Published: 28 September 2018

Legislative Council - Wednesday 19 September 2018

Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, I will be supporting the legislation because it gives certainty about the use of the information that can be recorded.

I was trying to remember during the briefing whether it was two years ago when Mr Hidding was minister for police and emergency services.  He brought along one of these cameras to our budget Estimates committee meeting.  It was similar to the one that has been decided upon - it was bigger and heavier but had the same sort of design. 

There was this great announcement of what we were going to do.  It was at least two years ago.  Some things take a while to happen.  It was a big budgetary expenditure and the commitment made by the Government to invest in this should be acknowledged.  In many aspects it will save money.  There is an up-front expenditure but less court time.  It might not be saved in the Police budget, but it may be saved in the Justice budget, with fewer vexatious complaints and things like that.  While it affords police a level of protection, there is a potential level of threat if someone decides they want to remove the camera from the police officer's person.  When you weigh it all up, the benefits far outweigh the risks.

As you said in the briefing, Mr President, once video recording of interviews is brought into play, it reduces the number of pleas of not guilty.  The evidence is clear that it happened and it is indisputable because it has been properly recorded, properly stored and properly used.  That is what this legislation is about:  to ensure the information can be properly used and is not subject to question.

We were informed in the second reading speech about the section of the current act that allows for -

… the use of protected information for the investigation of a relevant offence under a corresponding law, but not for its use in the investigation of a relevant offence in Tasmania. 

The second reading speech, and it was discussed in the briefing, went on to say that -

An amendment in the bill ensures the protected information can be used, communicated or published for the purpose of investigating a relevant offence in Tasmania.  This change is consistent with the other permitted uses in the subsection, and with the model provisions on which the act was based.  This amendment has also been made retrospective to the commencement of the act to preserve the integrity of prior investigation and court decisions.

How long is that period?  Is it the full 12 years?  Have there been problems with this?  It is a real concern when we are putting retrospective legislation in place if people then find their case is compromised or their conviction may have been unlawful.

It goes on to say -

Following consultation, it was also identified that the existing wording of section 33(4) of the Police Powers (Surveillance Devices) Act 2006 was problematic in that it limited the authorised uses of information to 'if it is necessary to do so'.

I understand why that is the case.  I am interested in the implications of the retrospective nature of this.  Twelve years is a long time for this protected information to potentially be used in pursuing an offence in Tasmania, but the power was not there to do it.  I need a little more detail on that.

Overall, it provides an environment - and we do not usually see police officers out on single-officer patrols or going to incidents as a single officer - where police will usually have at least two cameras activated if a camera requires activation.  We were shown in the briefing that the camera was easy to activate and gives the field of vision most of us would have - what we could see with our eyes.  You cannot have the police officer accused of something being filmed that they could not possibly have seen because it was behind them.  Four cameras in the vicinity, each knowing the other is there, can be used to record information; if a police officer was acting inappropriately, that could be picked up by another camera.  It will help police officers ensure their behaviour is appropriate.  We have seen in other jurisdictions where that has not been the case.  We are very lucky with Tasmania Police.  We do not get very many complaints about the behaviour of police.  There are some, but perhaps that is because those people are on the wrong side of them.

We need to be really cautious because police have enormous powers and general respect within our community.  It is important that no police officer ever misuse that power.  If a claim happens, having evidence to show what occurred will be helpful to the police.  It could be detrimental to them if they have done the wrong thing.  As the member for Hobart said, people who are doing the right thing have nothing to fear.

Overall, the benefits outweigh the risks of introducing the use of these cameras.  I would like to better understand the retrospective nature of the changes required for the use of the protected information.  Implications could arise from that and some people could find their individual situations slightly different to what they had originally thought.

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