Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Video Surveillance Bill: Police incompetent or contemptuous?

The Video Camera Surveillance (Temporary Measures) Bill.


Is the New Zealand Police extraordinarily incompetent or wilfully contemptuous of the law?
By Dr David Small, LLB, BA Hons PhD
Senior Lecturer in Education, University Canterbury
Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand

Fifteen years ago, I caught two agents of the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) breaking into the home of Aziz Choudry, an organizer of a Christchurch conference critical of APEC.

After the official SIS complaints process through the office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security proved worthless, Mr Choudry sued the SIS in trespass and for breach of his Bill of Rights entitlement to be free from unreasonable search.

The crown replied by arguing inter alia that a warrant to intercept communications implied a right of covert entry.

The court found [Choudry v Attorney-General [1999] 2 NZLR 582] that even in the rarified atmosphere of national security, an intrusion onto private property was such a breach of privacy that it could be justified only where there was explicit provision for it.

The SIS claimed at the time that it had been operating since 1977 in the belief that it had the power to enter private property to intercept communication through acts such as installing surveillance equipment.

Following the judgment against the SIS, Parliament rushed through legislation to empower the SIS to enter private property pursuant to interception warrants, and retrospectively legalizing SIS break-ins back to 1977.

Given that other comparable jurisdictions had seen the need to make explicit statutory provision that empowered law enforcement and intelligence personnel to enter private property, there was a lack of credibility to SIS claims that they thought they were entitled to act as they had been.

Rather, it seemed like yet another case where the SIS ‘chose to break the law’, as the Chief Ombudsman Sir Guy Powles concluded in his 1976 inquiry into the SIS surveillance of William Sutch.

Given how clear and recent the judgment of the court in the Choudry case was, together with the retrospective legislation that followed it, the decision of the Police as revealed in Hamed & Ors v R to routinely conduct surveillance on private property without explicit authorization to do so is nothing short of scandalous.

To describe as disingenuous the Police claim that they thought they had an implicit right to enter private property, is to significantly understate the issue.

Police surveillance operations have wasted a great deal of resources, breached the rights of New Zealanders and, potentially, undermined the prosecution of some serious criminals.

Have the Police been extraordinarily incompetent or willfully contemptuous of the law? The public of New Zealand is entitled to know the answer.

What is needed is a thorough examination of enforcement and intelligence agencies operate, not a hastily-assembled ill-considered legislative band-aid over the wound.

This Bill combines two ingredients of the worst kind of legislation: retrospectivity and a lack of public consultation.

If it is passed, it runs the serious risk of endorsing and even encouraging in the Police the same cavalier attitude to the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act that has long been endemic in the SIS.

The message to law enforcement agencies is: if you want to extend your capacity to encroach on people’s rights and freedoms, just help yourself and your actions will be legitimized afterwards.

As it stands, the Bill of Rights Act is a minimal safeguard of the rights and freedoms of New Zealanders. This Bill will further weaken it.

I urge that this Bill be abandoned until there has been time for a proper inquiry and process of public consultation.

********

David Small is currently based in Washington DC studying alternative models of counter-terrorism at Georgetown University Law Centre through the auspices of the Fulbright Foundation.


© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Until Dawn: Pick Your Own Horrible Adventure

Suppermassive Games’ Until Dawn sees a group of dumb sexy teenagers take a trip to a spooky mansion atop a mountain. It is, obviously, a horror game. However, the game is so ridiculous it turns out to be more of a comedy. Until Dawn begins with ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Donald Trump, And Dr Dre

For the past few months, you, me, and Rupert Murdoch have been waiting for the wheels to fall off the Trump campaign, and for some drab incarnation of business-as-usual (Jeb Bush, Scott Walker) to emerge as the real Republican standard bearer in next year’s presidential election... More>>

ALSO:

Hiroshima: 70 Years On, The Nuclear Threat Looms As Large As Ever

Rumours had been circulating in Hiroshima that the city was being saved for something special. It was. The burst of ionising radiation, blast, heat and subsequent firestorm that engulfed the city on August 6 killed 140,000 people by the end of 1945. More>>

ALSO:

#FutureOfNews: Challenge & Solution - A ''New Scoop''

The development of Scoop's new "Ethical Paywall" approach to licensing commercial use of its news content and addressing the current State of the NZ News Media and the challenges being faced news media everywhere. More>>

ALSO:

Lyndon Hood: God Defend The National Anthem

Recently Labour leader Andrew Little said – deliberately, I think – that he didn't like New Zealand's national anthem and many New Zealanders preferred to sing along to the Australian one. More>>

Keith Rankin: Centenary Of The Battle For Chunuk Bair

I don't agree with the view that our national identity was forged at Gallipoli, despite the rah-rah about this in the week leading up to Anzac Day... What concerns me now, however, is our lack of respect for our own history. Why have we switched off? More>>

ALSO:

Werewolf: Pitch Perfect

Among his other blessings, Pope Francis has been a gift to the world of marketing studies. There can be few other examples where a leader has transformed the perception of an enterprise so thoroughly, but without making any discernible change to its core principles. More>>

ALSO:

US Politics: The Democrats Try To Engage With America (Again)

Venues are being rebooked to accommodate the thousands of people coming to listen to Vermont Senator, avowed socialist, and presidential aspirant Bernie Sanders talk about the redistribution of wealth. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news