As part of the Victorian Game Management Authority's (GMA) plan to strengthen its operational and surveillance capacity, all authorised GMA Game officers are now equipped with new high-tech body-worn cameras (BWCs). The GMA’s Authorised Officers are now using the BWCs to improve evidence gathering in situations such as approaching and engaging alleged offenders caught illegally spotlighting deer, exceeding bag limits on game ducks and shooting protected species.
The GMA undertook extensive research into BWCs and found that the Axon Body 2, which is a wearable camera system incorporating an audio and video recording device, was the most appropriate model for the GMA’s purposes.
The camera provides high quality audio and video recording capabilities. Mobile phones can be paired with the BWC, and a mobile phone app, called Axon View, is used to monitor and save video footage.
Through Axon View Authorised Officers can:
The recorded footage is stored on a cloud-based digital evidence management system. This system allows for a ‘forensic fingerprint’ of each evidence file and tamper proof evidence audit records. The evidence management system also allows the sharing of footage within the GMA and with other trusted agencies, including Victoria Police, via a secure link. Photos taken by members of the community who report alleged illegal hunting offences can be saved to evidence management system and stored within the database for inclusion on case files and information reports.
The GMA’s Authorised Officers can also capture photos, video and audio with their mobile phones, and using the mobile app, securely upload these files to the evidence management system. In equipping GMA Authorised Officers with BWCs, the GMA was mindful of the risks associated with the privacy of community members, particularly in the context of inadvertently capturing footage or recordings of people not involved in a GMA enquiry i.e. if our Officers walk past a group of people conversing while approaching an offender.
At all times, the GMA maintained a conscious effort to ensure the use of the new BWCs meant that Authorised Officers could still comply with the Surveillance Devices Act 1999
Recent amendments to the Act ensure that police, ambulance officers and other prescribed persons do not commit this offence inadvertently, while carrying out their duties. The GMA obtained legal advice from the Victorian Government Solicitors Office on how best to ensure that GMA Authorised Officers could also be protected from any breach of the Act. This risk was removed by making a recommendation under s 37A of the Act to the Governor in Council (GIC) to make regulation with respect to prescribing a GMA Authorised Officer as a prescribed person for the purpose of the of the Act. The BWCs are part of the Victorian Government's $6 million boost over four years to increase GMA staff, provide new equipment, increase research capacity, conduct education campaigns and develop a new online Game Licensing System.
A South Australian waste removalist convicted of assaulting two environment protection officers has been given a suspended sentence, but his company has been fined $49,000 for illegally storing more than 17 tonnes of asbestos.
The Environmental, Resources and Development Court heard Gavin Piller snatched a camera and audio recorder from the hands of the officers from SA's Environment Protection Authority (EPA).
The court heard Piller's company, GP and Sons, had a history of complaints dating back to August 2015, when the EPA attended one of the company's sites to discuss concerns over a large amount of dust causing an environmental nuisance.
EPA chief executive Tony Circelli said Piller's punishment sent a strong message to "anyone attempting to intimidate or assault EPA officers during the course of their duties".
He said the EPA officers were documenting the contents of two skip bins containing wrapped and unwrapped asbestos on April 3, 2018 at Largs Bay when they were abused and attacked.
"This type of illegal activity will not be tolerated — it risks both harm to the environment and the community, and damages confidence for investment and fair play for legitimate waste operators," he said.
Piller wrote a letter of apology addressed to the court, the EPA and its officers, expressing regret and accepting "full responsibility for his poor and unacceptable behaviour that afternoon".
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