Court reserves decision on inaccurate Dotcom search warrants
By Paul McBeth
Nov. 28 (BusinessDesk) - The Court of Appeal has reserved its judgment on whether the search warrants carried out during the high-profile arrest of Mega founder Kim Dotcom were so deficient as to be invalid.
The Attorney-General appealed a High Court ruling that declared the search warrants invalid by not being specific enough, by not stating the electronic nature of the copyright offence, or that the US was the nation where he was alleged to have broken the law and to where he was facing extradition.
David Boldt, appearing for the Attorney-General, told the bench it was accepted that the search warrants were clumsily written with errors of expression, but insisted they were valid because they contained enough information and were supported by an arrest warrant.
“The Crown doesn’t shrink from the fact these warrants contained errors,” Boldt told the court.
While there may have been omissions on the face of the warrant, Boldt said it contained enough information for Dotcom and his co-accused to understand what the charges were, and were issued at the same time as the arrest warrant, which did contain the appropriate information.
Paul Davison QC, counsel for Dotcom, told the appeal court that Chief High Court Justice Helen Winkelmann was right to declare the warrants so insufficient as to be invalid, but if the Appeal Court deemed her to be wrong, that prejudiced his client so much as to amount to a miscarriage of justice.
While the US Federal government has received 19 cloned copies of hard-drives uplifted from Dotcom’s mansion, he is still prevented from accessing information needed to aid his defence, Davison said.
Earlier in the hearing, Boldt said there was a very high threshold before a warrant could be declared invalid, and that these contained enough information as not to prejudice Dotcom.
Among the disputed issues were whether the District Court judge who signed the warrant should have imposed conditions on the search warrant to ensure Dotcom and his co-accused received copies of their information once it had been sifted through and the relevant material uplifted.
Justice Tony Randerson questioned Boldt as to why conditions weren’t prescribed and the appropriate specifications weren’t in place. Boldt accepted the short-comings in the search warrant, though said the legislation didn’t require conditions to be imposed.
The hearing is the latest in a series of legal challenges by Dotcom, intended to head off the US Federal Government’s bid to extradite Dotcom and his co-accused Finn Batato, Mathias Ortmann and Bram van der Kolk to face charges of conspiracy to operate websites used to illegally distribute copyrighted content.
The allegations are claimed to have cost copyright holders some US$500 million, of which US$125 million was pocketed by the accused, Boldt said.