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Video Camera Surveillance Bill passes third reading

Hon Christopher Finlayson

6 October 2011

Video Camera Surveillance (Temporary Measures) Bill passes third reading

The House this afternoon passed the Video Camera Surveillance (Temporary Measures) Bill, which restores the ability of Police to use covert video surveillance in investigating serious criminal offending.

“Parliament’s support for this important Bill means Police are able to resume operations involving covert video surveillance of serious criminal activity,” Attorney-General Christopher Finlayson said. “All police covert video surveillance on private property had been halted following a Supreme Court decision on 2 September that almost all such operations were illegal.”

The Bill preserves the position as it was understood by successive governments and the Police, based on jurisprudence prior to the Supreme Court’s decision, that covert video surveillance in an otherwise lawful search will not be regarded as illegal (for example, if Police were on private property under search warrant).

“There is cross-party support for the Police to have appropriate surveillance powers to investigate serious criminal activity,” he said. “The Bill preserves the previously understood position for an interim period, which gives the next Parliament time to enact enduring legislation around search and surveillance.”

The Bill will expire after six months.

“I am glad that that Parliament has been able to work constructively in order to enact this legislation only three weeks after parts of the Supreme Court’s judgment had suppression orders lifted,” Mr Finlayson said. “This minimised the disruption to police operations.”

“Nonetheless, we engaged in extensive consultation both on exposure drafts of the Bill and then through a short but well-chaired select committee process. This resulted in certain changes to the Bill as introduced, including the removal of some elements of retrospectivity.”

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. The Courts will retain the 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.

The Bill’s provisions will not apply to evidence in pending trials, where that was collected before the Bill’s enactment. However, the Bill does prevent those who have already been convicted from appealing on the basis of the Supreme Court’s decision.

The Green Party, Maori Party and Mana Party voted against the Bill.


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