The Surveillance Devices Act 1999 imposes strict controls on the use of surveillance devices by Victorian law enforcement agencies, including the use and communication of information obtained by the use of such devices, and sets out reporting obligations. It also imposes requirements for the secure storage and destruction of records or reports containing information obtained by the use of surveillance devices.
The VI performs an independent oversight function to determine the extent of compliance achieved by law enforcement agencies that have exercised their powers under the SD Act.
The VI is required to inspect the records of these agencies from time to time to determine the extent of compliance with the SD Act. In order to fulfil our requirement to report to Parliament at six-monthly intervals, the VI conducts biannual inspections of:
- surveillance device warrants
- emergency authorisations, and
- retrieval warrants; which ceased during the preceding 6-month period.
How we assess compliance
The VI inspects hard-copy documents and electronic registers with the primary purpose of ensuring that records connected with the issue of surveillance device warrants, and other records connected with the use of devices, are being properly kept. The VI will also confirm that each law enforcement agency has met its prescribed reporting obligations. We assess compliance based on the records made available to us at the time of inspection, our discussions with the relevant agencies, as well as the action they take in response to any issues we have raised.
In this report, we also assess compliance with the reporting requirements of section 30L of the SD Act. Each agency able to make applications to use a surveillance device is required to make an annual report to the responsible Minister (Attorney-General) that is also tabled in Parliament. The VI assesses these reports against various criteria, including the requirement they be submitted to the Attorney-General by 30 September each year.
How we report on compliance
To ensure procedural fairness, each agency is given an opportunity to comment on the VI’s findings from our inspections and to furnish additional records that might assist our assessment. Following this process, the inspection results are considered finalised.
The report provides detail where there is a finding of non-compliance. The VI may, at its discretion, not report on administrative issues (such as typographical or transposition errors) or instances of non-compliance where the consequences are negligible.
The following sections of this report provide the results of the VI’s inspection of surveillance records from 1 July to 31 December 2021. Inspection results are reported on separately for each Victorian law enforcement agency with the authority to exercise powers under the SD Act.