Those expressing concern that video surveillance law might be passed without appropriate public scrutiny need to understand that the Justice and Electoral Select Committee has already examined the issue and heard numerous public and expert submissions on it, Police Association President Greg O’Connor said today.
“The Search and Surveillance Bill was introduced in 2009 following the Law Commission’s 2007 report on the issue. That Bill addresses the issue – that, currently, there is no affirmative law allowing and regulating use of video surveillance – by introducing a surveillance device warrant regime. That means, once the Bill is passed, Police will apply for a warrant to use video in the same way they do for a search warrant or interception warrant,” Mr O’Connor said.
“Relevant parties including the Privacy Commissioner, Law Society, Human Rights Foundation and many others submitted on the Bill. The select committee reported back to Parliament in November last year. It specifically discussed surveillance device warrants in its report.
“So the substantive issue has already been considered at length, and subjected to considerable public scrutiny and debate. The select committee having heard all the evidence recommended the measures be passed into law.
“Very few people would think it unreasonable for Police to conduct video surveillance when authorised to do so by a warrant granted by a Court for that purpose. However, right now, there is no warrant process which could authorise video surveillance. It is the law’s silence on the issue which the Supreme Court has ruled renders the use of video surveillance illegal by default. Prior judgments had upheld such surveillance as being lawful, by default, since the law does not currently require a warrant to be issued.
“Until the Search and Surveillance Bill can be passed and introduce a surveillance device warrant regime, we need a temporary measure to suspend the effect of the Supreme Court’s new interpretation, in order to allow Police to continue to deal with drug dealers and other serious criminals.”
Mr O’Connor noted that passing an urgent temporary measure to suspend the effect of the judgment would not mean Police gain new powers to film people on private property.
“Police have always needed a warrant to enter private property for purposes such as placing a camera. Police do not have carte blanche to go around placing secret cameras in people’s homes and the urgent law change proposed would not give such a power,” Mr O’Connor said.