Senate debates

Thursday, 30 March 2006

Telecommunications (Interception) Amendment Bill 2006

In Committee

12:50 pm

Photo of Chris EllisonChris Ellison (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Justice and Customs) Share this | Hansard source

That is a good question; and it is a difficult one. The fact is that we are talking about what constitutes irrelevant material. During the course of an investigation it is not immediately apparent that evidence that is come across may be irrelevant material at the time. But it is provided for in the bill that material which is irrelevant should be destroyed forthwith. As soon as it becomes apparent that it is irrelevant it should be destroyed forthwith. If there was something there which related to another party and which might be of some interest and could be relevant, and you had not yet concluded the line of investigation, you would hold on to it until you were of a view that it was relevant and you wanted to put it into a brief for the prosecution. Or you would hold on to it until you thought you did not need it anymore. If that line of investigation had been exhausted and it was of no relevance then you would destroy it at that point. To simply say that you have a certain amount of time—to give a definite time limit—would make it almost impossible to carry out investigations.

I will give an example. The investigation into the Norfolk Island murder recently, in which there was an arrest, went on for some time. There was a good deal of investigation overseas, although I will not go in to it because it is now before the courts. That was a classic case where continual police work was required in sifting through evidence and making inquiries. A statement, document or stored item of information that you come across may not have relevance until you have discovered other pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, when you find that it is after all quite relevant. But as soon as it is apparent that it is irrelevant it should be destroyed forthwith.

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