Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Video Camera Surveillance (Temporary Measures) Bill’

National Party president complains of covert filming – oh the rich irony!

6 February 2013 13 comments

.

National Party boss alleges covert filming

Source

.

Oh dear, oh dear me. Karma is working overtime this year – and has National politicians and Party apparatchiks firmly in it’s sights.

National Party president Peter Goodfellow complains  of  having been the victim of   “covert video surveillance”?!?!

But wait – isn’t this precisely what National intended last year when they passed the odious Search and Surveillance Act 2012?!

The NZ Herald – no “lefty” newspaper – condemned the Bill on 21 September 2011, when it was still in passing through Parliament,

The new search and surveillance bill, which has been on Parliament’s books for two years, acknowledges this by providing for secret filming on private property in serious cases, including arms offences.

But the Government has been in no hurry to pass it, a fact criticised in the Supreme Court judgment. Now, with only two sitting weeks before the general election, time has run out.

If the Government wishes to rush its urgent short-term law through Parliament next week, it needs the Labour Party to agree. However, its leader, Phil Goff, points to the perils inherent in legislation that would apply retrospectively, so filmed evidence already collected could be used. He wants this new bill to go to a select committee. That is the right course.

In that forum, the Government’s case for urgency would be put under appropriate scrutiny. This would surely conclude that, in the context of sound parliamentary practice and the Supreme Court ruling, this legislation is inappropriate and probably unnecessary.”

Source

As Green MP, David Clendon said on 22 March last year,

This bill is overwhelmingly negative, in that it clearly seeks to give the widest possible powers to the police, to the Customs Service, to the Department of Internal Affairs, to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and to a whole swathe of other Government officials who hereafter will be enabled to make the most extraordinary intrusions into the private business of New Zealand citizens, who may well simply be going about their legal and honest business.

There is simply no justification for such a wide-ranging, all-encompassing, enabling approach. We simply do not have the political climate or the legal or social context that requires the level of intrusion that this bill will allow. This is far beyond the reasonable needs of the police or any other Government enforcement agency.

The argument that this level of intrusion need concern only criminals, and that honest people may rest assured that their privacy and the integrity of their homes, business, and indeed their person will not be compromised, simply does not wash.”

Source

The National Business Review wasn’t terrible happy either, in this headlined story a day later,

‘Undemocratic’ Search and Surveillance Bill made law

Source

And Taranaki’s Daily News” editorial on 2 October last year was equally critical,

At the time of the act’s introduction to Parliament in March, Justice Minister Judith Collins defended it on the basis of it bringing “order, certainty, clarity and consistency to messy, unclear and outdated search and surveillance laws”.

She also pointed out that the act draws together, under one statute, the powers that existed under 69 separate laws.

That rationale, which borders on the closest the Government could come up with as an assurance that this was no significant change, more good housekeeping, will reassure no-one.

[…]

Even at this early stage there is a disquiet among many in this country who traditionally are government supporters.”

Source

The Search and Surveillance Act 2012 gave extensive additional powers to the Police and to other State bodies. In many instances, Police may not even have to apply for a warrant to keep you, your family, your friends, under surveillance.

So for Mr Goodfellow to now complain about a breach of his privacy because he was covertly filmed… oh the delicious irony of it!

A private investigator may not be an official arm of the State – but considering that National is only too happy to contract out services – including private prisons and schools – should not escape our notice. A private investigator is only a contract-away from doing the State’s bidding.

Especially under a National regime.

And anyway, what does Mr Goodfellow have to fear if he is being covertly filmed?

As National MP Tim Macindoe said in Parliament on 7 March last year, when the Search and Surveillance Bill was being debated,

I have to say I do not have a lot of interest in the human rights of those who are not interested in obeying the laws, because quite often they threaten our safety, our security, our homes, our elderly, and the vulnerable in our society.”

Source

Ain’t it a bitch when a government passes authoritarian legislation, extending police powers, and that government’s own Party members get caught up as  ‘victims’ of a resulting culture of State intrusion into our private lives?

Welcome to the real world, Mr Goodfellow.

.

No more anarchy

.

.

= fs =

Advertisements

State-sponsored voyeurism? No thanks, Mr Key.

The Video Camera Surveillance (Temporary Measures) Bill is perhaps one of the shortest pieces of legislation ever brought before Parliament. The text is barely three paragraphs long.

Yet, the implications of this Bill is far-ranging in it’s impact on our society which supposedly values freedom, privacy, and civil rights.

With this Bill, the government is effectively over-riding a Supreme Court decision, and re-writing law to suit itself – and the Police force.

Many New Zealanders who understanding the ramifications of this Bill are not just unhappy – they are scornful of John Key’s government. That scorn was publicly expressed today (Saturday, 1 October), when a protest closed much of Victoria Street in down-town Wellington, opposite the Central Police Station.

The protest was peaceful and made it’s way to the nearby Wellington waterfront.

Mainstream media – except for the Radio NZ website – did not report any of todays’ protest event.

From Radio NZ,

.

Source

.

Meanwhile, the Dominion Post fed this to the Happy Folk of Wellington,

.

Full Story

.

Now don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against the military. (Even if they have mis-spent $20 million of our tax-dollars on advertising and PR campaigns.)  The NZDF generally do a damned good job.

Then, for the media to report on the pomp and ceremony of our Armed Forces – whilst ignoring protest activity  opposing a Bill that is both invasive of our privacy and contemptuous of the Courts – is frightening. And lazy. There is a tinge of subtle “stalinism” in this affair; public displays of our clean-cut, brave boys (and girls) in uniform – whilst in the back-rooms of government offices, politicians are doing sneaky things to undermine our civil rights.

Thankfully, there are those who are not prepared to take such an affront to our freedoms lying down, like sheep-in-a-paddock.

***

.

Something of immediate importance that did make it into the Dominion Post,

.

.

Never under-estimate the media’s priorities in presenting critical, news-worthy stories to the public.

.

***

.

+++ Updates +++

.

Source

.

Whilst this is a slight improvement, it still doesn’t resolve serious concerns that are held about this piece of legislation.

New Zealand has become a much-surveilled society in the last 20 years, with cameras everywhere, including your local public library.

If people had seen this coming in 1984, I wonder how they would have reacted? With horror and anger I am guessing.

.

+++ Updates +++

.

As part of the campaign opposing this atrocious piece of  “1984ish” piece of legislation, this Blog lobbied several ACT and Labour MPs to encourage them to vote against it.  Charles Chauvel (Labour) was one of only two MPs to respond,

.

from:    Charles Chauvel Charles.Chauvel@parliament.govt.nz
to:    [email]
date:   Mon, Oct 17, 2011 at 11:40 AM
subject:    RE: Video Camera Surveillance Bill!

Good morning

Thank you for your email regarding the Video Camera Surveillance (Temporary Measures) Bill.

Labour has strongly opposed National’s attempt to push through legislation on this issue under urgency and without giving the public a say. We were instrumental in forcing National to send their original legislation to a Select Committee. We made clear that we could not support the Bill that was introduced by National as it had unacceptable retrospective provisions and appeared to widen the powers available for surveillance.

After hearing evidence from experts and other interested parties the Select Committee has significantly altered the Bill.  This has addressed a number of significant issues:

1. In order to allow the Police to resume covert video surveillance from the date of the Bill’s assent, their powers to do so are affirmed, but only on the basis of the law as it was understood prior to the Supreme Court decision, no more broadly than that (as the draft government Bill did), and only on the basis of the most serious offending. Labour would have liked the Bill to go further, and provide a warranting procedure, but the Government left the drafting exercise needed too late to make this happen;

2. The legislation will apply for a maximum of 6 months only, meaning that legislation that can deal with a proper warranting procedure for surveillance will be passed;

3. Cases currently under investigation, whether or not yet before the courts, will not be interfered with by Parliament. The Courts must be left free to determine under existing law whether evidence gathered in support of any such prosecutions is admissible. The overwhelming evidence before the committee was that s30 Evidence Act and s21 NZ Bill of Rights Act give the courts this power, and that there is no justification for Parliament to try to intervene.

With these significant changes, Labour is able to support the Bill.  We believe we have struck a balance between allowing the Police and other investigating agencies to use video surveillance where it is needed, but not giving them wider power or interfering with cases that are currently before the courts.

Persons convicted in cases where covert video surveillance was used in the past cannot now seek to overturn their convictions, or seek compensation from the Crown for wrongful conviction or imprisonment, only by reason of the use of covert video surveillance.  In other words, the law that applied at the time of conviction must clearly continue to apply, rather than the conviction being measured against a later standard.  

I appreciate that this position might not be all that you want. While it would be good to live in a world where video surveillance by the Police was not necessary, sadly we do not live in that world at the moment. Equally, if we are to give powers, we need to ensure they are used only for the most serious cases, and with the appropriate safeguards and procedures.

Labour believes that we have greatly improved this Bill, and a number of the legal academic experts who appeared before the Select Committee have acknowledged that the changes we insisted on have resolved the main issues (though not quite all) they had with the Bill.  I am attaching links to two of those blogs for your information.

http://pundit.co.nz/content/some-praise-for-parliament-rare-though-that-may-be

http://www.laws179.co.nz/2011/10/covert-surveillance-labours-bottom-line.html

Many thanks for taking the time to write. I appreciate you voicing your views.

Yours sincerely

Charles Chauvel

Labour List MP based in Ohariu
Spokesperson for Justice and the Environment

Lets hope that when the “sunset” clause takes effect, that no government of any hue will attempt to resurrect it. New Zealand is a thoroughly surveilled society without adding more to Big Brother.

.

Additional Reading

Welcome to 1984

1 October:  Citizens Marched against the new Police Surveillance Bill

.

.

Welcome to 1984

30 September 2011 4 comments

.

…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

.

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.

.

.

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

.

.

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,

.

Source

.

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.

.

.

.