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New policing powers right over the top

New policing powers right over the top – Maori Party
Dr Pita Sharples, Co-leader and police issues spokesperson 18 September 2008

The Maori Party is concerned at reports of new powers for the police to intercept communications, enter and search premises and detain suspects – as part of core policing.

Co-leader and Police issues spokesperson Dr Pita Sharples says ordinary people’s rights to privacy, and the presumption of innocence which underpins our whole legal and judicial system, could be seriously compromised by the Search and Surveillance Powers Bill introduced to Parliament last week.

“This Bill seems to extend to ALL police the extensive powers that were granted to specialist serious crime units,” said Dr Sharples.

“The Bill streamlines or bypasses judicial procedures for obtaining warrants, by removing basic checks and balances in some cases. Investigations and prosecutions could now rest on the word of the police – and not even in writing!” he said.

“Innocent bystanders could be detained on suspicion of involvement in a crime, and private electronic communications can be intercepted and monitored without a warrant. This creates huge potential for abuse of police powers.

“The massive operation against people in Ruatoki a year ago, followed by terrorism charges that could not stand up, suggests where this type of law could lead us.

“We also have concerns about closing the Serious Fraud Office, which has built up a pool of expertise and done a thorough job over the years. At a time when financial crime is prevalent and lots of people have lost their life savings because of fraud, we are concerned that it will not get the same priority under the new regime.

“But our greatest concern is over process,” said Dr Sharples. “We are told the Law Commission review of legislation took five years. This Bill may be considered next week, before Parliament is dissolved for an election.

“If this is good law, which enjoys support across the whole Parliament, then why the rush to introduce it now? Because this Bill is all about electioneering,” said Dr Sharples.

“If the issues are serious, then let’s give them serious attention. The Bill appears to grant sweeping police powers that could bypass judicial processes, so it would be most improper to pass it under urgency, bypassing ordinary Parliamentary scrutiny,” said Dr Sharples.


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