NSWCCL in the media

Nicholas Cowdery SC talks to media on bail in light of Sydney siege

Nicholas Cowdery SC,  former Director of Public Prosecutions in NSW and NSWCCL Committee member, has been prominent in the media speaking on bail law in relation to Sydney siege gunman, Man Haron Monis.

Cowdery has said to the Sydney Morning Herald that the changes to bail law, due to commence in January, would not have made any difference in Monis' case as judicial officers and police were not aware of his "dark and evil" thoughts. 

"You can't legislate to deal with that. It doesn't matter how much you muck around with the laws, there are still going to be occasions - hopefully rare - where the justice system cannot see into the deep psyche of such a person."

Article: Man Monis granted bail six days after controversial bail laws bought in (Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 16/12/14)

Speaking on the 7.30 Report last night, Cowdery told Leigh Sales in relation to the way forward from this tragedy: "I don't think we need any changes to the law, I think we have the laws that [police and other agencies] can work with quite effectively, and I think that politicians need to accept that."

Watch: Sydney siege: criticism of judicial and police officers over bail 'unfair' says former DPP (Source: 7.30 Report, ABC, 16/12/14)

He also told ABC radio:

"With the benefit of hindsight all of us can be geniuses and make the right decisions.

But the fact is that when it comes to matters of bail or sentencing, or any orders that are made by a court in the course of a criminal justice process, the judicial officer can act only on the information of the evidence that is then known and made available for that purpose.

So it's a matter of a proper presentation of the facts and the evidence to the court, it's a matter of the court making, striking an appropriate balance between the freedom on the individual, which we do take very seriously in our society, and the protection of the community."

Listen: Lawyers defend releasing Man Haron Monis on bail (Source: The World Today, ABC Radio 16/12/14)

Cowdery further noted in the Australian that the incident highlights the need for better resourcing of the justice system.

Article: Sydney siege: Risks of playing politics with law (Source: The Australian, 17/12/14)

 

See also

Listen: Did Man Haron Monis slip through legal cracks? (Source: RN Drive, ABC Radio, 16/12/14)

Listen: Questions asked about why Sydney gunman was on bail (Source: PM, ABC Radio, 16/12/14)

Article: Sydney siege: Gunman Man Haron Monis would have been in custody if Bail Act changes had been in place, NSW Attorney-General says (Source: 7 News, 17/12/14)

Listen: Former Director of Public Prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery discusses why Sydney siege gunman Man Haron Monis was on bail and allowed to walk free (Source: ABC Radio, 17/12/14)

Article: Sydney siege: Aberrant case not an argument for tougher bail laws (Source: WA Today, 17/12/14)

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Muslim community leaders join mourners to pay respects to Sydney siege victims

NSWCCL Committee Member Lydia Shelley speaks to ABC radio:

"Coming down here today was a very important personal choice to me, but it's also indicative of the overwhelming feelings coming from the Muslim community as well," Ms Shelly said.

"We wanted to pay our respects for the lives that have been lost and to pay our respects to those who were injured in the experience that they went through.

"I'm just incredibly sad ... every single other Australian today is feeling the exact same thing."

Ms Shelly said the focus today should be on the victims rather than a potential backlash against the Muslim community.

"Our overwhelming focus has been on those who have lost their lives and our thoughts and prayers and condolences go out to the family members," she said.

"I don't even feel like it's right to speak about any potential blowback on a day like this because obviously that's not our focus at all.

"I would hope that the overwhelming messages of support that we've received is indicative of Australians rising up, reaching out to each other, strengthening our bonds.

"We're not going to give into fear and mistrust of each other."

Ms Shelly has denied claims the man responsible for the attack, Man Haron Monis, was an Islamic cleric. She said he was a sick man who was not representative of Muslim Australia.

"This man was not an Islamic cleric at all," she said.

"He was a self styled sheik, that's the name that he gave himself. He was not known to preach in our mosques or anything like that.

"These are the actions of somebody who is incredibly sick and very disturbed. It is not a reflection on our sheiks, on our faith at all, on our community and I think the majority of Australians and the support that we've received understand that message."

Read the full story and listen: Muslim community leaders join mourners to pay respects to Sydney siege victims

Source: The World Today, ABC Radio 16/12/14

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NSW Police to trial unmanned drones

The NSW Police is trialling unmanned drone aircraft, which if successful could be used in search and rescue and emergencies.

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks said he did not oppose police using drones for search and rescue operations.

But he said the public must be assured they would never be used for general surveillance activity.

"If there are benefits which can be had from the use of devices like this in emergency situations then there should be rules in place which allow these devices to be used," Mr Blanks said.

"But we also need rules that make it absolutely clear how long recordings are kept for, when they are destroyed and notification of people who may be concerned about being captured by these devices."

Article: NSW Police to trial unmanned drones

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 6/12/2014

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Drug surveillance operations an abject failure

NSWCCL Committee member Nicholas Cowdery and Dr Alex Wodak discuss the failure of NSW drug surveillance programs

"Drug arrests and the rare fatalities at dance parties and music festivals are major media stories. Community concerns about drugs ensure that politicians and police leaders are keen to be seen to be doing something. Intensive police operations fit the bill. But do they actually reduce drug use or drug harms?

During surveillance operations only in a tiny minority of searches find any drugs. Interpreting signals from the dogs, police officers often think drugs are present when there are none. Very many people who have drugs at these events are not detected. These operations achieve little and too often they are counter-productive.

NSW passed laws in 2001 to allow police to use dogs for public surveillance with the intention of catching more drug traffickers. In 2006, the NSW Ombudsman reviewed the program and found that successful prosecutions for supply were achieved in just 19 of 10211 searches. Given the scale of the NSW drug market it is an abject failure.

The impact of these intrusive searches on people's lives is a major negative of the program. Another cost is that these operations seem to only increase the health risks. The presence of drug dogs at festivals and parties creates an incentive for attendees to take all their drugs at once prior to entering. Often this is preplanned, but sometimes it is a panicked decision when confronted by the dogs. In a study of drug safety at raves, 30 per cent  of those interviewed reported that they consumed drugs to avoid detection after seeing dogs at an event. A young man overdosed and died after doing this at a music festival in Penrith in 2013. Many other harmful but nonfatal overdoses undoubtedly occur."

The full article can be found at the link below

Article: Drug surveillance operations an abject failure

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 30/11/2014

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Update on Australian Defence Force role in combatting Islamic State

In re-writing the law on foreign fighters, the Government is increasing the law and order emphasis on stopping the Australian based frontmen for Islamic State. The new and broader control order regime gives the Federal Police more scope to isolate people who are recruiting Sunni Muslims to travel abroad and fight.

"There's still a whole lot of mystery around about this intelligence sharing... I think the Australian public are entitled to know a whole lot more about how the intelligence gathering functions of government work, how they interact with law enforcement and with the defence force." - NSWCCL President, Stephen Blanks

Listen: Update on Australian Defence Force role in combatting Islamic State

Source: ABC Radio PM, 25/11/14

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Counter-terrorism laws come under scrutiny

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties and Muslim Legal Network, which will front the inquiry on Thursday, are concerned at the speed the government wants to move the laws through parliament.

"The short time frame is an abuse of process and lays the foundation for reckless lawmaking," they told the committee.

Article: Counter-terrorism laws come under scrutiny

Source: 9 News Australia, 13/11/2014

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Little dissent against Government's new changes to terror bill

The window of opportunity to complain to the government about the latest changes to national security laws has closed with barely a ripple of protest.

NSWCCL's Stephen Blanks and Muslim Legal Network's Lydia Shelly speak to ABC Radio following a joint submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security .

Listen: Little dissent against Government's new changes to terror bill

Source: ABC Radio "PM", 12/11/2014

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Proposed anti-terror law represents a "back door" to allow targeted killings of Australians on foreign battle fields

The Abbott government's latest proposed anti-terror law represents a "back door" to allow targeted killings of Australians on foreign battle fields, and make the Australian Muslim community feel "targeted" by law enforcement and intelligence agencies, the Muslim Legal Network and the NSW Council of Civil Liberties argue in their joint submission to a parliamentary committee reviewing the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill 2014, introduced to Parliament on October 30 by Attorney-General George Brandis.

Article: Terror laws open door to targeted killings, warn Muslim and civil liberty groups

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 12/11/2014

Submission: New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties & Muslim Legal Network Joint Submission

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Privacy lost in government race for digital convenience

NSW government agencies are pushing ahead with the linking and sharing of personal data stored on massive databases to make life "convenient".

Coming soon are changes to the way Compulsory Third Party Green Slips will be purchased in 2015

The insurers are building a real-time computer interface with the registry. The industry says it wants to check for fraud, particularly where a driver claims their car is garaged, but is in fact parked on the street in a different suburb.

The president of the NSW Civil Liberties Council Stephen Blanks says opening the register to insurance companies shows the "dangers of creating databanks and function creep".

Article: Privacy lost in government race for digital convenience

Source: Sydney Morning Herald. 2/11/2014

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Insurers to check on car history before quoting premiums

Insurance companies will be able to access personal data held on the motor vehicle registry before quoting a price to a potential customer for a Green Slip, under NSW government changes.

But the NSW Civil Liberties Council president Stephen Blanks said giving insurance companies access to a government registry through a regulation change "shows the dangers of creating databanks and function creep".

This occurs where a database of personal information is created for one purpose, but over time is used for more and more purposes.

"This can be done without any real public scrutiny at an agency level," Mr Blanks said.

Article: Insurers to check on car history before quoting premiums

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 2/11/2014

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