Responding to the Video Camera Surveillance Bill – seriously, WTF?

In my day job when I’m responding to discussion papers from the Government, I usually bitch if there’s less than a couple of months to pull together some coherent thoughts, backed by evidence and consultation with experts. So instead, we’ve got until midnight to respond to the Video Camera Surveillance Bill. Midnight? Less than twenty-four hours to respond to something that breaks the Bill of Rights and declares that when the Police were breaking the law, they are now magically resolved of all wrong-doing? It is tempting to write a submission that just said: “Dear John, WTF?” Instead, I put my grown-up hat on and wrote:

“The use of covert video surveillance by the Police must be balanced by the right to be secure against “unreasonable search” as laid down in Section 21 of the Bill of Rights. This balancing requires a decision to be made on the basis of the facts of each investigation, as is the case for other forms of intrusive search. Thus Police should be required to obtain a search warrant for such surveillance.

The ability to retrospectively change the law is a dangerous tool that can undermine the rule of law. I take as granted that the Police, along with the rest of New Zealand, should not break the law. When it is clear that they have done so, they should not be allowed to benefit from doing do. When the Police knowingly break the law, the Government should not enact retrospective legislation to redefine past illegal actions by the Police.

When the legislative changes affect fundamental rights as set down in the Bill of Rights, thorough consideration and consultation is needed. Attempting to push the Bill through under urgency and allowing only one day for submissions to the Select Committee makes a mockery of the democratic process.

The current Bill should not be passed in this form.”

If you want to respond, do it here. If you don’t want to respond, then you’ll get what you deserve.

6 thoughts on “Responding to the Video Camera Surveillance Bill – seriously, WTF?”

  1. NZCCL is doing a submission (of course!) and one of our guys just got offered the opportunity to make an oral submission – at about 90 minutes notice.

    No rush, take your time…

  2. Video Surveillance

    Thanks for the direct link to make a submission; it made it easy enough that it seemed worth doing even though it feels mostly futile (the government seems determined to pass this anyway). I’m amused that “An acknowledgement email will be sent after your submission has been processed (this may take up to one week).” — which presumably means that these acknowledgements could easily come after they’ve passed the legislation 🙁


    -=- submission text (in case anyone wants inspiration) -=-
    Natural justice — that every day understanding of how rules “should” work — dictates that rules should not change after the fact. Something which was allowed by the rules shouldn’t become not allowed after it happened. And something which was not allowed by the rules shouldn’t suddenly become allowed by the rules after it happened.

    It appears that the police were surprised that the courts ruled their use of video camera surveillance was not legal. But this should not have been a surprise. The police have long been required to go through a formal process to, eg, use listening devices and wiretaps to record phone conversations. Video surveillance doesn’t seem particularly different from this, particularly in the context of the Bill of Rights provisions against unreasonable search.

    In my opinion it is not appropriate for Police (or other security forces) to be using video surveillance without at least as much Judicial oversight as has long been required for intercepting phone conversations (eg, application for warrants). And so I would probably be opposed to this Bill even if it only applied to future surveillance.

    I am particularly opposed to retroactively making such surveillance lawful by Act of Parliament, just because the Police didn’t like the way that the courts have ruled. Especially by legislation passed under urgency with minimal consultation of the New Zealand population.

    I urge that this Bill not be passed in its current form, nor without proper consultation of the New Zealand population at large.

    -=- submission text (in case anyone wants inspiration) -=-

    1. Re: Video Surveillance

      “Natural justice — that every day understanding of how rules “should” work — dictates that rules should not change after the fact.” – That’s a good way of putting it.

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