The rollout of 248 video cameras worn on police officers' uniforms across Sydney's eastern beaches started on Thursday and questions are being raised about their impact on the rights of individuals.
Council for Civil Liberties NSW president Stephen Blanks said there would be cause for suspicion in cases where an officer had a camera but did not use it.
"You should have a rule that where police have got a body camera and are giving evidence in court, they shouldn't be allowed to give evidence unless the body camera is on," he told AAP.
"The possibility that police are not being completely truthful about the evidence is too high."
Mr Blanks said instances where police misrepresented or misunderstood members of the public could be brought to light through video evidence.
"I think the public will have more confidence in police if they know that police are behaving in a thoroughly accountable way because they're being recorded," he said.
Mr Blanks suggested the camera be on at all times, saying having to manually turn it on and off meant officers could be selective about what to film.
Source: Sky news OR Channel 9 News
Of the 36,000 drug tests police have administered to NSW drivers in 2015, Insp Blair said almost 12 percent returned positive readings; while an operation in the Shoalhaven, on the NSW south coast, over the weekend netted 27 drug-affected drivers. In August 2014, NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay said 11 percent of fatalities on NSW roads involved motorists with illicit drugs in their system.
Inspector Steve Blair, commander of the random drug testing unit, would not confirm exactly how many drug testing units would operate in NSW, but said by 2017 there would be "quite a large number out there" that are "portable and can radiate through the state."
Police claim drug driving offences are growing at an alarming rate, but the NSW Council for Civil Liberties does not support the further rollout of roadside drug testing technology. Stephen Blanks, president of the NSWCCL, said the strict liability offence was unfair to drivers.
"The testing only discloses prior drug usage, which may have no adverse impairment of driving ability. Cannabis can hang around in your system for days, maybe even a few weeks, but not have any impact on your ability to drive," he said.
"It is illegal to possess those drugs, but it's never been illegal to take them. It's a small point, but it's worth taking in mind."
Blanks said the absence of any threshold for drug use -- such as the 0.05 BAC for alcohol -- was a major reservation he held about drug testing.
"With alcohol, there is a threshold below which it is recognised that usage doesn't impair ability to drive. With drug tests, there is absolute zero tolerance," he said.
"The problem of drug driving are issues probably not best dealt with through random testing. Perhaps it should be other ways, like driver education or better laws around drug usage or possession. Society would get a better outcome if we took a health and harm minimisation approach, rather than a law enforcement approach."
Source: The Huffington Post Australia
Telco giant Vodafone Hutchison Australia has admitted that an employee illegally accessed the mobile phone records of Fairfax Media investigative journalist Natalie O'Brien.
Vodaphone head of fraud COlin Yates admitted in an email from 2012, "If the issue relating to breaching the reporter's privacy by searching her private call records and text messages gets into the public domain, this could have serious consequences given it is a breach of the Australian Telecommunications Act."
NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks called on the government to investigate the incident as a matter of priority.
"What's extraordinary is that the regulatory system is inefficient to find out about this blatant breach of law and one has to bear in mind that Vodafone's business is entirely dependent on a government license," Mr Blanks said. "It's very disturbing that one telecommunications carrier thinks nothing of breaching the privacy of its customers in order to find out information of commercial advantage to it."
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
The government's decision to take an additional 12,000 women, children and families, mostly from United Nations camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, has generally been well received...But a diverse group of refugee advocates, and Christian and Muslim representatives, have condemned suggestions Australia would favour members of persecuted minority groups, especially Christians.
Representatives of the Refugee Action Coalition, the NSW Council of Civil Liberties and the Lebanese Muslim Association issued a joint statement calling on the government "to be genuine with a humanitarian intention":
"In light of recent media reports regarding the discriminatory nature of the refugee intake, we are obliged to condemn in the strongest of terms the suggestion that priority should be given to people of one faith over another."
Source(s): Channel 7 and Channel 9 News
Religious and community groups will join with councillors near Sydney's Lakemba mosque calling for a more constructive approach to the refugee crisis. On Wednesday the federal government announced Australia would increase its refugee and humanitarian intake by 12,000 permanent places and provide more than $40 million for United Nations efforts to deal with the Syrian crisis.
The Lebanese Muslim Association, the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, the Refugee Action Coalition several church groups and Muslim media advocates are expected to meet near Lakemba mosque on Thursday afternoon and call for the government to welcome all refugees, regardless of religion.
Source: Channel 9 News
Sydney bikie boss Sam Ibrahim's lawyer, Brett Galloway, has described a decision by the Federal Government to deport his client as "stupid politics".
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has signed papers ordering Ibrahim's deportation on the grounds he has failed the Government's character test for foreign nationals.
NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks said the Government's decision would mean Ibrahim would not face justice for his alleged crimes.
"If he's found guilty, he would've served jail time in Australia and now we're proposing to let him free. That just seems bizarre. Never before has someone been deported or proposed to be deported before they even serve time for any criminal offences they've committed. That seems inappropriate. For the Minister to make the decision himself that somebody is guilty of a criminal offence and then apply the character test ... is really an abuse of our system."
Source: ABC Online
PJCIS report recommends going ahead with bill despite significant reservations and criticism from civil society
The PJCIS report on the proposed change to the Citizenship Act, which would strip dual nationals fighting overseas of their Australian citizenship without conviction, has been released on Friday 4th September. Australia’s leading constitutional lawyers, human rights groups, ethnic community organisations, refugee organisations and human rights commissioner Gillian Triggs have all objected to part or all of the dual national bill as it was drafted.
In his statement, Stephen Blanks, President of the NSW CCL, notes:
"The committee’s first recommendation that the removal of citizenship without conviction would only apply to those offshore significantly cuts down the scope of what the government was trying to do. The way it was drafted it would have applied to significant numbers of people on shore so that is significant but the fact remains citizenship stripping is an inappropriate punishment."
"If people commit a criminal offence it doesn’t mean they should be deprived of their nationality or family should be deprived of their nationality. They should be brought to justice so the whole idea to use citizenship as a tool is really going to do nothing about the threat of terrorism."
Blanks went on to say that stripping people and their families of citizenship would only alienate them from the Australian community and be “counterproductive in our struggle against terrorism. It should not go ahead but it is much less dangerous than the government had originally proposed.”
Source: The Guardian
Dyson Heydon has decided to stay on as Royal Commissioner, despite intense Labor and Union opposition. After a series of emails were shown to have verified his acceptance and later rejection of attending a Liberal Party event calls were made for him to step down due to possible political bias in his handling of the commission.
Heydon determined it was not the case that a "fair-minded lay observer" would conclude that he would be incapable of bringing an "impartial mind" to the work of the commission. However, others aren't so sure it will stand up to public scrutiny.
President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, notes, "There's obviously going to be a high degree of contention about whatever he recommends. Whether or not the recommendations withstand scrutiny in part will depend on whether the public have faith in his objectivity."
Transcript/Audio: Heydon may have misread public mood: Council for Civil Liberties
Source: ABC AM Radio/ABC Online
In a recent announcement, the Australian Border Force (ABF) announced it was conducting a massive joint operation in the Melbourne CBD with police and transit officers. Th dramatic release from the ABF and Victoria police has raised serious questions about the extent of policing in the city.
The prospect of immigration officers conducting large scale operations to check visas around cities raises serious privacy and civil liberties concerns note the president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks.
“Police forces generally speaking are not allowed to simply stop people and ask for ID. No state government has gone so far as to say that police will have a power to stop a person who has not engaged in any criminal activity to demand identity details, let alone any other information such as citizenship and visa details. One wouldn’t expect immigration officers would be roaming the streets of Melbourne, and if that were to occur it would make people very uneasy.”
Follow the link below to learn more about your rights and the true extent of power of the police and border patrol.
Source: The Guardian
Junaid Thorne, a self-styled preacher who has been supportive of IS, was jailed last week by a NSW court of appeal for flying under a false ID and buying tickets with a false ID. After a few days in Sydney’s Silverwater jail his lawyer Lydia Shelly said her client was moved to Australia’s highest security correctional facility, Goulburn Correctional Centre.
Stephen Blanks, President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties said Thorne had not been convicted of any terrorism offences and should not be placed under maximum security. He went further to note that "The whole community should be alarmed because this could happen to anyone."