OPINION: Since when is a Splash Palace changing cubicle to be treated as a "public place"?
Perhaps the answer is ever since technology empowered sick people not just to peep into it, but record film and video footage as easily as slipping a cellphone under the door or wall.
Sergeant Phil Berryman, of the Invercargill police, says the recent case of a 16-year-old facing charges, including making an intimate visual recording in the changing rooms of the pool complex, highlight that parents need to stay aware of what their children are doing in public places.
That may have upset some people as a misguided attempt to shift attention from the fact that the authorities themselves messed up badly in their oversight of this case.
The youth's offences of covert filming and committing an indecent act upon himself, to which he has entered "not denied" pleas, happened while he was on bail and supposed to be under the care of Child Youth and Family staff.
To be fair both CYF and the police have rightly acknowledged that, between them, they miscommunicated about the bail conditions.
He should not have been left alone with children under 16. Failing to ensure this happened proved a serious mistake, and a hurtful one to an entirely innocent victim and his family.
But, OK, on top of the sharp, specific lessons that the authorities must draw from this case, Mr Berryman is right that are also general, cautionary ones for the public.
When the law banning intimate covert filming was passed - as recently as 2006 - it was welcomed as a protection for people who had, in the circumstances, a reasonable expectation of privacy. Changing rooms would be an obvious example.
Peeping Toms have been active throughout the centuries, but the potential for extravagant hurt has surely never been higher.
Recording technology makes the invasiveness all the worse because now it has an independent afterlife. The offender retains the image for his own misuse, or even spreading for the salacious interest of others.
Research is clear. Such filming can cause harm that goes beyond embarrassment or even humiliation. It can lead to psychological problems for the victims.
The upshot is that although there have been prosecutions, we only catch the ones we catch.
We simply cannot confuse having a right to privacy - which we do - with having a reality of it - which we don't, necessarily. Our laws, and those who enforce them, cannot always deliver that.
So we have to be vigilant on our own behalf, and on our children's. They need to be aware that, even in places like a changing room cubicle, there's a possibility someone might try to film them. They should know how to react.
For that matter, a reconsideration of personal security at pools would also seem to be in order. Like extending the walls of some of those cubicles all the way down to the floor.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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