Criminal justice, police powers and mental health

NSW Council for Civil Liberties condemns unjust detention of innocent people, urges return to 2013 bail law reforms

17 June 2019

Statistics released by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics (BOCSAR) have shown a significant increase since 2014 in the number of people refused bail, and then later found innocent. There has been an increase of 30 per cent in people denied bail, held in prison, and then later being acquitted.  In 2018, this meant 204 people, including 21 children.

Since 2014, there has been a significant increase in the number of prisoners held on remand, from a quarter of prisoners in 2012, to a third in 2018. Some adults had to wait over 500 days. The children had to wait an average of 124 days last year.

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NSW Council for Civil Liberties urges reform of NSW strip search laws

5 June 2019

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) calls for the urgent reform of strip search laws in NSW.

CCL President, Pauline Wright, said “A strip search is an incredibly distressing experience and should only be used as a last resort. Unfortunately, strip searches are increasingly being used by police in NSW as a more or less routine procedure. Many innocent people are being hauled aside and subjected to this indignity with deep and lasting feelings of shame and trauma being suffered by some individuals.”

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The High Court rejects appeal to re-try Bowraville murders case

26 March 2019

The High Court of Australia has refused to hear an appeal from the NSW Attorney-General in relation to trying the man suspected of murdering three Aboriginal children in Bowraville. The saga of the Bowraville murders has lasted for almost 30 years, beginning with the deaths of the children over a period of five months from 1990 to 1991. The disappearances were originally treated with minimal concern by the police, who suggested the children had gone “walkabout”. The police failure to gather evidence in the crucial early period doomed the attempt to gain justice for the children. In 1994, a man was tried for the murder of one of the children, Clinton Speedy-Duroux. He was acquitted.

According to Professor Larissa Behrendt, the police began to rebuild their credibility with the local Aboriginal community by appointing detective inspector Gary Jubelin to investigate the case. He gathered new evidence to try the same suspect, and presented it before a coronial inquest in 2004. It was regarded as compelling, and this led to a new trial of the suspect, this time for the murder of one of the other children, Evelyn Greenup. Once again, the man was acquitted. The prosecution argued for admitting the new evidence in relation to the deaths of the other children, but this submission was rejected.

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NSW Council for Civil Liberties condemns Premier Berejiklian’s call for police to search homes without warrants

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) has condemned the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s plan to give police powers to search people’s homes and cars without warrants.

The new powers, as reported in the Daily Telegraph, would allow police to seek court authorisation to permit searches for prohibited drugs and drug paraphernalia in a person’s home or car during a two year period. These powers would operate on a pilot basis across four police commands, including Bankstown, Coffs-Clarence, Hunter Valley and Orana Mid-Western police districts. They are intended to target drug offenders.

NSW CCL President Pauline Wright said “The Courts act as a check on the possible abuse of the enormous powers that we give to the police. If there is a reasonable basis for a search, the courts will grant the warrant. If the police can’t show a reasonable basis for a warrant, then it shouldn’t be granted. These new powers are not needed, and offer an unacceptable prospect of being abused.”

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NSW Council for Civil Liberties warns of vigilante risk in making child sex offenders register public

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) warns of the risks of the Federal Government making any register of child sex offenders public.

President of the CCL, Pauline Wright said, “The announcement today by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton of a proposal to make a national register of child sex offenders public is both unnecessary and dangerous. Every Australian State and Territory has already brought in a law based on a national model requiring people found guilty of serious child sex offending to be entered on a register of offenders. This register allows police across jurisdictions to share information about people on the register.”

Ms Wright said “It is one thing to allow law enforcement and parole authorities access to information on a register of child sex offenders, but allowing members of the public access would open the gate for vindictive vigilante action against people in the community who have already been punished by a court.”

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Breakthrough on national anti-corruption commission?

Today Cathy McGowan (independent MP) succeeded in having her National Integrity Commission Bill 2018 read for the first time in the Lower House.  Two hours later the House joined the Senate in calling on the Morrison Government “to establish a national anti-corruption commission.”

Even the Government appeared to give support to the broad concept.

This is the most positive stance we have had from our national politicians on this long overdue critical reform.  

However, it was short lived. 

Attorney General Christian Porter spent most of his ‘supporting’ speech trashing the model proposed by the cross-bench and warning of the dangers of such bodies.

By Question Time it was clear that the Government’s early support was nothing but a tactic to avoid being defeated on the McGowan Bill in the House. 

The momentary prospect of a serious attempt to build a broad consensus within Parliament on this critical issue has been sadly and recklessly abandoned by the Government.

The establishment of a national integrity body is an urgent and necessary reform to restore trust in our democratic processes and politicians.

The NSWCCL urges the Australian Parliament to move forward on this issue quickly - building in the enormous amount of work already been done inside and outside of Parliament on an appropriately balanced model.

We urge the Government to accept the widespread support for a strong and broadly-based anti-corruption body and give serious support to the process.

This very important reform for the public good should – and could - be achieved before the next election.   

 

To see NSWCCL's position on ICAC, see our submission to the Senate Select Committee on a National Integrity Commission in 2017. See also our statement here from 2017.

 

Contacts in relation to this statement.

Pauline Wright

President

NSWCCL

0418 292 656

 

Stephen Blanks

Treasurer

NSWCCL

0414 448 654

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Vale Ken Horler QC

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties is deeply saddened by the death of Ken Horler QC who was a major force in this organisation from its earliest days. From the 1960s to the late 1980’s Ken held numbers of key positions in the CCL including Vice President and, from 1987-92, President. His active contribution to civil liberties took on many forms and encompassed the most pressing of civil liberties issues.

Read our reflection on his contribution to the promotion of civil liberties here. Ken Horler QC Obituary

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Lack of transparency on taser use in NSW

President Stephen Blanks has called for greater transparency in the use of Tasers in NSW. No updated statistics on Taser use have been released by the NSW Police for 6 years. A mentally ill man died during a police arrest on Sunday during which a Taser was used. In a NSW Ombudsman report in 2012 it was noted that approximately one third of people Tasered by police were suffering from mental illness and three quarters were unarmed. NSW CCL calls on NSW Police to release updated statistics immediately. The current Taser procedures are scheduled for review on 1 July 2018. See today's report in the Guardian here: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/feb/21/call-to-lift-secrecy-around-police-taser-use-after-mentally-ill-mans-death

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MEDIA RELEASE - Physical Restraints Used Against Aboriginal People

This week, Aboriginal man, Eric Whittaker died in a Sydney hospital while in police custody. As he lay bedridden, he was placed in leg chains by police. This was the scene that greeted Mr Whittaker’s grieving relatives who came to visit their loved one during his final hours. The family were understandably appalled and insulted by this final indignity. The NSW CCL stands united with the family of the deceased in its condemnation of this corporal treatment which is vividly reminiscent of 19th Century colonial policing practice in this country.

The incident follows recent revelations that Aboriginal children were regularly restrained in the Northern Territory’s notorious, Don Dale Juvenile Centre, by the use of chemical injections. Referred to by prison authorities as, the ‘settlement needle’, the use of these restraints against children has been linked to developmental difficulties in children, including poor cognitive and neurological functioning and hormonal imbalances. A further side effect is suicidal ideation. Given existing rates of youth suicide in Aboriginal communities, the use of these chemicals against Aboriginal people, (against their will) is alarming to say the least. The NSW CCL condemns this practice.

Accordingly, the NSWCCL calls on both the NSW Police and the Northern Territory Department of Correctional Services to cease these damaging practices of corporal restraint against Aboriginal people immediately.

 

NSW Council for Civil Liberties

4 December 2017

 

Contact:

Stephen Blanks – 0414 448 654 - President

 

NSWCCL Media Release

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MEDIA RELEASE - Inquest into the death of Scott Johnson

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) welcomes the findings of the Coroner into historic and ongoing police attitudes to LGBTIQ hate crimes and calls upon the NSW Police to implement the coronial recommendations wholly and completely. The Coroner today delivered findings from the third inquest into the death of Scott Johnson. 

NSWCCL President Stephan Blanks said "this is a momentous occasion which provides closure for the families and communities that were affected by these poorly investigated crimes".

NSWCCL Vice President Josh Pallas said "recently there have been findings made by this Coronial Inquest and the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse which show that the NSW Police fails specific groups of society which require protection from targeted abuse and violence.”

NSWCCL Vice President Josh Pallas says that he “acknowledges the improvements made by NSW Police on LGBTIQ issues, especially with the establishments of the GLLOs, but these findings show that there is still much more to be done to ensure that LGBTIQ persons feel safe and trust the NSW Police to investigate hate crimes against them.

 

Contacts:

Josh Pallas - 0458 605 281 – Vice President

Stephen Blanks – 0414 448 654 - President

 

NSWCCL Media Release

Coronial Findings - Inquest into the death of Scott Johnson

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