A High Court challenge questioning the legality of Covid-19 vaccination mandates for Police and Defence Force employees has been upheld, with the court determining that the government mandate is an unjustified incursion on the Bill of Rights.
In a decision released today, Justice Francis Cooke determined that ordering frontline police officers and Defence staff to be vaccinated or face losing their job was not a “reasonably justified” breach of the Bill of Rights.
The lawyer for the police and Defence staff at the centre of the claim is now calling for the suspended workers to return to their jobs immediately, saying many have given decades of service to their community and are still committed to their jobs.
The challenge, put forward by a group of Defence force and police employees, questioned the legality of making an order under the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act to require vaccination for frontline employees.
The challenge was supported by a group of 37 employees affected by the mandate, who submitted written affidavits to the court.
Minister of Workplace Relations and Safety Michael Wood, Deputy Police Commissioner Tania Kura and NZDF Chief People Officer Brigadier Matthew Weston filed affidavits defending the mandate.
As it stands, 164 of the overall police workforce of nearly 15,700 were affected by the mandate after choosing not to be vaccinated. For NZDF, the mandate affected 115 of its 15,500 staff.
The group relied on two aspects of the Bill of Rights – the right to decline a medical procedure and the right to religious freedom.
On the religious freedom argument, a number of those who made submissions referred to their fundamental objection to taking the Pfizer vaccine, given that it was tested on the cells that were derived from a human foetus.
Justice Cooke agreed with the claim, saying that “an obligation to receive the vaccine which a person objects to because it has been tested on cells derived from a human foetus, potentially an aborted foetus, does involve a limitation on the manifestation of a religious belief.”