This week the Government is attempting to pass legislation under urgency that will retrospectively validate the currently unlawful practice of police trespassing into someone’s home and installing covert surveillance cameras in their private space.
The legislation is in response to a recent Supreme Court decision that ruled covert video surveillance evidence against the Urewera 18 inadmissible, because it had been obtained unlawfully.
John Key says that the rushed legislation is just a technicality to update our laws with new technology. He says “it’s necessary because police have been using hidden camera for evidence in 40 pending trials and in 50 operations, and doing nothing would risk letting serious criminals get away with breaking the law.”
A reading of the Supreme Court’s judgement shows National’s legislation isn’t about serious criminals at all; the Evidence Act lets judges allow unlawfully gathered evidence when there are serious charges already. Several legal commentators have clarified that there is no risk of serious criminals getting off under the current law.
While the Evidence Act effectively allows covert video surveillance in people’s homes it puts checks and balances in place to ensure it is not used lightly. It is only right that Police need to justify why they are spying on people in their homes.
Further, it is quite rare for Police to rely on this type of evidence to prove a case. If there is no other evidence of a crime beyond what is discovered through covert video surveillance in someone’s house there is reason to question the case.
This is no benign technical change to our laws. This is a change to our understanding of the Bill of Rights that protects all of us from unreasonable search and seizure.
This is about much more than bad criminals with something to hide, it’s about Police and Government misusing their powers. If you think this won’t affect you and there’s nothing to worry about, I would just say the activists I know who have lost four years of their lives to the “terror raid” trials will tell you otherwise. The Supreme Court agreed with them.
To use parliamentary urgency, whether it ends up being “all-stages urgency” or not, to take away our fundamental rights under urgency is an outrage.