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Labour unhappy with surveillance bill

Published: 4:03PM Tuesday September 20, 2011 Source: NZN

A bill ensuring police can use covert video surveillance must go to a select committee before becoming law, the Labour Party says.

The legislation will be introduced to Parliament next week and the Government intends passing it under urgency, which would cut out select committee scrutiny and public submissions.

It is being brought in because the Supreme Court last week ruled covert video surveillance was inadmissible in the Urewera case, and charges against 13 defendants were dropped.

The Government says that means 50 police operations have had to be suspended and 40 pending court cases could be affected.

It is seeking support from opposition parties, and Labour leader Phil Goff said sending it to a select committee was his party's bottom line.

"We know the law has to be fixed and we believe the law should be fixed," he said.

"The Labour Party isn't about to let criminals out of jail because of inadequacy of the law - but this has to go through some sort of select committee process."

Goff said it was vital the Law Commission, the Law Society and other key players had the opportunity to comment on it.

"I've seen too much urgency where parliament rushes stuff through, doesn't think it through, and it creates more problems than it solves."

Prime Minister John Key said the problem is that the Supreme Court decided current law doesn't reflect the intention of Parliament, and the new bill will make sure it does.

The Maori Party won't back the bill.

"There is no way the Maori Party will support after-the-fact legislative change to make the unlawful lawful," said MP Te Ururoa Flavell.

The Police Association is backing the proposed law change.