The Search and Surveillance Bill that was thrown back for re-drafting last year has very quietly come back. And as awful as it was last time (not many Bills are sent back), this time it’s little different.
The idea of the Bill was perfectly valid – Search & Surveillance powers were spread unevenly across 70 pieces of legislation, without much consistency. A tidy up made sense. But what has eventuated is a massive land grab of rights.
There is a real smorgasbord of new powers given, without discrimination, to 70 different government agencies. All agencies now get the same powers – be they the police, the Pork Board, the Meat Industry Board, the Overseas Investment Office, the powers authorised by the Wine Act or your local dog control (or anyone else authorised by Local Government). Anybody who had any evidence gathering power now has every evidence gathering power.
– If they have a policy on strip-searching they may use it. If they have suspicion they may conduct a warrantless search, and seize items of interest in plain view.
– They may hack into your computer and conduct fishing expeditions for crimes you may have committed.
– 24-hour video and audio surveillance (and any future sort of surveillance) gets classed the same as a search, making it much more easily authorised. And where warrants are required they need not be obtained from a judge, but from a ‘registrar” or possibly a JP.
– Police trespass on private property? It’ll now be fine.
Along with search and surveillance powers it introduces a new ‘Examination Order’. This requires someone to report to the police for questioning and removes the right to silence. The new version of the bill allows you to go before a judge to have them determine if you are incriminating yourself, thereby incriminating yourself…
Another new power will be Production Orders this allows â€˜enforcement officers’ to sit back and order you to produce documents that you have, or will have in future, on an on-going basis if they suspect that an offence has been committed.
Some will say that only those who have done something wrong need worry about this. They would be wrong.
The Urewera raids showed that where powers are granted, they are used. The many innocent families who were hounded around at gun-point by balaclava-clad police who ransacked their houses would disagree that they had done anything wrong, but they certainly needed to be worried. As did unconnected innocent activists who had their homes visited by police the same day.
Others who have had police go through their property in the middle of the night due to an erroneous address would say that the compensation they might receive after fighting through the courts was not worth the intrusion to their privacy.
An innocent business owner who recently had to threaten to go to the newspapers so that police would give him his work computer (with important customer details) back would probably not like to see it be easier for police to seize ‘suspicious’ property.
We need to stop this bill, as it is an attack on our fundamental human rights.
As it’s all come back very quietly there’s only this week to make a submission.
But there is an opportunity for Wellingtonians tonight to express their displeasure in person to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee chair, Chester Burrows:
There’s a public meeting at 7pm in St. Josephs Church, Basin Reserve (just off Brougham St, Mt Vic). Along with Chester Burrows, Michael Bott from the NZ Council for Civil Liberties will be speaking.