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Counter Terrorism Bill creates new powers

Counter Terrorism Bill creates new powers, offences

New terrorism-related offences will be created, and Police and Customs officers will have new powers to assist investigations under the Counter Terrorism Bill introduced by Justice Minister Phil Goff today.

"This Bill reflects the need for New Zealand to ensure we have a comprehensive legislative framework in place that reflects the new, more dangerous era of international terrorism that we live in," Mr Goff said.

"It creates new offences which close potential gaps that could be exploited by terrorists, and gives necessary powers to Police and Customs to investigate and prosecute those offences.

"The Bill complements the Terrorism Suppression Act which came into force on last October, and enables New Zealand to ratify the final two of 12 UN conventions on terrorism.

"New offences under the bill include improper use or possession of nuclear material; threatening to use such material; importing, acquiring or possessing radioactive material with the intention of causing injury, and knowingly possessing, using, making, exporting or importing unmarked plastic explosives.

"It will also be an offence to contaminate food, crops, water or other products intended for human consumption, or to infect animals with disease with the intention of causing serious risk to an animal population or major damage to the national economy.

"Other offences include harbouring or concealing a person that intends to carry out a terrorist act or has already done so; threatening harm to persons or property, and falsely communicating information about danger to persons or property with the intent of disrupting commercial or government interests.

"The new offences carry maximum penalties ranging from seven years' jail to 10 years' jail and a $500,000 fine (for the nuclear and plastic explosives offences).

"Terrorism becomes an aggravating factor under the Sentencing Act 2002, and therefore carries harsher penalties. For example, a murder carried out as a terrorist act carries a minimum non-parole period of 17 years," Mr Goff said.

The Bill will enable Police and Customs officers to use electronic tracking devices as an investigative tool. It will require a court warrant which will be issued if the judge is satisfied there are reasonable grounds to suspect an offence is being, or will be, committed, and that it is in the public interest to issue a warrant.

"During the execution of a search warrant, Police will have the power to require assistance from a person where necessary, such as providing passwords to access computers. Failure to assist will be an offence if the assistance is both reasonable and necessary.

"The Bill expands on the Terrorism Suppression Act by allowing Customs to detain property, cash or cash equivalents crossing New Zealand's border if there is good cause to suspect that the owner is a designated terrorist entity, or an entity that may be eligible for designation," Mr Goff said.

The Bill will be referred to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee to hear submissions. The committee is expected to report back by July 31.

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