NSWCCL in the media

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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Video of violent western Sydney arrest prompts concerns over police use of force

In a video posted to social media, a NSW police officer is seen using pepper spray while another knees a man to the ribcage during an arrest in Mount Druitt.

Police had been called to the scene, after a 17-year-old girl allegedly threatened to kill a shop assistant after slamming a trolley through a glass door. The man in the video was eventually arrested and charged with obstructing police.

Former police officer, NSW Police Minister and now state MLC Mike Gallacher said the footage highlights the dangers officers put themselves in but according to civil libertarians, there was no need for officers to strike or knee the man they were trying to arrest.

“That does look like gratuitous violence by the police by someone who they were able to overpower and arrest,” NSW Council for Civil Liberties spokesperson Stephen Blanks said.

See Article, with VideoShocking video shows police officer knee man in ribcage during violent western Sydney arrest

Source: Channel 7 News

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Advocates predict ‘abolition of privacy’ with mooted law changes in civil and family disputes

Divorce lawyers could soon have access to the web, phone and email sessions of every private user in a scheme which has been slammed as “the most intrusive of any developed country”.

Since October 2015, all telephone and internet service providers have been required by law to retain for two years all their clients’ metadata including voice, text and email communications, time, date and device locations and internet sessions. The requirement was said to be needed for national security.

Now the Attorney-General’s department is seeking submissions by January 27 in a review looking to extend access of retained metadata to lawyers acting for clients in civil litigation.

President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties Stephen Blanks said the move for feuding partners to be allowed to demand internet and phone data history “exposes the inherent problem with the collection of personal information”.

Mr Blanks said the government’s original justification for the laws was that the information could be used to fight serious crime and terrorism but, having got the laws passed, was seeking to open up the use of the data to way beyond those justifications.

“The idea that there is now a data set that can be accessible for any court at all represents the abolition of any privacy,” Mr Blanks said.

“You can’t have an internet or telephone simply for the purpose of browsing online, sending emails or for the purpose of telecommunications — the price of doing those very ordinary things is going to be a traceable data set about everything you’ve done and everywhere you’ve been.

“This kind of permission for using this data generally in litigation represents the complete abolition of the idea that information is gathered and used only for the purpose for which it was really intended.

“Instead it represents the idea that if it exists and can be used for any purpose at all, then it’s legitimate to do so. That is an idea that ought to be rejected.”

The department plans to deliver the findings by April 13.

Article:Advocates predict ‘abolition of privacy’ with mooted law changes in civil and family disputes

Source:The Herald Sun

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Steep rise in police requests for Opal data to track people on NSW public transport

Law enforcement agencies are dramatically increasing their use of Opal card public transport data to track the movements of people in New South Wales, with approvals for data more than doubling this year.

Internal documents also reveal that police can be handed the information of “collateral cardholders”, or people who are not suspects, when their person of interest’s identity is unknown.

The details of collateral cardholders may be handed over when police request details of all travellers who have used their card at a particular time and place. That may occur, for example, when police have seen a suspect on CCTV, but do not know who they are. 

The vice-president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Pauline Wright, said the number of refusals showed that “inappropriate requests are surely being made”.

“Our view still is that requests for this kind of information should only be able to be made by warrant, rather than leaving it up to the discretion of Transport NSW,” she said. “Clearly there’s been a huge increase in two years in the number of requests, so one can only surmise that the circumstances in which those requests are being made are broadening.

“So as police realise how easy it is to get this, there’s a real potential that it’s being requested in completely inappropriate circumstances.”

Article: Steep rise in police requests for Opal data to track people on NSW public transport

Source: The Guardian

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Stephen Blanks talks anti-protest laws with Colin Hesse

Stephen Blanks, President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties discusses anti-protest legislation enacted by the NSW Government, its impact on community opposition to WestConnex and the way the legislation is used by business, government and the police.

"The right to protest guards against the dynamism of politics and society. Freedom to express your opinion in spite of pressure is an important aspect of the NSW democracy."

"We have also had longstanding concerns with the way in which this unit of police has been deployed specifically to suppress protest, and its a paramilitary force which is not a thing of balance between protesters and the community. They are designed to oppress protesters. Protesters should be looking TO police for protection, not the other way around. To turn the police into an anti-protest riot squad is a huge infringement of democracy"

Hear full interview below:

Audio: Stephen Blanks talks anti-protest laws w Colin Hesse

Source: SkidRow Radio 88

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Stephen Blanks talks to Ombudsman's Report on review of firearm prohibition search orders

The NSW Ombudsman report on "Review of police use of the firearms prohibition order search powers" was released yesterday, leading some commentators to point out that the orders and redundant, unnecessary and improperly used. 

Stephen Blanks talked with Robbie Buck on ABC 702 morning radio to explain some of the issues raised by the report.

Audio: Breakfast with Robbie Buck (interview at 1:20:00)

Source: ABC 702 Radio

Transcript: See Here

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