Criminal justice & police powers

This group focuses on the laws, policies and practices relating to the criminal justice system, police powers, and the legal rights of persons with mental illness. In broad terms the group advocates for the protection of the fundamental rights and liberties of citizens (including the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial) in the justice system. These liberties and rights are currently under pressure from governments.


SIGN OUR PETITION: OPPOSE THE KNIFE AND BAIL LAWS

It is time that Premier Minns and the Labor Government tell the people of New South Wales the truth:

  • These newly announced “Knife and Bail laws” will not make communities safer. We know from the independent research that the opposite is true.
  • These laws evidence the substantial lengths the current Government will go to distract communities from the abysmal and chronic underfunding of mental health and frontline services that go to the heart of crime prevention.T
  • These laws allow the police to have extraordinary and unprecedented search powers that will allow members of the public to be subject to a police search without reasonable suspicion and will disproportionately target young people, First Nations and CALD people and LGBTQI+ communities.
  • These laws cement Labor’s role in being part of the problem and not part of the solution.
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Letter: Proposed increased police powers will only do more harm

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties has serious concerns with respect to the recently announced “wanding” laws set to be introduced in New South Wales.

We understand that these laws would allow New South Wales police officers (of all ranks) to approach members of the public and to subject them to a search (without reasonable suspicion) under the guise that they may be carrying a knife.

We are concerned that the expansion of police powers will result in young people from low socioeconomic regions, particularly those from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities (CALD), First Nations communities and people without fixed address, being subject to increased surveillance, harassment and intervention. It may also lead to an increase in people being charged for drug possession and other public order offences. We do not believe that these laws will have the same impact on communities in more affluent areas of Sydney and will disproportionately impact already vulnerable communities with poor relationships with the police.

These laws do not reflect the policies that the NSW Labor Government promised the public prior to the election, particularly around drug law reform and civil liberties.  With knife crime rates declining, and the penalty already having increased, as one of the first actions of the Minns government after the election last year, there is no reason for further action. Proactive policing does not serve as a deterrent for crime, nor does criminalisation and increased penalties.

The people of New South Wales deserve to have their government invest in evidence based, frontline youth services and community-led initiatives that strike at the heart of crime prevention, mental health illness and are centred on strengthening social cohesion and our civil liberties.

Read our letter to the NSW Attorney General here.

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Submission: Jury Amendment Bill 2023

The NSWCCL recognises the importance of increasing the efficiency of jury empanelment, the provision of enhanced support for jurors to perform their role and reducing the expenditure of resources on trials that are ultimately aborted or result in hung juries. The NSWCCL also recognises the validity of majority verdict legislation in criminal and coronial trials. However, the NSWCCL is concerned that the proposed amendment to Section 55F of the Jury Act 1977 (The Act) may compromise a jury’s ability to properly consider the guilt to innocence of an accused person, and that such a compromise is made in exchange for a speculative and nominal reduction in the expenditure of resources on trials and reduction in hung juries. The NSWCCL is further concerned that the proposed amendment to Section 73A(1) of the Act unnecessarily broadens the investigative power of the NSW Sherriff’s Office (Sherriff). The broadening of the investigative power is significant and not safeguarded or constrained by current legislation.

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Consultation paper on weapons related offences: Sentencing Adult Offenders

The Sentencing Council released a consultation paper in September 2023 seeking further submissions on key issues identified in preliminary research and analysis.  The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) was grateful for the opportunity to make a submission in response to this consultation paper.

Our submission focussed on offences involving custody of knives and questions raised in relation to items 5 and 6 of the Terms of Reference, namely:

  • consider whether offences for which penalty notices are available remain appropriate;
  • consider whether the maximum penalties for the offences are appropriate with reference to other jurisdictions.
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Submission to the NSW Ombudsman about the Mandatory Disease Testing Act 2021

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has lodged a submission to the NSW Ombudsman with respect to the review of the Mandatory Disease testing Act 2021.

The Mandatory Disease Testing Act came into force in July 2022 and provides for mandatory testing of a person whose bodily fluid comes into contact with a health, emergency or public sector worker.

The making of a “mandatory order” compels a person to provide a blood sample, under the threat of prosecution for a failure to comply. If convicted, it carries a maximum penalty of twelve months imprisonment and/or a maximum fine of $10, 000.

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Policy: Drug Reform

2023 NSWCCL AGM

Item 7.2 Drug Reform Policy

NSWCCL welcomes the NSW government proposal for a pre-court diversion scheme affecting people caught in possession of small amounts of illicit substances. Under the changes, NSW Police will be given the ability to issue up to two on the spot Criminal Infringement Notices, which are $400 fines, to adults for personal drug use and small quantity drug possession offences. This is an encouraging first step towards broader drug reform however NSW Police will still retain their discretion in all cases to charge a person and proceed to court. It is still an offence to possess and use illicit drugs. Entry of a conviction or even a bond without conviction goes on a police record with possible drastic long lasting consequences for future employment and visas to enter other countries.

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Submission: Review of post-sentence terrorism orders: Division 105A of the Criminal Code Act 1995

Liberty Victoria and the NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) thank the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) for the opportunity to contribute to this Review of postsentence terrorism orders: Division 105A of the Criminal Code Act 1995.

Liberty Victoria and the NSWCCL acknowledge the importance of protecting the community from acts of terrorism. Terrorism and the threat of terrorism violate the rights to life and security of innocent people. Terrorism is regarded as a crime apart from others as it threatens the very fabric of liberal democracy by utilising violence and fear to further, often fundamentally illiberal, political, religious or ideological goals.

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Irina Dunn: The night I didn’t get arrested

It was about 11pm on 6 November 1981, the eve of the inquest into the death of Warren Lanfranchi, who had been gunned down by Detective Roger Rogerson in a back lane in Chippendale in June of that year. Four of us were getting ready to paste large posters featuring the infamous Detective onto the glass doors of the old Coroner’s Court in Glebe on the corner of Parramatta Road and Ross Street.

There was Ms X, Ms Y, Kevin Storey and me.

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Submission: Review of post-sentence terrorism orders: Division 105A of the Criminal Code Act 1995

Liberty Victoria and the NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) thank the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) for the opportunity to contribute to this Review of post-sentence terrorism orders: Division 105A of the Criminal Code Act 1995. Liberty Victoria and the NSWCCL acknowledge the importance of protecting the community from acts of terrorism. However, in our submission we call for the abolition of continuing detention orders. The risk assessment tools underpinning these orders are deeply flawed and the regime amounts to arbitrary detention. 

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NSWCCL Statement: Peaceful protest should never result in gaol!

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties is shocked to hear that Violet Coco, a Fireproof Australia protestor, was sentenced to 15 months in custody with a non parole period of 8 months for engaging in peaceful protest.

We understand that she was charged with offences of disrupting vehicles, interfering with the safe operation of the Harbour Bridge, possessing a bright light distress signal in a public place, failing to comply with police direction and resisting or hindering police. All of these charges arose from her blocking one lane of traffic on the Sydney Harbour Bridge for approximately 25 minutes.

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