Sniffer Dogs in NSW
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Review of drug detection sniffer dogs in NSW
In September 2006, the NSW Ombudsman released his long-awaited
on drug detection sniffer dogs in NSW. The report
is highly critical of the dogs as inefficient, discriminatory
and ineffective. CCL welcomes the report and calls on the
NSW government to remove the dogs from the streets, where
they regularly violate the right of all citizens to be
free from arbitrary search and detention. Read
In February 2002 the Police
Powers (Drug Detection Dogs) Act came into
force in New South Wales. That Act allows police
to use sniffer
dogs to perform searches without a warrant on people
at pubs, entertainment events and on public transport.
In 2004 the Ombudsman
began a review of the Drug Detection
The Ombudsman will make a report to Parliament on how the
dogs are being used and their impact on the community.
The final report has been delayed and is due to be given
to the Minister in February/March 2006.
Please note: the Drug Detection
Dogs Act is
no longer in force and has been replaced (see
You can read the Ombudsman's
paper. The discussion paper demonstrates that the
dogs are a dismal failure:
- 73% of people identified by the dogs are not carrying
- most drugs detected are small amounts of cannabis
- dogs are failing to detect drug dealers
submission to the Ombudsman's review. (size:
CCL's president says about the discussion paper.
Powers (Drug Detection Dogs) Act is no longer in
force. Click here for more information.
a complaint or report to CCL about sniffer dogs
You can send your complaint or report about sniffer dogs
To make a complaint or report you can:
- email your complaint to CCL at: firstname.lastname@example.org
- write a complaint to CCL at: NSWCCL,
PO Box 201, Glebe NSW 2037
include these details in your report or complaint
about sniffer dogs:
- Name (optional)
- Date, time & location
(include postcode if known)
- What happened before, during
and after the time of the search?
- What have been the impacts
of the incident. Did you consent to the search?
- Was any legal action taken
Other organisations you can
You can also make a complaint directly to:
Know your legal rights
Where can police use sniffer dogs?
Police are only authorised to use drug sniffer dogs to
search people randomly in three situations:
- in pubs, clubs and other places where alcohol
- at entertainment events, including sporting events,
concerts, dance parties & street parades
- on public transport and stations
Any drug search of a person outside these situations is
illegal unless the police have a reasonable suspicion
or a warrant.
If you have been appraached by a police sniffer dog team,
or know of police using dogs outside these areas, you should
complain or report it.
What should I do if I am approached
by a sniffer dog?
a dog sits down next you, then police can search you. It
pays to know your rights so check out the following pointers.
- Stay calm and be polite. You could be fined or arrested
if you swear at the police, so don’t give them
- Be cooperative and let the police search
But ask them why they are searching you. And ask them
name, rank and station.
- Try to remember where (location) and when (time
of day) police search you. This info might
be important if you decide to make a complaint.
- If you have drugs on you….
The law says you must give your name and address to police,
if the police discover drugs on you. But you don’t
have to say anything more, if you don’t
want to. This is your right to silence.
- If you don’t have drugs on you…
If police ask for your name and address, ask them whether
you have to. If police say you don’t, then don’t…because
they will put that info on their database and might use
it against you later. If police say you have to give
your name & address, then it is better to cooperate
and make a complaint later.
You can complain to the police, the Ombudsman, NSWCCL or a lawyer if the dog touches you or if the police are
aggressive, rude or rough you up.
Where can I get legal advice?
You can get legal advice and support from:
If you think you have been badly treated by police and
their sniffer dogs, you should complain.
If you want to help with CCL's campaign you can:
- write to or phone your local
member of State Parliament
- phone talkback radio
- write letters to newspapers and other publications
- download and distribute our posters:
- A4 poster
- flyer (folded A4 sheet) (not yet available)
Newtown anti-sniffer dog protest
Ever since the introduction of police sniffer dogs, the
Sydney communities of the Inner City and Inner West have
been unfairly targeted by the police and their dogs. Commuters,
residents and visitors to these communities are being harassed
and searched by police on the say so of a dog!
The Newtown Peace Group and CCL organised a protest to
let the police know that the residents of Newtown and surrounding
suburbs have had enough! A rally was held on 10 June 2004.
Speakers include Lee Rhiannon, Greens politician, and Cameron
Murphy, President of NSW CCL.
More than 100 people attended the rally and then marched
to the local library, where Sydney Lord Mayor Clover
was holding a public consultation meeting. The Lord Mayor
spoke to a delegation from the anti-sniffer dog rally.
Drug detection dog warrants issued
at Newtown Local Court in 2004
CCL has released a report
on the operation of NSW Police drug detection dogs in Newtown.
The report reviews the warrants issued by the Newtown Local
Court to Newtown and Marrickville police. The warrants authorise
the use of sniffer dogs in public places, for example along
King St and Enmore Rd.
The major findings are that:
- only 1 in 5 people identified by the dogs (and subsequently
searched by police) is actually carrying prohibited drugs
- the vast majority of positive drug detections are for
small amounts of cannabis
- Newtown police are targeting the local methadone clinic
- Newtown police are targeting Newtown railway station
because, according to police, "many commuters are
found in possession of illegal drugs"
- Marrickville police are requesting and obtaining warrants
covering 5 entire inner-western suburbs
You can read CCL's report here.
legal notes (for lawyers)
On 1 December 2005, the Law
Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 (NSW) came
into force. It replaces the old Police
Powers (Drug Detection Dogs) Act 2001 (NSW),
which commenced on 22 February 2002. All drug detection
dog matters after 1 December 2005 fall under the new
Act. The provisions of the LEPAR Act are (for all intents
and purposes) identical to the old Act.
If you are defending someone who has been detected by
a dog, the first thing to do is determine whether police
required a warrant. There are prescribed places where a
dog can be used without a warrant: section
148 of the Act, and r
routes) and r
39 (bus routes) of the Regs.
If your client
was searched outside of these areas, police need a warrant: section
149 of the Act. Make sure that there is a warrant and
that it is valid. Any member of the public
can inspect a warrant at the Local Court:
10(6)(c) of the
A report on the execution of the warrant must be furnished
to the Local Court within 10 days of the execution
of the warrant: section
74(2) of the Act. You can view the execution report,
as well as the warrant: reg
10(6)(c) of the
Your attention is drawn to the following cases:
v DPP (2004) 61
NSWLR 558; (2004)
150 A Crim R 314;
NSWCA 431: see , in which majority suggest that
assault & battery prior to dog identifying
someone renders a search unlawful.
Harris v DPP (NSW
District Court, 11 March 2005): applying Darby,
search after a positive identification
by a drug detection dog was unlawful, because dog
before dog identified him. Evidence obtained during unlawful
search excluded under section
138 of Evidence Act.
- R v Benecke 
NSWCCA 163, is a case about the reliability of tracker dogs. At 
the court observed that:
In R v Barnes, Gleeson CJ considered appropriate and adequate a warning
in relation to tracker dog evidence that the jury should bear in mind that the
dog was not able to be cross-examined and that the jury should be careful to
avoid over-estimating the reliability of the operation of a dog's senses so
as to avoid too rapidly arriving at the conclusion contended for by the Crown
from the evidence of the dog's activities.
It might be possible to argue that the same applies to drug detection
The situation in 2004
The situation in 2001
Articles by Timothy Moore, Redfern Legal Centre (2001)