Editorial: Timaru case shows why we need spy laws

OPINION: 

A Timaru court case last week shows just why agencies should be allowed to spy on ordinary citizens.

There was some gnashing of teeth a fortnight ago from those claiming the Telecommunications Interception Capability and Security Bill limited internet freedom and impinged on privacy and civil rights.

But politicians might have welcomed the Timaru case at the time as an example of why such laws are needed.

As it was, National Party politicians were battling timing issues of their own.

It was quite legitimate for the Government to want to update spy laws as the existing ones were 10 years old and technology had outpaced them, but the timing was awful following revelations in Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics book.

There is a lot of distrust out there at present.

Also, in the end, the bill just seemed horribly rushed, and rushed law is usually bad law.

Yet most Kiwis wouldn't argue about our spy agencies having the ability to spy.

The world is a small place and bad people are everywhere. You'd be naive to think we haven't got our share of them, or that we're isolated from terrorism.

So it was interesting, surprising and pleasing to read of the co-operation between countries in the conviction of a man in the Timaru District Court on Thursday.

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Keith Mervyn Perrin pleaded guilty to possessing and distributing objectionable material.

He had thousands of images of child sexual abuse involving babies to early teens.

Nasty, nasty stuff.

He'd been found out because internet search engine company Yahoo saw what he was up to and alerted the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children in the United States, which then called Internal Affairs in New Zealand.

There still wasn't enough detail to identify exactly where Perrin was, so Homeland Security in the States was used to go back to Yahoo for further account details. Soon enough Perrin got a knock on the door back here in a quiet neighbourhood in quiet little Timaru.

No one would have any qualms that Perrin's privacy was breached. His dealing in such images was abhorrent.

Laws to counter such behaviour then are entirely appropriate, and we simply have to trust that those implementing them do so properly.

 - The Timaru Herald

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