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Video Camera Surveillance Bill to be introduced

Hon Christopher Finlayson
26 September 2011

Video Camera Surveillance (Temporary Measures) Bill to be introduced

A Bill to preserve the legal position of covert video surveillance will be introduced to the House tomorrow by Attorney-General Christopher Finlayson.

The Video Camera Surveillance (Temporary Measures) Bill will express Parliament’s intent that any lawful search in which covert video surveillance is used is not unlawful just because of that surveillance.

The bill does not provide any legal power that did not exist before the Supreme Court decision of 2 September to use covert video surveillance.

However, the Courts will continue to have the same power to exclude video surveillance evidence that has been obtained unreasonably, and in violation of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act’s protections against unreasonable search and seizure, despite the provisions of the Bill.

The Bill is to be introduced to the House under urgency and have its first reading tomorrow, and will be referred to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee with the support of Act New Zealand and United Future. The committee will report back by Monday 3 October.

“This Bill has been carefully drafted to have the effect of preserving the common law as it was prior to the Supreme Court’s decision of 2 September,” Mr Finlayson said. “It preserves the understanding shared by successive governments, Police and the Court of Appeal before that decision.”

“It will also preserve the result in that decision for the 13 accused, so that Parliament is not reversing the judgment of any Court in a particular case.”

The Bill will mean that Police will be able to resume operations involving surveillance. Around 50 operations were discontinued after the Supreme Court’s decision.

“I have already consulted with a number of legal groups, practitioners and academics on a draft copy of the Bill,” Mr Finlayson said. “I have received very useful comments and feedback from those people, which have been incorporated into the Bill that will be introduced.”

“The Bill is a necessary patch-up to allow surveillance operations involving serious wrong-doing to continue,” Mr Finlayson said. “However, it is important that we do not rush the legislation and we agree with Act’s proposal for a Select Committee process to allow further input from experts and the public.”

“The Government intends to progress the Search and Surveillance Bill which will provide a more permanent regime regulating surveillance,” Mr Finlayson said. “However, that is a large and complex piece of legislation that is much wider than this particular issue. It would also introduce a wholly new regime for video surveillance, rather than returning to the previously understood status quo like the Video Camera Surveillance (Temporary Measures) Bill, and giving us time to think through the options”


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