Australian police given power to remotely access computers

An Australian state’s police force will receive unprecedented powers, including the ability to co-opt a suspect’s computer, in a bid to improve their capacity to combat terrorism.

New legislation will be introduced to the Victorian Parliament on Tuesday, boasting six changes to the state’s Terrorism Community Protection Amendment Bill.

The changes allow police to apply for Preventative Detention Order (PDO) when a person of interest is operating under an alias, or fake name, and to issue covert search warrants to remotely access a suspect’s computer.

The expiry date of these new terrorism-addressing measures has also been extended to five years, in addition to the removal of a clause which would have allowed already-existing police powers to run out next year.

Former Victorian County Court judge David Jones AM recommended the changes following a sweeping review of the police’s counter-terrorism laws last year.

Victoria’s Attorney-General Martin Pakula told the Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC) on Tuesday that the new provisions would bring the police into the 21st century.

“It’s important that these laws are as up to date and effective as they can be,” Pakula said.

The attorney-general said the changes meant police would no longer need to enter a premise to search a computer once a warrant was issued by Australia’s Supreme Court.

“It enables police to access a computer without being physically present, it’s safe for police, it’s less intrusive and it may negate the need for a physical search if nothing of concern is revealed,” Pakula said.

Pakula said there had been examples in the past where police were left unable to place a PDO on a suspect identified using a false name.

“Sometimes the actual birth name is not what is known to police, so they’ll be able to go by using the name that police are aware of,” he said. Xinhua