Tag Archives: nsw police bugging scandal

Judges now required to give written reasons for issuing warrants for covert surveillance

NSW Chief Justice Tom Bathurst, centre, has introduced a procedure requiring judges to write brief reasons for granting a warrant for covert surveillance. image www.intelagencies.com

NSW Chief Justice Tom Bathurst, centre, has introduced a procedure requiring judges to write brief reasons for granting a warrant for covert surveillance.

NSW Supreme Court judges are now required to give written reasons for issuing warrants authorising covert surveillance such as listening devices.

The recent parliamentary inquiry into the police bugging scandal revealed the extent of covert telephone intercepts of police and journalists allegedly without good reason between 1999 and 2001.

It emerged there was insufficient or no evidence of wrongdoing by many of the more than 100 police and civilians whose names appeared on warrants issued by the Supreme Court.

NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Nick Kaldas image www.intelagencies.com

NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Nick Kaldas was at the centre of a NSW police bugging scandal. He accused the former police internal affairs unit of engaging in “massive wrongdoing and habitual illegal acts”. Photo: Daniel Munoz

On Tuesday the Chief Justice of NSW Tom Bathurst said he had introduced a procedure whereby judges are required to write brief reasons for granting a warrant to any state or federal agency for covert surveillance.

The written reasons will be placed in a sealed envelope alongside the documents submitted in support of the warrants.

Chief Justice Bathurst said the court is receiving an average five requests a day for warrants, usually from NSW Police, the NSW Crime Commission and occasionally the Australian Federal Police.
NSW Chief Justice Tom Bathurst.NSW Supreme Court image www.intelagencies.com

NSW Chief Justice Tom Bathurst. Photo: NSW Supreme Court

Describing the revelations from the inquiry into Operation Mascot as “historical problems”, he said the decision to implement a formal written record of a judge’s reasons was “a sensible thing to do”

“It just focuses the attention, I think, of the judge without making what is already an onerous burden too onerous,” he said.

However, so long as the power to issue warrants remained with the judiciary “we rely on the judge to act responsibly in doing so”, he said, noting the suggestion of setting up an administrative body to handle the task has been raised.

Chief Justice Bathurst said aside from the inquiry, there has been “very little direct complaint” about the issuing of warrants. “There’s an awful lot of trials in which intercepted material is used and very little complaint that it has been illegally or improperly obtained,” he said.

The NSW police bugging scandal emerged from Operation Mascot, which used a corrupt former policeman, code named M5, to target allegedly corrupt police with a listening device between 1999-2001.

NSW Deputy Police Commissioner Nick Kaldas was named in 35 affidavits in support of 80 bugging warrants issued, which included surveillance of members of his family. Journalist Steve Barrett was named on 52 warrants.

Mr Kaldas accused the former police internal affairs unit of engaging in “massive wrongdoing and habitual illegal acts”.

During the inquiry, a former solicitor for the Crime Commission, John Giorgiutti, highlighted the sheer volume of warrants being issued to law enforcement agencies for surveillance operations, querying whether the courts are subjecting them to sufficient scrutiny.

Greens upper house MP and former barrister David Shoebridge, said: “There is this largely pretend oversight by the Supreme Court of applications for warrants and covert surveillance … our court system cannot handle inundating waves of ex parte applications by crime agencies other than by simply rubber-stamping them.”

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Henry Sapiecha

 

Long running police bugging scandal to become the subject of NSW parliamentary inquiry

BUGGING SCANDAL TO SOON ROCK THE NSW POLICE FORCE IN AUSTRALIA

Greens justice spokesman David Shoebridge image www.intelagencies.com

The police bugging scandal that has plagued top levels of the NSW force for more than a decade will be examined by a NSW parliamentary inquiry with concerns the Ombudsman has taken too long to finalise his investigation.

The state government tasked the Ombudsman in October 2012 with inquiring into allegations surrounding illegal bugging by the NSW Police’s Special Crime and Internal Affairs and the NSW Crime Commission between 1999 and 2001 and the investigation that followed into it.

But after more than two years, the $3 million inquiry, dubbed Operation Prospect and held behind closed doors, has released no specific details.

Now, The Shooters and Fishers Party, with the support of Labor and The Greens, will establish an inquiry that will examine the bugging allegations, the subsequent police investigation into those allegations and the Ombudsman’s inquiry. It will report by February 2015

Shadow attorney-general Paul Lynch said Labor was in support of the inquiry because the original matters involving allegations of police bugging “were extremely serious”.

“It’s taken way too long to get to this stage,” he said. “These things will undoubtedly benefit from ventilation in public”.

The Greens justice spokesman David Shoebridge said the inquiry would remove the secrecy behind the police bugging scandal which has affected the most senior ranks of the NSW Police.

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The current Commissioner, Andrew Scipione, and a current Deputy Commissioner, Catherine Burn, worked at SCIA at relevant times. One of the detectives SCIA was bugging was Nick Kaldas, now also a Deputy Commissioner.

“What we have is a secret police investigation that obtained secret warrants, that was then reviewed by a secret police investigation and is now being considered by a seemingly endless secret Ombudsman’s inquiry,” Mr Shoebridge said. “This secrecy must stop.”

Between 1999 and 2001, the  SCIA and the crime commission ran a covert investigation codenamed Operation Mascot into allegedly corrupt NSW police.

Central to Mascot was a serving NSW police officer, codenamed M5, who went to work for SCIA and the commission, wearing a wire to bug his colleagues, some of whom were undoubtedly corrupt. But many of those he sought to entrap were honest police.

Some listening device warrants obtained by SCIA and the commission contained more than 100 names, mainly of former and serving police.

In many cases, the affidavits presented to Supreme Court judges contained no information whatsoever that would justify the bugging, and Fairfax Media has established that some of the information in the affidavits was false.

Many police involved in the case believe numerous criminal offences have been committed by some officers of the SCIA and the commission.

Complaints by police, including some from within SCIA itself, were internally investigated by NSW police from Strike Force Emblems as far back as 2004. But inquiries were stymied by the secrecy provisions of the NSW Crime Commission, which refused to co-operate or hand over crucial documents.

Successive governments refused to release the Emblems reports – but they were obtained by Fairfax Media. The reports said “criminal conduct” and revenge might have been behind the mass bugging.

The first Emblems report found there may have been “criminal conduct” involved in the bugging of 100 serving and former police.

Even M5, the NSW police officer doing the undercover bugging, confessed that in some cases he was “settling old scores” and “assisting, nurturing corruption”.

Henry Sapiecha