05 March 2009

Secret Warrants and Secret Searches

The NSW Police Force have hit the jackpot on this one. A change to the law is going to allow police to apply for a secret warrant, conduct a secret search, and then inform the target of the warrant and search some three years later. In that funny in a perverse kind of a way, the police powers as they relate to criminal activity such as murder, computer crimes, corruption, money laundering, and sexual offenses, among others, are much broader than they are for crimes such as terrorism.

I am all for reducing and eliminating crime. I am also all for the protection of people's civil liberties and basic human rights. It might be a fine balance that needs to be struck, but it is a balance that must be found and so struck. It is outrageous in my mind that police can covertly search your home and property without your knowledge. And, that they can do it impersonating someone else, such as an electrician or something.

The problem as I see it is that a covert search is going to be sans independent supervision of the process. This is undoubtedly going to lead to claims of the planting of evidence. Running a video camera is hardly going to be a convincing mechanism to prove that the searchers were at all times being videoed. I would much prefer that warrants be served and the target of that warrant be allowed to watch what happens as there home and property is searched.

It is a scary thought that people unknown to you and without your knowledge can be in your home and rifling through your property, and doing God knows what.

The warrants do have some restrictions. The offense must carry a maximum prison term of seven years. The warrants can only be issued by designated Supreme Court judges, and the judge must be convinced that the evidence sort is going to be found in the premises or on the property searched within 10 days of the warrant being issued.

Nevertheless, it is an extraordinary power considering most people would consider their home their castle and as such free from covert searches.

These are indeed interesting times that we live in.


lawbugger said...

I agree with you on this one. I thought you might post on The Buddha Bar sit-in??

Rob Baiton said...


Haven't seen you round in a while ;) I am glad that I have written something that has warranted (pun intended) a comment.

Gotta say, somewhat ill-informed on the Buddha Bar thing. Actually, not ill-informed but rather not informed at all.

lawbugger said...


I cant warrant this link will open (p.i.)

Rob Baiton said...


I had a look and wrote a post.

The post has attracted one comment so far from someone in the know.