Lawyers and Coalition at odds on CCTV cameras

Law experts are questioning the value of a Coalition pledge to spend $50 million on CCTV coverage if elected.
Law experts are questioning the value of a Coalition pledge to spend $50 million on CCTV coverage if elected. Karleila Thomsen

A LEADING lawyer's group has cautioned against a Coalition promise to spend millions on close surveillance if elected to government in 2013.

The Australian Lawyers Alliance says that the pledge to spend $50 million for additional CCTV cameras around Australia to monitor people's movements does not take account of privacy concerns and potential misuse of cameras to profile groups and individuals.

Opposition frontbencher and Nationals Member for Cowper, Luke Hartsuyker, this week outlined a scheme where North Coast communities will be able to apply for crime prevention infrastructure such as better lighting, as well as fixed and mobile CCTV coverage.

He said the money would help tackle crime hotspots and help deal with the problems of gangs, graffiti and alcohol-fuelled violence.

But ALA spokesman and criminal barrister, Greg Barns, said the plan to monitor people's lives came at a cost to civil liberties and created the potential for human rights violations.

"The cameras were likely to be misused with innocent people and community groups likely to be unlawfully surveilled, on occasions, breaching privacy rights," he said.

"A line definitely needs to be drawn in the sand as to where these cameras are installed and public accountability for authorities accessing footage without due cause.

"Such 'reason for access' provisions had been introduced into state-based police forces to ensure police officers did not abuse their abilities to surveil and this should also be standard practice with any footage viewed."

The Coalition plainly disagrees.

"The best way to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour is to prevent it happening," Mr Hartsuyker said.

"The prevention of crime means less senseless deaths and needless injuries and it means reduced costs in the justice system."

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