Tuesday, 13 Nov 2007
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Police may get more scope to bug phones

By MARTIN KAY and KIM RUSCOE - The Dominion Post | Tuesday, 13 November 2007
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Police may be given more scope to bug phones and intercept text messages as the Government moves to fix discredited anti-terror laws.
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Prime Minister Helen Clark said yesterday that several options would be put to the Law Commission as part of its review of the Terrorism Suppression Act, which drew severe criticism from Solicitor-General David Collins.

They include allowing police to use electronic surveillance under the Arms Act and other laws covering potential terrorist activity.

Dr Collins refused a police bid to charge 12 people arrested in connection with alleged terrorist training camps in the Ureweras.

He said that though there was evidence of "very disturbing activities", it did not reach the high thresholds required, and the Terrorism Suppression Act was confusing and virtually impossible to apply domestically.

His ruling meant hundreds of pages of intercepted evidence police acquired during their year-long investigation could not be admitted in court, as it was gathered using warrants under the act.

Evidence obtained using a warrant under one law cannot be used for prosecutions under another.

The 12, and four others, face several charges under the Arms Act, which does not allow interception warrants.

Miss Clark signalled that she favoured boosting that law and other legislation, rather than overhauling the domestic provisions in the Terrorism Suppression Act. "... a possible course to consider is whether there should be a greater list of offences under the Arms Act, where prosecutions mounted for those offences would be able to draw on intercept evidence."

At present, police can obtain interception warrants in very limited circumstances, such as for serious violent crimes with a sentence of more than seven years' jail or suspected drug dealing.

Miss Clark said the Government would push ahead with amendments - including making a "terrorist offence" a specific crime - to the legislation tonight.

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