Friday, May 31, 2013

Time for an inquiry into police search and seizures

Another victory for Kim Dotcom, with the High Court ordering police to return the material they had unlawfully seized:

A judge has ordered the police to sift through all digital material taken illegally from Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom and to return anything irrelevant to their investigation- at their own cost.

Clones of hard-drives already sent to the United States must also be returned if they contain personal information, while any further copies must be destroyed, the court ruled.

Dotcom and his co-accused will then receive clones of devices deemed to be relevant to the case.

Good. The police broke the law here, using a search warrant essentially to mount a fishing expedition rather than seize specified items of evidence. Being forced to return what they unlawfully took is the least they should have to do - they should also be compensating Dotcom for their trespass, unlawful search and seizure, and invasion of privacy. But before we cheer too loudly, think about this for a minute: the police apply for thousands of search warrants a year, and the vast majority of people targeted are not wealthy millionaires with high-powered lawyers. How many other cases have they done this on, and how many other people's rights have been violated? Sadly, with the way our police work, we'll never know: they're hardly going to look at the problem themselves, because they don't want to find anything.

..which means the Minister has to do it for them. The Dotcom case has exposed severe problems in how our police go about their everyday business. We deserve to know whether this is an isolated case, or symptomatic of a wider problem. The Minister must call an inquiry into the police's use of search powers, just to make sure they are following the law. And if they are not, then heads must roll.