The Right to Protest
NSW Council for Civil Liberties has recently assisted
two students charged under the Crimes Act with maliciously
destroying or damaging property.
Two billboards advertising the Victoria Park land development
were altered from “Sydney’s new centre of
attention” to read “Villawood – Sydney’s
new centre of detention”.
The police case depended on evidence obtained from a digital
camera which the police examined without permission. The camera
contained several pictures of the billboards in the process
of being altered, but there was no evidence that the persons
depicted in the photos were the defendants in the case.
This evidence was rejected by the Magistrate hearing the case,
Magistrate Ellis, who said:
“The common law does not permit police officers
or anyone else…to search a person simply to see if he
may have committed some crime or other. …In the common
law, goods can’t be seized from a person where there has
been no arrest and the seizure has not occurred during the execution
of a search warrant.”
The police case then collapsed and the charges were dismissed.
The case first came to CCL attention because the billboard
alteration was clearly a political protest. It is arguable that
this style of protest is legally protected under the implied
constitutional right of free speech on political matters. However,
it was not necessary to deal with this argument, as the matter
was won because the police had abused their powers.
Read Magistrate Ellis' decision
in full Police
v Jackson & Funnell.
Right of Peaceful Assembly", written by R.M. Hope QC
in the late 1960's.