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Search and Surveillance bill getting rewrite

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Chester Borrows
Chester Borrows

By Maggie Tait

Wellington, May 24 NZPA - The controversial Search and Surveillance Bill is being redrafted after it raised concerns, including that freedom of speech would be stifled.

The bill, being considered by Parliament's justice and electoral select committee, was based on a 2007 Law Commission report and aimed to bring together police powers which are scattered through numerous statutes.

However, serious concerns were raised that the bill did more than that and increased agencies' powers to watch members of the public and take information, such as from their computers, with few restraints.

Committee chairman Chester Borrows said MPs decided that the bill needed to be clearer.

"The committee was concerned because all of the submitters were saying we were taking the law into new territory when we were assured, and we understood, that we weren't," he told NZPA.

"We said to the Law Commission and to the Justice officials 'well you can't be the only ones that are right here when you've got submitters that include big law firms, people from the judiciary and the Human Rights Commission' -- it's not just some extreme bunch who are concerned."

The committee decided to put the bill on hold for clarification and redrafting.

The Justice Department was producing a report on the legislation which would be completed sometime next month, the Law Commission had prepared a table showing what the law was now and how it was changed, and the new clearer bill would be ready in July/August.

All three documents would be sent to parties who had already made submissions and they could further submit in writing.

Mr Borrows doubted the legislation would pass by the end of the year.

"Here is the select committee process really working well. The public have made submissions, the committee has agreed there needs to be some work done, we've put things on hold, clarified, are amending and then we will proceed, giving the people the opportunity to make written submissions."

The original bill wasn't poorly drafted, he said.

"I would say it lacked clarity because even people familiar with the legislation didn't understand where the law was going.

"If you've got a situation like that you have to recognise that there needs to be clear and plain English so people know what law they have to abide by."

The problem appeared to be that the people most familiar with the legislation were doing the drafting and the checking.

"They know what they mean but they don't always have a layman's view of the language... if you look across our lawbooks you'd find a number of bits of legislation that could have been written in better ways."

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