Civil penalties and interaction with the statutory cause of action

13.64 Some stakeholders suggested that a civil penalties regime should be considered to either complement or replace the criminal regime that currently exists under the surveillance device laws.[73] These stakeholders suggested that a civil penalties regime would be useful in light of the low levels of enforcement under the existing criminal regime. The VLRC has also recommended the introduction of a civil penalties regime in the Surveillance Devices Act 1999 (Vic).[74]

13.65 There may be benefits in introducing a civil penalties regime into the surveillance device laws. For certain matters, a civil penalties process, potentially managed by a non-judicial regulator, could be cheaper, faster, and less burdensome than a criminal proceeding, both on the complainant and on the respondent. Additionally, criminal penalties may be unnecessarily severe for uses of surveillance devices that do not result in serious harm to the individual.

13.66 However, the ALRC has not proposed a civil penalties regime. The ALRC’s proposal to allow courts to award compensation to victims of unlawful surveillance would achieve many of the objectives of a civil penalties regime, without the need to create new bodies to hear civil disputes about surveillance. Furthermore, the introduction of a statutory cause of action for serious invasion of privacy would provide another means of redress for unlawful surveillance. The introduction of a civil penalties regime for surveillance may result in overlap, excessive complexity and regulatory burden if a statutory cause of action were also introduced.