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Urgent surveillance law 'offensive' - Greens

Thursday 22 Sep 2011 3:31 p.m.

The Green Party says covert police surveillance is still admissible as evidence, even after the Supreme Court ruling in the Urewera case

The Green Party says covert police surveillance is still admissible as evidence, even after the Supreme Court ruling in the Urewera case

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By Lloyd Burr

The urgent bill put forward by National which aims to reinstate secret police spying is “offensive and unnecessary to the rule of law and proper Parliamentary process”, the Green Party says.

The party’s human rights spokesperson Keith Locke wrote a letter to Attorney-General Chris Finlayson today advising him that the Green Party will not be supporting the bill, even if there is a rushed select committee process.

Mr Locke says the bill gives the police too much power when executing search warrants of properties.

“Rushing through a law which gives any state agency a blank cheque to implement covert surveillance of private premises is irresponsible,” he says.

The Green Party told Mr Finlayson that they will not be supporting the Camera Surveillance (Temporary Measures) Bill for the following reasons:

  • Only in exceptional circumstances would the Green Party support retrospective legislation and this is not one of them.
  • There is not sufficient reason for moving with such urgency. It is clear from the Supreme Court ruling in the Operation 8 case that the Evidence Act allows for video evidence not legally obtained to be used in trials in certain circumstances, including when the charges are serious.
  • An abbreviated select committee process would not be adequate to address the Green Party’s concerns in such a complex area as surveillance legislation. The Justice and Electoral Committee spent two years considering the Search and Surveillance Bill, which deals with police surveillance. It fine-tuned the legal processes in the Bill around the granting of a new warrant, a surveillance warrant, and it proposed prohibiting video surveillance involving trespass for all but offences carrying a penalty of seven years or more in prison, or arms offences.

“The Video Camera Surveillance Bill gives police carte blanche to use covert video surveillance when implementing their search powers,” Mr Locke says.

“After studying the draft legislation it appears that other state agencies will be given these unrestrained video surveillance powers. 

“This goes against Section 21 of the Bill of Rights Act, prohibiting unreasonable search and seizure, including unreasonable surveillance by state agencies,” he says.

The Labour Party and ACT have given their support of the bill but only if it is referred to a special select committee first.

United Future is happy to support the passage of the bill as it is under urgency but the Maori and Mana parties are against the bill altogether.

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