25 Oct 2009

Bill breaches privacy rights, says civil liberties group

2:16 pm on 25 October 2009

A civil liberties group says there are a multitude of privacy and human rights breaches in a Government search and surveillance bill, and there can be little confidence they will be fixed.

MPs are considering legislation that would extend powers police currently have to other regulatory agencies.

These include the right to install recording devices and would allow the agencies to film people on their own property for up to three hours without a warrant.

Auckland Council for Civil Liberties president Barry Wilson says the bill provides for the biggest extension of state search and seizure power in New Zealand's history.

"It extends covert investigative powers to an army of state agencies," he says.

"You get the feeling the bill was a done deal and I can hear the sound of jackboots already".

He says says submitters to the Justice and Electoral select committee last week were given only 10 minutes each to make their case.

Assistant Privacy Commissioner Katrine Evans says the Commission was not rushed through its submission and was able to convey the most important points.

One of its points was that surveillance warrants need to be specific, otherwise there is a risk that enforcement officers will be able to go on "fishing expeditions".

Ms Evans says all warrants should be signed by judges only.

Last week the Police Association said it welcomed the law, which needed to be updated to keep pace with new technology.

The Law Society questioned why agencies such as the Boxing and Wrestling Federation would be given the power to conduct patdowns, car searches and bug private property.