NSWCCL in the media

Laws to keep high-risk terror suspects behind bars an 'attack on a free society'

Proposed laws that would see high-risk terror suspects behind bars have been labelled an attack on freedom by civil liberty groups.

The federal government is reportedly considering fast-tracking laws to keep high-risk offenders locked away, even after their sentence is served.

But Stephen Blanks, president of the NSW council for civil liberties, told Neil Mitchell it wasn't the answer.

He said it undermined one of the key aspects of a free society.

"It's handing terrorists a victory," he said on 3AW Mornings.

Article (with Audio): Laws to keep high-risk terror suspects behind bars an 'attack on a free society'

Source: 3AW Mornings with Neil Mitchell

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Census 2016: changes an "abuse" of public's trust

PRIVACY experts claim people may list false information on next month’s census because their names and addresses will be kept as part of the data.

Previously identifying information was destroyed once the other census data had been recorded but it will now be kept until 2020.

An Australian Bureau of Statistics spokesman yesterday said all personal information would be stored “securely and separate” but the NSW Council for Civil Liberties warned that some people’s concerns over how the government might use the information could cause a backlash of false information, from income bracket to religion.

“If people know their information will be identifiable and retained by the government, then it is very likely some people may chose not to answer all the questions honestly,” president Stephen Blanks said.

“We now have some politicians calling for discriminatory action against people of a particular faith, for example. It wouldn’t be unreasonable for them to think twice (before filling out the survey).”

Article: Census 2016: changes an "abuse" of public's trust

Source: The Daily Telegraph

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'High Steaks' - Barbecue owners feel the heat

THE great Australian tradition of having friends over for a barbecue might get the chop for unit dwellers under changes to strata laws.

Tenants who create too much smoke when barbecuing their sausages on balconies could face fines of up to $2200 – double the penalty under old laws. It will also impact smokers, if the smoke from their cigarettes or cigars drifts into neighbouring units.

The new rules acknowledge that smoke drift, such as tobacco and barbecue, can be considered a “nuisance or hazard”.

NSW Council of Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks said it could be considered un-Australian but there was no civil right to smoke or to barbecue.

“It might be un Australian to try to stop people using their barbecue but problems between neighbours do arise and there needs to be mechanism in place to deal with it,” he said.

Article: Barbecue owners feel the heat (click here for offline version)

Source: Inner West Courier

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Anti-protest laws under the spotlight at pub

NSW Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) president will be guest speaker at New Politics in the Pub on Wednesday July 27 from 6.30pm at the Court House Hotel in Mullumbimby.

The topic of discussion by president Stephen Blanks will be the recently introduced anti-protest laws by the Baird Liberal/Nationals government that radically extends police powers against opponents of mining projects and heavily fines those who ‘lock on’ to mining equipment.

It’s called Inclosed Lands, Crimes and Law Enforcement Legislation Amendment (Interference) Act 2016 and only passed with votes from two crossbench parties: the Shooters and Fishers Party and Fred Nile’s Christian Democratic Party.

Article: Anti-protest laws under the spotlight at pub

Source: Echo Netdaily

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Lindt cafe inquiry: Terrorists have rights, says siege cop

The police commander who held off ordering tactical officers to storm the Lindt cafe until after hostage Tori Johnson was killed has told an inquest gunman Man Haron Monis “had the same rights as anyone else”, prompting the victim’s mother to charge out of the courtroom, calling the officer “an absolute disgrace”.

The inquest heard evidence that police commanders cannot order a sniper to kill a hostage-taker, and each officer must make his or her own assessment of whether a shot is ­justified.

Legal experts said that while they thought the police officer’s choice of words yesterday in saying Monis had the “same rights” was ill ­advised, the basic principles of the law in Australia did restrict what police could reasonably do in terms of use of lethal force.

“If someone is in the process of committing a crime, a serious crime, as Monis was, that person can be subjected to a lawful ­response,” the president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, solicitor Stephen Blanks, said. “A lawful response enables the police to use all necessary force in order to bring the commission of the crime to an end and to arrest the offender. The police don’t have a right to kill a person who is committing an offence unless the police or somebody else is being seriously threatened and there is no reasonable alternative to the use of lethal force.”

 

Article: Lindt cafe inquiry: Terrorists have rights, says siege cop

Source: The Australian

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NSW Police officer criticised for pointing gun at man after pursuit

Vision of a NSW police officer pointing his gun at a man after a pursuit is reminiscent of the United States and underscores the importance of recording all police interactions, the NSW Council of Civil Liberties says.

Mr Blanks said the incident was reminiscent of high-profile police incidents in the United States, "but for the fact that it didn't end with the driver being shot dead".

"Certainly the timing of this coming to light, when we've seen what's happened in the US, really drives the point home to the public that we need to be safe from police misconduct,"

"We need to see the police management and hierarchy keeping us safe and condemning use of inappropriate force."

"Incidents like this only come to light because they're recorded on video," Mr Blanks said.

NSW Police said in a statement that they would review "the circumstances of the prosecution and the court's decision".

Article: NSW Police officer criticised for pointing gun at man after pursuit

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

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Long list of rules ruins fun at Barangaroo

It is almost a year since Sydney Harbour’s $250 million headland reserve opened to the public, but if the 27-page rule book governing what can and can’t be done at the park is anything to go by, visitors haven’t had much fun there.

Critics of the stringent rules say it is just more evidence of Sydney’s “nanny state”, while nearby residents fear the reserve is being taken away from “ordinary people”. Last month, three-year-old Nicholas Atkinson was told to stop flying his kite at the “near-deserted” stargazer lawn he was sharing with “six other people at most”.  

“I thought (the guard) was joking. There was plenty of room and we weren’t inflicting ourselves on other people,” his dad Brendan said.

Stephen Blanks, the president of the NSW Council of Civil Liberties, said the rules went too far and were not in the public interest. “I think it’s a nanny state and it’s also completely inappropriate for a public space to be so closely regulated, particularly when the space is being impinged upon by private development,” he said.

“If you can’t fly a kite in a park, where can you?”

Article: Long list of rules ruins fun at Barangaroo

Source: The Daily Telegraph

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Hornsby Westfield shooting

One of the state’s top cops has defended the two police officers who shot at a knife-wielding man at Hornsby Westfield yesterday but injured three innocent shoppers in the process.

Police have launched a critical incident investigation into the shooting. One of the issues to be investigated will be why a Taser or other options available were not used by the officers.

Assistant Commissioner Denis Clifford said the male and female officers were in a life and death situation when psychiatric patient Jerry Sourian ran at them armed with a large carving knife. He said Sourian was known to police.

Stephen Blanks, the president of the NSW Council of Civil ­Liberties, said an independent ­review was crucial.

“Serious incidents like this where members of the public are injured as a result of the use of police guns require the most thorough investigation because public confidence depends upon knowing they did not do the wrong thing,” Mr Blanks said.

“The public needs to know that police have been properly trained in dealing with people with mental health issues and that they use their guns as a last resort when lives are threatened.”

Mr Clifford said the review would be independent.

Article(s): Hornsby Westfield shooting: Police defend their tactics amid questions about other options

Source(s): The Daily Telegraph; Courier Mail; Perth Now

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President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties speaks up for Sea Eagles' "presumption of innocence" in match fixing allegations

NSW Police have been investigating claims of match fixing in the NRL, and recent reports have focused on the Sea Eagles. While Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Byrne said yesterday that the match fixing investigation was “legitimate and authentic”, NSW Council for Civil Liberties president , Stephen Blanks,  expressed concern for the way in which the investigation is being handled, noting that premature public reporting of the investigation "doesn’t make clear that the people they are investigating are entitled to a presumption of innocence."

"The public should be reminded that whenever police announce investigations that the people they are investigating are innocent until proven guilty and are entitled to their day in court," Blanks said, "“The police stories often operate as a smear and that is why they should refrain from saying too much, especially when investigations are at an early stage.”

See below link for the full story. 

Article: President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties speaks up for Sea Eagles in match fixing allegations

Source: The Daily Telegraph

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If You Thought NSW Had Enough Police Laws, Here’s Four New Ones

Vice News has written extensively on the encroachment of police powers on the civil liberties of Australians, especially here in NSW. 

In this piece, they summarize the recent cascade of laws that expand police powers while simultaneously restraining dissent and protest. NSW Council of Civil Liberties President, Stephen Blanks, sat down to talk with Vice about some of these new laws:

For the president of the NSW Council of Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, the main concern is that these directives can reoccur every week for the rest of an individual's life. "I have little doubt these powers will be used to ban people from attending certain Muslim places of worship," he said, adding that it's even possible that this was one such motive behind the law.

Blanks also has grave concerns for the Investigative Detention Bill introduced on the same day. It will allow for the detention of a suspect "to prevent an imminent threat of terrorism" for up to two weeks without charge. He pointed out that a major difference with anti-terror powers passed in 2004 is that police can now question a suspect for up to 16 hours a day, and suspects can be as young as 14 years old.

"What's going to happen is that teenagers are going to be detained and questioned about other family members and friends," Blanks said, stressing that legislation such as this will do nothing for relations with the Islamic community.

A series of anti-protest laws were also passed mid-March, increasing police powers to prevent public protest, particularly against coal seam gas. The laws include a maximum penalty of seven years for hindering the operation of a mine, and for actions like locking onto equipment. "This is simply a law which is prioritising private commercial interests over the public interest in being able to have a fair opportunity to engage in protest," Blanks told VICE.

Article: If You Thought NSW Had Enough Shitty Police Laws, Here’s Four New Ones

Source: Vice News

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