Labour's Position on the Video Surveillance Bill

Last week I emailed Charles Chauvel (Labour's Justice spokesperson) expressing my concerns about the proposed response to the Hamed v R decision. At that stage the Bill had not been released.

Since I sent that email, the Attorney General has released an initial Bill for consultation and now a final Bill (333-1) which was introduced in the House on Tuesday. The Bill was referred to the Justice and Electoral Committee which invited public submissions to be lodged before midnight on Wednesday 28 September. I submitted an adapted version of my post on this blog titled "An effective and credible system of justice".

This afternoon I received a response from Charles Chauvel, Labour having had time to consider the submissions to the Committee. Chauvel's point at [3] is encouraging - my principal concern with the Bill was its retrospective application, and it appears that removing retrospectivity is a bottom-line for Labour support.

I reproduce below the full text of the reply:

         from    Charles Chauvel
to    Brendon Steen <>
dateThu, Sep 29, 2011 at 4:46 PM
subjectRE: Proposed Covert Video Surveillance Legislation

Good afternoon

Thank you for your email regarding the Video Search and Surveillance (Temporary Measures) Bill.

Labour insisted on a public select committee process on this Bill. The hearings were shorter than we would have liked, but at least MPs head from some experts and from members of the public. We were able to test the claims made by the Ministers for the necessity for the Bill, and determine whether or not the draft put forward by the Government is appropriate.

The evidence received was more or less universally damning of the legislation. Time and time again, witnesses such as the Law Commission, the New Zealand Law Society, the Criminal Bar Association, and the Human Rights Commission referred to the Bill as far too broad, and called for it to be radically amended.

The New Zealand Police and the New Zealand Police Association agreed that the important thing that was needed above all was as to certainty about their powers going forward.

Labour regrets that National failed to provide the Police with this clarity by progressing the Search and Surveillance Bill in this Parliament, for which we offered our support last November, and as to which we received no response.

Having heard the evidence, Labour now sets out its position on the Bill and the amendments that National will be required to agree if it is to have Labour support to pass the House next week:

1. In order to allow the Police to resume covert video surveillance from the date of the Bill’s assent, their powers to do so must be affirmed, but only on the basis of the law as it was understood prior to the Hamed decision, no more broadly than that, and only on the basis of the most serious offending. Labour would have liked the Bill to go further, and provide a warranting procedure, but accepts that the Government left the drafting exercise needed too late to make this happen;

2. The legislation needs to apply for a maximum of 6 months only;

3. Cases currently under investigation, whether or not yet before the courts, must not be interfered with by Parliament. The Courts must be left free to determine under existing law whether evidence gathered in support of any such prosecutions is admissible.  The overwhelming evidence before the committee is that s30 Evidence Act and s21 NZ Bill of Rights Act give the courts this power, and that there is no justification for Parliament to try to intervene. Claims that serious crime will go unpunished have been shown to be misguided. We are satisfied that serious crime will not go unpunished because appropriate safeguards already exist to prevent this;

4. It must be made clear that persons convicted in cases where covert video surveillance was used in the past cannot now seek to overturn their convictions, or seek compensation from the Crown for wrongful conviction or imprisonment, only by reason of the use of covert video surveillance.  In other words, the law that applied at the time of conviction must clearly continue to apply, rather than the conviction being measured against a later standard.

If Chris Finlayson’s current bill, which is drafted much too broadly, is amended in accordance with the above, Labour will support its passage in the House.

If you would like to view the correspondence exchanged between the Labour Party and the National Party on the Bill, please go to The bill itself is available at

Many thanks for taking the time and trouble to write. I appreciate you voicing your views.

Yours sincerely,

Charles Chauvel
Labour List MP based in Ohariu
Spokesperson for Justice and the Environment

Authorised by Charles Chauvel, 103 Johnsonville Road, Johnsonville


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