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Posts Tagged ‘Chief Human Rights Commissioner’

Welcome to 1984

30 September 2011 4 comments

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…In 2006, then Houston police Chief Harold Hurtt strongly advocated citywide cameras (Hurtt is now in command of DHS’s immigration enforcement program). A controversial figure, Hurtt adamantly enforced don’t-ask-don’t-tell immigration measures that prevented officers from inquiring about a suspects’ immigration status. Houston is a staunch “sanctuary city” with a huge illegal alien population.

Hurtt suggested putting surveillance cameras in apartment complexes, downtown streets and even private property. He said, “it’s another way of combating crime amid a shortage of officers.” Reportedly, Hurtt also advocated a change in building code to require cameras in private apartment complexes, and in private single-family homes if he decided there were “too many” calls for police assistance…Full story

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The Video Camera Surveillance (Temporary Measures) Bill is currently before Parliament’s  Justice and Electoral Committee. The Bill was introduced on Tuesday (27 September). It went to Select Committee Hearings on Wednesday (28 September).  The closing date for submissions is Friday (30 September). The Select Committee must report back to Parliament next Monday (3 October).

This Bill, if passed into law will allow police to secretly film people.   We, the people, have one week to read the contents of the Bill and put together a submission for the Select Committee. One week.

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As Criminal Bar Association representatives Noel Sainsbury and Robert Lithgow said,  “the legal patch, introduced under urgency yesterday, was ‘legal magic dust’ and a bad way to go about things.”

Despite Police attempting to spook the public with claims that “40 trials and 50 police operations are under threat” – one has to doubt the veracity of such a claim. It seems bizarre that all of a sudden, so many vital police operations are under threat.

Indeed, a New Plymouth criminal lawyer, Paul Keegan, said precisely as much today at the Select Committee hearing,

I would be sceptical that any of those prosecutions exist. The Supreme Court had made it clear that the current law did not allow covert video surveil-lance – and the police knew this.

“I have never encountered it and a number of my colleagues have never encountered it. I think it’s rare because it’s illegal.

“That is why [the Urewera appeal] was thrown out: because the police acted in bad faith. It was thrown out because it was illegally obtained. Yet Crown Law and police were saying that 40 to 50 of their investigations and/or prosecutions could be affected if the law was not changed to allow covert footage – and make it retrospective.

“The questions need to be asked: what are those 40 cases? Are they active prosecutions or are they investigations? And if they are investigations then why are they doing something that is illegal?Source

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With regards to Government’s intention to pass this law and make it retrospective, the  Chief Human Rights Commissioner David Rutherford said,  “it was unnecessary to legislate retrospectively because Section 30 of the Evidence Act would give courts discretion to allow covert video evidence in cases of serious criminal offending. ‘Retrospective law offends a basic principle of justice. A series of such cases could damage New Zealand’s reputation as a leader in human rights.

He added that, “under the Evidence Act, the courts already have the discretion to allow illegal evidence to be used in cases of serious offending”. Evidence that is “illegally” obtained is not automatically discounted as inadmissable by Courts. In situations of grave seriousness, such evidence may still be admitted by the Courts. Source.

Why is this Bill a bad piece of legislation?

  1. It is not necessary. The Bill is more about Police (and the government) covering their backsides after the Supreme Court recent threw out illegally obtained evidence in the case of the so-called Ureweras “Terrorist” trials.
  2. The Courts can already accept illegally obtained evidence in certain circumstances.
  3. This Bill is being rushed through in one week. It is frightening that legislation that permits police to put cameras in peoples homes is pushed through Parliament at such incredible speed – thereby greatly restricting public in-put.
  4. Isn’t this kind of legislation precisely the sort of thing that National accused the previous Labour government for – and constantly labelled them as “Nanny State”? Isn’t this much worse – Big Brother State?

The Bill itself is very short and simple. Read here. In fact, it contains no safeguards or controls whatesoever. It is simply a piece of patchwork that has been hastily cobbled together.

Such law is invariably bad law.

Today, it may be used against P-manufacturing criminals. Tomorrow, it could be used against political dissidents – as has already happened in this country,

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Source

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In the meantime, let’s hope that Houston police Chief Harold Hurtt’s vision of surveillance cameras in peoples’ homes never, ever comes to pass. But that’s up to us, folks. No one can stop 1984 from becoming reality, except us.

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