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NSW: Libetarians warn covert searches will lead to corruption

04 Mar 2009 3:13 PM

SYDNEY, March 4 AAP - Civil libertarians say new police powers enabling officers to obtain covert search warrants may spawn corruption within the force.

The NSW government announced on Wednesday that police will be able to apply to the Supreme Court for warrants which allow searches of properties without informing the owners for up to three years.

However, the covert warrants are limited to investigations of suspected serious offences punishable by at least seven years in jail.

These offences include the manufacture of drugs, computer crimes, the sale of firearms, homicide and kidnapping.

NSW Council of Civil Liberties president Cameron Murphy said the covert warrants were the latest move to make NSW a police state.

"These powers are more powerful than those available to the federal police when dealing with terrorism suspects," he told AAP.

"Why would the NSW Police need more power in dealing with ordinary criminals than the federal police does in dealing with terrorists?"

Mr Murphy said the covert warrants made police less accountable for their actions while carrying out searches.

"These are exactly the types of laws that lead to a huge police corruption problem in NSW in the past.

"We're making a mistake in reducing accountability over police again. Ultimately, in my view, it is going to lead to more police corruption."

The new powers allow for owners of the covertly searched property to be kept in the dark for up to six months.

However, NSW Police may apply before the court to delay that notification for 18 months, and up to three years in some exceptional circumstances.