NSW needs urgent review of surveillance warrants

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The NSW Opposition is calling for an urgent review of the use of surveillance devices in NSW – following revelations that almost all police applications for surveillance device warrants are approved by courts.

According to the NSW Ombudsman’s review of the Surveillance Devices Act, none of the hundreds of applications for surveillance device warrants in 2013 were refused. In the first half of 2014, only 2 per cent of applications were refused.

The report also found police were systemically failing to destroy recordings that weren’t needed for criminal investigations – archiving them instead. 

‘‘The very low rate of refusals suggests either that applications for surveillance device warrants by NSW police are consistently of an almost perfect standard, or that the process of approval lacks rigour,’’ said Shadow Attorney General Paul Lynch.

A recent Upper House Inquiry into the Ombudsman’s review of bugging in the NSW police force discovered multiple cases of warrants being issued when they shouldn’t have been. 

‘‘In light of evidence recently in the Legislative Council, the low refusal rate is of great concern,” Mr Lynch said.

“Covert surveillance devices should only be allowed in very limited cases – but it appears courts are just rubber stamping the applications. 

“Revelations that police are failing to destroy unneeded recordings are also very disturbing. The use of surveillance devices in this state is fraught with issues.

“There needs to be a proper review of the process of granting these warrants.

“The Surveillance Devices Act was supposed to be reviewed in late 2012 – yet here we are half way through 2015 and still waiting.

“It’s time for the NSW Government to stop ignoring this issue in the hope it will go away.

“The Attorney General’s disinterested approach is just one of pure laziness. We need a serious review of surveillance devices in NSW.”