A new commissioner will be appointed to provide greater scrutiny of applications for surveillance device warrants under legislation introduced into Parliament today.
The establishment of a Surveillance Devices Commissioner is part of the NSW Government’s response to the Ombudsman’s Operation Prospect probe into conduct of state law enforcement officers during investigations between 1999 and 2002.
Attorney General Mark Speakman said the commissioner will be given scrutiny powers previously exercised by the NSW Solicitor General.
“Overseeing surveillance device warrants will be the commissioner’s sole responsibility, which will help to make sure the covert tools are appropriately targeted,” Mr Speakman said.
“The NSW Government’s package of legislative measures will increase public confidence in the use of surveillance devices by NSW law enforcement agencies.”
The NSW Police Force and the NSW Crime Commission have introduced stronger internal procedures and training to help ensure covert warrants are used correctly in criminal investigations.
“The changes further address mistakes of the past and provide additional scrutiny of surveillance device applications – which are vital in gathering evidence to prosecute organised crime figures,” Mr Speakman said.
The commissioner will receive advance notice of surveillance device warrant applications, have the right to be heard by a judge in relation to the granting of a warrant and receive reports about the use of a warrant from law enforcement agencies.
The commissioner will be an Australian legal practitioner with at least seven years’ experience, who is a former judge or eligible to be appointed as a judge. The appointee will be required to deliver annual reports that include how often warrants are sought and granted.
Operation Prospect was the largest ever investigation by an ombudsman in Australia, spanning four years.