Amendments strengthen search and surveillance legislation   5 Mar 2012

Justice Minister Judith Collins today released a Supplementary Order Paper (SOP) that contains proposed amendments to the Search and Surveillance Bill, which passed its second reading last week.

The Search and Surveillance Bill aims to bring “order, certainty, clarity and consistency” to messy, unclear and outdated search and surveillance laws, following a 2007 Law Commission report that recommended search and surveillance powers be consolidated and updated.

The Search and Surveillance Bill and the SOP are expected to be debated by Parliament later this week.

The SOP makes mostly technical changes to the Bill to ensure it is clear and consistent, but also makes some important policy changes.

One of the key changes allows the Bill to commence before 18 April 2012 when the Video Camera Surveillance (Temporary Measures) Act 2011 expires.

“Ensuring the Bill comes into force in April gives the Police the certainty they need to continue using surveillance in several ongoing investigations. There is a risk that current investigations could be jeopardised, along with the safety of Police working on them,” Ms Collins said.

Another key change is that journalists’ claim to ‘journalistic privilege’ when protecting their sources of information will be determined by a High Court judge.

“While a claim of privilege is being decided by the Court, the information in question will be held at the High Court for safekeeping – not with the agency conducting the search.

“This change has been made in recognition of the media’s role in a free and democratic society and to preserve important principles of media freedom and a journalist’s right to protect sources,” Ms Collins said.

Other changes to the Bill include letting Police seize firearms licences and dealers’ licences where they are authorised to seize firearms, and allowing Police to search a person for firearms if a Police Safety Order is in force against that person.

“The changes proposed in the SOP will make for a clearer, more consistent and much-improved Search and Surveillance Bill,” Ms Collins said.

(New Zealand Government)

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