NSWCCL in the media

Warning over politicising parole system

Allowing attorneys-general to make decisions about parole is a "recipe for corruption", warns the NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks.

Malcolm Turnbull will meet with state and territory leaders in Hobart on Friday to discuss an overhaul of the parole system after Melbourne parolee Yacqub Khayre shot dead a clerk and took a woman hostage in an apartment block on Monday night.

The prime minister said any decision to grant parole to a person with a background of violence and terrorist-related activity should go "to the very top", referring to state attorneys-general.

Mr Blanks said Mr Turnbull, as a lawyer, should know the role of attorney-general is "a political role not a judicial role".

"If a decision to grant parole is to be subject to approval of an attorney-general, one might take bets as to how soon it will be before an attorney-general was the subject of proceedings in ICAC for corruption - it is a recipe for corruption," Mr Blanks told AAP on Wednesday.

Article: Warning over politicising parole system

Source: The Australian

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Border Advice for Muslims Alarms Australian Official — but It Came From His Department

Mr. Edries [President of the Muslim Legal Network NSW] said his group had received similar advice in 2015 from representatives of the Border Force, which is under Mr. Dutton’s authority, in a training session. He said he was dismayed by Mr. Dutton’s letter Tuesday and by how the network’s guide, “Anti-Terrorism Laws: ASIO, the Police and You,” had been depicted in the news media.[...]

“It was pretty upsetting for it be portrayed as anything other than an education piece, particularly because we used information provided by the government,” Mr. Edries said.

It was not the first time Mr. Dutton, a conservative, had offended Muslim communities. Last year, he caused an outcry after asserting that former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser should not have allowed Lebanese Muslim migrants into Australia.

The 95-page booklet by the Muslim Legal Network NSW, released last week, is the most recent edition of its guide to Australia’s complex counterterrorism laws, originally published in 2004. Mr. Edries said lawyers and other experts had worked on the latest version for more than 18 months.[...]

The edition has been updated to cover new laws related to citizenship and passports, mandatory metadata retention, and the extension of control orders — court-imposed restrictions on movements or communications — to children as young as 14. It also features a new section on secrecy provisions, preventive detention and police stop-and-search powers.

“It’s really difficult when we try to pick up information that is provided generally from the government and provide it in an easy to understand communiqué and then be put under suspicion,” Mr. Edries said.

Lesley Lynch, vice president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, called the reaction to the booklet “a heartbreakingly outrageous interpretation.” She said the legal network should have been praised for producing an easily understood guide to terrorism laws.

“A huge of number of people get picked up for having material that is entirely innocent,” she said. “It’s one of those kinds of things the average person in whatever community is not going to be on top of. The serious terrorist would be researching this stuff anyhow.”

Article: Border Advice for Muslims Alarms Australian Official — but It Came From His Department

Source: New York Times

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Keenan rejects Abbott call: ‘Police already have shoot-to-kill power’

The former prime minister Tony Abbott said in a radio interview “We do need to give police a shoot-to-kill power where they reasonably think they’re in a terrorist situation.” 

However, Mr Keenan said police already had such power. “This policy is outlined in the National Counter-Terrorism Plan, which was agreed to by the commonwealth and states,” he said.

“Australians can be assured that our police have every power necessary to allow them to respond with the required force to remove a terrorism threat.”

The Australian can reveal a confidential field manual used by the Australian Federal Police says that as “an option of last resort”, officers are empowered to use lethal force for self-defence or to prevent death or serious injury to others. Police law expert Rick Sarre, of the University of South Australia, said Monis gave up a big part of his legal entitlement when he took out a gun, threatened to kill hostages and said he had a bomb.

Stephen Blanks of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties said the law was adequate and warned against a situation where police were absolved from all accountability. “The overall objective is to minimise loss of life and harm to innocent hostages in a siege situation. It’s not always the case that early armed action by police is going to achieve that objective.”

Article: Keenan rejects Abbott call: ‘Police already have shoot-to-kill power’

Source: The Australian

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It’s Time for an Australian Bill of Rights

Stephen Blanks, president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL), has been advocating for an Australian bill of rights for years now.

Mr Blanks favours a constitutional model, “because then it does achieve the objective of making it difficult for parliament to pass laws that are inconsistent with human rights.” He added that human rights “ought to be bedrock to a free society,” and parliament shouldn’t be able to trade them off “for other political considerations.”

According to Blanks, “one of the problems with the Australian legal system now is that if people’s human rights are infringed’ the only recourse they have is to “make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).”

A constitutional bill of rights would give citizens the right to take legal action when their rights have been infringed upon, Mr Blanks added.

“Over the next few years, I think it’s really going to emerge that the Commonwealth will be out of step with community opinion in the states,” Mr Blanks told Sydney Criminal Lawyers.

The NSWCCL recommends establishing a Human Rights Act at the federal level. This would work as an interim measure before changes to the constitution were made.

This legislation would “restrict parliament’s ability to pass laws that are inconsistent with human rights,” Blanks explained. “Not absolutely. But raise barriers.”

Article: It's Time for an Australian Bill of Rights

Source: Sydney Criminal Lawyers

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170 Australians are in jail or facing charges overseas for drug crimes

Nearly one third of the 545 Australians currently imprisoned or facing charges overseas were convicted or arrested for drug-related crimes, according to the latest figures from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. [...]

"That's an extraordinary number," said Stephen Blanks, President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties. "If that's correct then publicly-sourced information is only scratching the surface."

Amnesty International's latest report on the death penalty, released last month, highlighted the secrecy surrounding the use of capital punishment in countries such as China, Vietnam and Malaysia.

As many as a dozen Australians - including Sherrif, Bannister, Gardner and Jalloh - are believed to be held in a single city in southern China, Guangzhou, putting estimates of the number of Australians on or facing death row as high as 17.

"China keeps its grotesque use of the death penalty a 'state secret', but our research shows that thousands of people are sentenced to death and executed each year," said Amnesty International Australia's Rose Kulak.

"China executes more people than all other countries in the world put together."

In 2016, at least 1032 people were executed worldwide, excluding in China, according to the latest Amnesty International figures.

DFAT annual reports tracking statistics on Australians arrested overseas for any offence show the rate of arrest rose to its highest level in six years in 2015-16, with 15.2 arrests per 100,000 departures. The largest number of arrests were in the US (262), followed by Thailand (107) and the United Arab Emirates (100).

"DFAT has long provided clear and consistent messaging to Australians that they must respect the laws of the countries in which they work, live or travel," a departmental spokesperson said.

Mr Blanks said the death was not appropriate for any crime, for "many reasons apart from the barbarity".

"There is always the possibility that errors in the judicial process have been made. There is always the possibility that criminals can reform themselves - and the examples of the two Australians executed in Indonesia, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, stand out in that regard," he said.

"In practice, the death penalty operates in a discriminatory way against those least able to defend themselves. Typically, it will be the drug mules that are caught and executed, rather than the organisers of the drug trade."

Article: Schapelle's home, but 170 Australians are in jail or facing charges overseas for drug crimes

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

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NSW police complaints in limbo as new watchdog falls behind schedule

The president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, said the LECC’s delay left the state without an effective oversight body.

“Given that we are already in May and its website says they will start taking complaints in May, the public has got a legitimate expectation that more information should be available about when the LECC should commence their operations,” he said.

“A properly independent body responsible for dealing with complaints about police is a critically important aspect of ensuring that police are properly accountable.

“Interactions with the police for many members of the public are often difficult and in difficult circumstances. There does need to be a proper complaints process and a proper investigatory body which can deal with complaints about the police.”

Article: NSW police complaints in limbo as new watchdog falls behind schedule

Source: The Guardian

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NSWCCL supportive of NSW renewed push for abortion criminalisation

Abortions are legally conducted under an interpretation of the Crimes Act by the NSW district court in 1971, known as the Levine ruling, which allows doctors to approve the procedure when a woman’s physical or mental health is in danger, and taking into account social, economic or other medical factors.

The ACT has decriminalised abortion completely and Tasmania and Victoria have also successfully pursued abortion law reform.

But similar attempts in Queensland ran into difficulty and were delayed earlier this year, following opposition from the state’s Liberal National party party.

The bill will also seek to establish 150-metre safe access zones around abortion clinics to protect women’s privacy and prevent harassment from protesters. 

The reforms have the backing of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Marie Stopes, Family Planning NSW and many other groups.

Article: Abortion decriminalisation to get renewed push in NSW parliament

Source: The Guardian

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Police officer punched in face during routine questioning

A man was filmed allegedly punching a police officer in a full-blown assault captured on camera during a routine traffic stop in Western Sydney.

The hit occurred as Emad Khassem was being arrested at Merrylands before he fled.The officer then appears to pepper spray him in the face.

The incident is an all-too common occurrence for police on the beat, according to former detective Tim Priest. "Typical these days of what police are confronted with, there's just absolutely no respect for authority anymore," Mr Priest told 7 News.

Mr Khassem was charged with resist arrest and assaulting police although it's not clear what led to him apparently being pepper-sprayed.

NSW Council of Civil Liberties Stephen Blanks noted, "It's clearly something which is going to have to examined in its whole context when the matter goes to court."

Article/VideoPolice officer punched in face during routine questioning

Source: Channel 7 News

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Calls for 'Burka Ban' from NSW backbencher

The Member for Davidson, Jonathan O'Dea, said the burka should not be worn in public and police should be given powers to enforce its removal, saying Politicians should accept "reasonable societal norms" and ban the burka.

Mr O'Dea said his stance was not racially discriminatory because it would be extended to masks and helmets.

"Unless mainstream political parties respect what are are commonly acceptable and reasonable societal norms then it gives space for people like Pauline Hanson to capitalise and play on racial or religious bigotry," he said.

Stephen Blanks from the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties said the Premier Gladys Berejiklian should dismiss the calls.

"We really have to think carefully about who in society we want to criminalise [and] subject to the force of the police and the court system," he said.

"We could criminalise all sorts of things some people find annoying. But when you think about it, it just doesn't work for society to do that.

"We have to have a level of tolerance, we have to have a level of restraint."

Article: NSW MP Jonathan O'Dea says 'reasonable people' would support burka ban

Source: ABC News Online

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Anti-lockout rally shut down: do you have the right to protest?

NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione has taken the Keep Sydney Open group to the Supreme Court over their plans for a protest in Kings Cross.

Keep Sydney Open organiser Tyson Koh says he was told about the Friday court hearing on Thursday evening and scrambled to find “a silk, two barristers and two solicitors” by the next day. Police argued Keep Sydney Open hadn’t properly planned for the event and pointed to a lack of security, traffic planning and mass evacuation and crowd dispersal plans. But Koh’s lawyers argued police had never asked for these things during the permit application process.

Judge Geoff Lindsay considered both perspectives but ultimately sided with the police, in making a prohibition order to stop the protest going ahead.

The president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties Stephen Blanks says while protesting is generally legal, there are some conditions.

“The law is that you should give the police seven days notice of an intention to hold a public assembly or protest,” he told Hack.

“If you have given the seven days notice you cannot be prosecuted for causing obstruction. You’ve got that immunity unless the commissioner of police applies to the Supreme Court in order to prohibit the assembly,” said Blanks.

And once it’s in court, it can go either way.

"There have been occasions where protests have been planned around important international events and the court has been reluctant to allow protesters that would potentially interfere with those kinds of events.”

Stephen Blanks says there “isn’t any exact criteria” for the court to apply.

“On this occasion the court has succumbed to police pressure and the public safety line. We’ve seen that a few times in the last couple of years."

“Unfortunately (you) have no legal protection under the Summary Offences act for causing obstruction. So yes people can turn up and protest but they have to do it in a way that doesn’t cause obstruction to anyone else,” said Blanks.

“There’s no law about holding a sign. So it would be an interesting test if people do go to the area where the protest was to be held and do want to deliver a message."

In a statement, a spokesperson for the NSW Police Force said they were committed to working with all protest groups but they were not just concerned about safety - they were also taking into account any possible impacts on businesses and residents.

ArticleAnti-lockout rally shut down: do you have the right to protest?

Source: ABC (Triple J-Hack)

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