Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Police Do Not Have The Right To Immediately Search Your Mobile Phone, Blackberry Or Video Camera

This story is a few weeks old, but it's worth repeating, again and again:
A man detained and threatened with arrest under the Terrorism Act for filming police on his mobile phone says police abused their powers.

Nick Holmes a Court, CEO of web-based media companies BuzzNumbers and ShiftedPixels, was walking to his home near Kings Cross in Sydney about 10pm on December 19.

He said police forcibly took his BlackBerry phone and threatened him with arrest both under the Australian Anti-Terrorism Act and for allegedly disobeying a police directive.

Mr Holmes a Court said he had started filming what looked like a search after he noticed a group of police walking down his street.

"I went to one guy and asked what was going on but he told me to move along, and if I didn't they'd be able to arrest me," he said.

"So I moved down the street a few hundred metres to where my apartment was, pulled out my phone and started filming."

Mr Holmes a Court said he had stopped filming before two of the police officers approached, demanding he surrender his BlackBerry mobile phone and telling him he had committed a crime if he had recorded them.

"It was in my hand, and they were saying, 'Give me your phone, give me your phone,' but I just kept repeating, 'I do not consent to a search of my phone'," Mr Holmes a Court said.

"It was pulled out of my hand - it wasn't me handing it over to her - and now I've got this girl looking through my phone and all my content - my contacts, photos, text messages and emails."

Mr Holmes a Court said he repeatedly complained to the police while they tampered with his phone, but was told to "shut up".

Queensland Council for Civil Liberties president Michael Cope said police did not have the authority to confiscate cameras or stop people from taking pictures of them performing their duties.

"It's not appropriate for the police to be stopping people taking pictures of them," Mr Pope said.

"They've got no power to do that, none whatsoever, and they've got no power to confiscate cameras.

"Why should they be fighting being scrutinised?"

Maybe they just wanted to see what the quality of the footage was like, maybe they thought they could use it in one of the many reality TV shows police now control, and profit from :
The insatiable demand for reality-TV is proving to be a boom for NSW Police with the force signing an increasing number of exclusive deals with "true crime" style shows.

The force has signed contracts with at least four highly-rated shows, granting film crews exclusive access behind the crime scene tape in "user-pays" arrangements.

In return for signing confidentiality agreements and allowing NSW Police to vet their final products, reality-TV crews are ushered in by police film supervisors to crime scenes while other media are being kept back.

Earlier this year, the NSW Police Force encrypted their police scanners, which means the media is not informed of many major crimes, such as murders, until a media release is issued the following day.

Unless the media happens to have an exclusive 'reality TV' deal with the police, then their on the scene program makers can report back to the news desk what sort of shit has just gone down.