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The Attorney-General’s Department has reported increases in the use of listening devices and telecommunications interception warrants in the year to June 2011, with NSW leading the way, according to reports tabled in parliament.

The department’s surveillance and telecommunications interception reports show that NSW Police is the leading agency in the country when it comes to bugging its citizens. During 2010-2011, NSW Police requested 1,282 interception warrants, up from just 838 in 2008-2009, and only three were refused or withdrawn.

This compares to the Australian Federal Police’s request rate of just 523 interception warrants, which has fallen since its 2009-2010 peak of 642 requests.

The interception report also reveals that the vast majority of interception warrants covers more than one service – 416 of them sought interception of between two and five services.

The Australian Federal Police, however, is the leader in requesting surveillance warrants, with 406 issued in 2010-2011. Most of these were “composite” warrants, meaning they may have listening, data surveillance and data retrieval in addition to merely staking out a target.

While 77 arrests were made consequent to the use of surveillance warrants in 2010-2011, they resulted in only 15 convictions nationwide. Interception, it seems, is somewhat more effective, with the A-G claiming more than 2,400 arrests and 2,022 convictions.

One aspect of the regime that could help explain the growth in interception is that during 2010, insider trading was added to the list of investigations for which police and other agencies can request interception warrants. ®

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