Member log in

Dotcom search warrants a 'fishing expedition', Supreme Court hears

The search warrants executed in the high profile arrest of internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom in 2012 were invalid and nothing more than a "fishing expedition," the Supreme Court heard today.

Dotcom and his co-accused Finn Batato, Mathias Ortmann and Bram van der Kolk want the country's top court to rule the warrants were invalid in their latest legal attempt to head off the US Federal government's bid to extradite them to the US, where they face charges of conspiracy to operate websites used to illegally distribute copyrighted material.

Counsel for Dotcom, Paul Davison QC, told the bench the warrants needed to be more specific and identify what within the vast amount of information stored on the electronic devices seized in the raid was relevant. That was to recognise the right to privacy an individual could expect under the Bill of Rights Act, he said.

"This was a general warrant and a fishing expedition - it was no more or less," he said.

Davison said the case warranted "a more surgical approach based on recognition of privacy, rather than a broad-brush, broad opening up of data that might be relevant," given the amount of information the authorities gathered in their long-running investigation into Dotcom and his associates.

Earlier this year the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of Crown submissions the search warrants were valid, with their deficiencies a matter of form rather than substance, and not great enough to declare them nullities.

Davison said the issue of an individual's right to privacy was fundamental to the functioning of a democratic society, and that the authorities didn't have the right to withhold Dotcom's property and information to use for a lawful purpose.

The Supreme Court hearing, before Chief Justice Sian Elias and Justices John McGrath, William Young, Susan Glazebrook and Terence Arnold, is set down for two days in Wellington, and is proceeding.


Comments and questions

Don’t you feel that much safer when Mr Davison says warrant has to be specific in what the police are looking for? Does this mean if the police have a warrant to search for drugs and come across stolen goods, or guns they cannot do anything as the warrant did not say they could look for those? Mr Davison if the warrant was so wrong why did you not mention this in the first hearing?

I wonder how you may feel if subject to an all encompassing warrant. Or are freedoms only important in certain cases?

Completely agree that open ended warrants are part of the growing infringements on the right of the individual.

This whole question of government forces being lined up more and more intrusively with creeping :rights" to open-ended spying is increasingly ominous.

Seems the so called right to privacy,as events of the last few days about private email theft and emails,illegally promoted by the recipient,getting a pecuniary gain,and promoted by NZs main stream media.Certainly waters down the right to privacy theory.

The key difference in your analogy JP is that stolen goods and guns are clearly contraband in their own right. Do you support police taking copies of every piece of data owned by an individual whenever they're served a legitimate but unrelated search warrant? That's a gross breach of privacy.

In other words, hypothetically if you unwittingly purchased stolen goods off trademe, would you expect to have to hand over your facebook and email passwords and all your hard drives to whoever turns up with a search warrant?

So yes I do personally feel a little bit safer knowing that search warrants need to specific and justified. And yes I do believe Mr Davison has raised this argument before in a different court.

Thanks I looked but could not find Mr Davidson mentioning this before. However I also work under 'if you have done no wrong then what have you to fear.'
But your points are well made.

Everyone has skeletons in their cupboard. Some more and bigger than others.

No one can defend this police raid. Has elements of the Urewera raids all over it, and we know where that went.

US invaded Iraq under the same questionable circumstances, and have left that country in ruin.

Do we really want to be lapdogs to the US authorities, when their motives are often questionable?

Its a no for me!

I totally agree.

I think you need to consider the nature of what the search warrants covered. When talking physical property a warrant will cover the search of the whole house, even though you might try to claim a breach of privacy if they search your underwear drawer. They are trying to argue you can't open that drawer because it might have some embarrassing but not illegal stuff in it.
When it comes to a electronic data you can't see what is there without opening it, placing limits on what can be looked at in digital records is like a warrant that lets you check the kitchen but not the lounge.

Clearly a fishing expedition. The rule of law is a farce these days since all the "anti-terrorism" laws undermined basic rights of individual versus the might of the State.

It was only a matter of time until these new draconian powers were exercised ... today the maligned Mr. Dotcom .. tomorrow any unfortunate who catches the gaze of Sauron.

We await with keen interest the presentation by Kim Dotcom on september 15;we obviously have not yet heard the full story of this most unfortunate affair.
Our PM seems to be getting more nervous by the day.