NSWCCL news

Premier pressured into hasty review of bail laws

Following several weeks of ill-informed media agitation led by the DT criticising the release on bail of several persons charged with serious crimes, Premier Baird has set up a hasty review of the new bail law which has been in operation for only one month.

This is a distressing development. There is no reason for a review at this time. The bail law reforms implemented in 2013 by the current Government were moderate and ‘supported by the overwhelming majority of submissions to the Law Reform Commission’s review of bail, including the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Police and Legal Aid NSW." (Premier Baird launching the Hatzistergos review SMH 27/6/1).

Nothing extraordinary has happened. Numbers of legal experts have noted that it would have been possible for the persons generating the controversy to have been released under the old bail laws.

The trend data for any sensible review is not available and not much will be by the end of July when Mr Hatzistergos has to provide an interim report.

On the broader scale this is another depressing manifestation of the destructive dynamic of the law and order auction syndrome that bedevils state politics. 

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Police powers - safeguards further weakened

Legislation amending police powers and responsibilities and related citizens' protections was introduced into the nsw parliament in late may through the  Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Amendment Bill 2014.  Many of the changes were about clarification of the law or improvements in operational efficiency for police with no negative impact on citizens' rights and protections. NSWCCL supported these.  However, some of the changes were less justifiable and had more worrying implications. 

Our most urgent concern was in relation to the weakening of the current  requirement that police must identify themselves when exercising their powers (eg arrest or move on) otherwise their exercise of the power is unlawful. The bill seeks to repeal the consequences provision.  Failure to identify oneself when making an arrest or exercising other law enforcement powers will not render the exercise of the power unlawful. This is a dangerous amendment as it removes what has been a powerful incentive for police to abide by this important safeguard and accountability requirement that they give their name and place of work when exercising their considerable powers over community members.

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Premier urged to restore independence to attorney generals and police ministries

NSWCCL has strong concerns about the recent amalgamation of the attorney generals and justice portfolio into a single cluster with the police and emergency services portfolio. Initially this arrangement specified the police minster as the senior coordinating minister above the attorney general  and minister for justice. The cluster and the department were both named 'Police and Justice'. This appeared to subordinate the attorney general and senior law officer to the police minister and will erode confidence in the rule of law in nsw. 

The unexpected resignation of the police minister led to the ministerial  relationship being reversed so that the current attorney and minister for justice, Brad Hazzard, is now the senior minister. 

This is a welcome improvement of an embarrassing arrangement for the state's first law officer  but does not address the core problem with these new arrangements. 

The amalgamation of the attorney general, justice and police ministers, functions and agencies into a single cluster and a single department is totally inappropriate - regardless of nomenclature and relative status of ministers. In a democracy robust debate between these portfolios on matters of policy is to be expected. The new administrative arrangements are likely to have a constraining impact on such debate coming to public awareness.  

The Premier needs  to restore separate administrative arrangements to these  important  ministries immediately. 

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NSWCCL Opposes Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Laws

The proposed new laws will mean that persons found guilty of drug and alcohol fuelled “one-punch” assaults causing death will be subjected to a mandatory minimum sentence of 8 years in jail with a maximum of 25 years.  Mandatory sentences for “one-punch” assaults have already been enacted in West Australia and the Northern Territory. 

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October-November 2013 newsletter

In this edition: President's message; AGM and Annual Dinner review; 'vexatious' charges against CSG protestors; Bill watch including Zoe's Law, and much more! Available online now.

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Significant decisions at the 50th Anniversary AGM

A well attended Annual General Meeting elected new executive and committee; endorsed strong policies on global surveillance, whistle-blowers and asylum seekers and conferred honorary life membership on Cameron Murphy.

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August-September 2013 Newsletter

In this edition: Post election civil liberties musings - implications and thoughts; NSWCCL opposes Zoe's Law; NO! to warrantless surveillance; NSW Surveillance Devices Act Review; Web update; Work experience at NSWCCL; and Annual Dinner, AGM and committee nominations. Click through to view.

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July 2013 newsletter

In this edition: NSWCCL 50th Anniversary Dinner reminder; Web update; National ASIO Campaign: summary of the recent Politics in the Pub - ASIO's Absurd Powers; Asylum seekers: Australia's deepening shame; NSW Law Alert: 'Out of Control' events; Overview of our submission on the supply of alcohol to minors; Occupy Sydney: the right to protest

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June 2013 newsletter

In this edition: NSWCCL 50th Anniversary Dinner; Australia's asylum seeker policy morass: the excision of the Australian mainland; Update on the National ASIO Campaign; No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka documentary screening; The 'never-ending' growth of global surveillance

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May 2013 newsletter

The first edition of our newsletter is out now!

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Annual John Marsden Memorial Lecture 2012

The times they are a-changing: where to for the criminal law in NSW? Nicholas Cowdery - AM QC BA LLB FAAL spoke at the John Marsden Memorial Lecture.

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