment on Twitter.
“New Zealand Chief Justice Dame Elias got it right in both Supreme Court decisions in my case. She must be as frustrated as I am,” Dotcom wrote.