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.


RDC: Why are people with a disability over-represented in the criminal justice system?

Last week the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability concluded Public Hearing 15, People with Cognitive Disability in the Criminal Justice System: NDIS Interface. This was a continuation of Public Hearing 11: The Experiences of People with Cognitive Disability in the Criminal Justice System. The Commission heard from a variety of lived experience witnesses, government agencies, disability services, academics and advocates about the nature of the ‘criminalisation of disability’ in the Australian context.  Videos and transcripts of the hearings are available on the Royal Commission website

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NSW's Public Health Order and our right to avoid self incrimination

Update 11 Oct '21: The information we received following our GIPA requested was reassuring. However, we remain concerned: in the context of a public health emergency, it's vital that people do not fear any repercussions for telling the truth if this might incriminate them. We wrote again to the Commissioner noting that Police appear to have exercised restraint but also noting our ongoing concerns. We called for: 

  • The Public Health Orders to be amended to include a derivative use immunity to protect people who provide information or evidence to Police in the course of their enforcing the Public health Orders.
  • Confirmation that information transferred to another agency because it is ‘necessary to do so for the purposes of protecting the health or welfare of members of the public during the COVID19 pandemic’ would not include information transferred to Police with the purpose of issuing a Penalty Infringement Notice or Court Attendance Notice.

Update 23 Aug '21: the Police Commissioner has responded to our letter, suggesting that we make a GIPA request for the information we requested, so that's what we've done. Stay tuned for the outcome.

NSWCCL is investigating concerns that a recent health order appears to remove our common law privilege against self-incrimination. We have written to the Police Commissioner to seek more information about what's happening on the ground in order to develop our response.

The health order

Our concerns relate to Public Health (COVID-19 Additional Restrictions for Delta Outbreak) Order 2021 as amended to commence at 5pm on 7 August 2021, made by Minister Hazzard under s. 7 of the Public Health Act 2010 (PHA). 

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Concerns remain over incarcerated people's wellbeing during the pandemic

In June 2020, NSWCCL raised concerns about the physical safety of people in prison during the pandemic, given the difficulty of social distancing within a prison environment.

While it is reassuring that, to date, the number of COVID-19 cases in custodial settings has been limited, we remain concerned.

Firstly, we have ongoing concerns about inmate safety and the risk of rapid transmission of COVID should it make its way into prisons. For example, it has been reported to us that in a wing of about 200 at Cessnock, there is no social distancing, inmates do not wear masks, inmates remain unvaccinated and jabs have not been offered to some inmates.

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NSWCCL calls on NSW Government to implement Ice Inquiry recommendations

Nearly 18 months after the 'Ice' Inquiry recommended decriminalisation, diversion, and a whole-of-government approach, the NSW Government's Final Response is missing in action.

Meanwhile, community support for a health and education based approach is growing: the 2019 National Drug Strategy Household Survey showed that 57% of Australians supported pill testing, while the most common action supported for people in possession of drugs including amphetamines was ‘referral to treatment or an education program’.

The NSWCCL urges the Government to publish its Final Response as a matter of urgency and to reconsider its opposition to measures that focus on health outcomes. It is time to fundamentally rethink our current approach to drug policy to better reflect our society’s values and expectations. We need an evidence- based approach that prioritises health and education and supports, rather than stigmatising, those affected by drug use.

For more: read our letter to the NSW Attorney General

 

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Commonwealth Ombudsman: Only nine of nearly 2000 accesses to LBS by ACT Policing were properly authorised

MEDIA RELEASE

NSWCCL is gravely concerned by a recent Report1 from the Commonwealth Ombudsman, which identified that many of the authorisations made by ACT Policing for access to telecommunications data between 13 October 2015 and 2019 were not properly authorised. Of the 1,713 individual accesses to location-based services (LBS) by ACT Policing for that period, only nine were fully compliant with the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 (TIA Act).

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Prime Minister abrogates his responsibility to look into the allegations of historical rape

2 March 2021

PUBLIC STATEMENT

Prime Minister abrogates his responsibility to look into the allegations of historical rape

In response to questions at a press conference yesterday about allegations made by a woman that she was raped in 1988 by a man who is now a Cabinet Minister, the Prime Minister stated that he had reported the matter to the Australian Federal Police and that the Commissioner had indicated that there was “nothing immediate” in terms of necessary actions that he considered the PM should be taking. The Prime Minister said that he was awaiting the advice of the Commissioner on the status of “other jurisdictions” that could be potentially involved when the Commissioner was “in a position to do so”.

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Submission: Review of Section 293 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1986

The Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) thanks the Department for Communities and Justice for its invitation to make a submission concerning the Review of Section 293 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1986.

Excerpt:

'It is submitted that rather than providing a specific exception in relation to false complainants (as proposed by option 2) it is more desirable to consider what the principles and objectives that are sought to be achieved by this reform, rather than reactive reform in relation to a single factual scenario. Each case will bring its own unique factual issues and circumstances. Specific exceptions will often fall short of adequately dealing with the breadth of circumstances and issues of particular cases. Rather, an appropriately drafted discretion has the capacity to deal with a broader range of cases, provide protections in relation to the factors which must be taken into account and prevent piecemeal reform as other issues and factual scenarios arise in the future.'

View submission

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NSW Police Force strip search practices, LECC Final Report

The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission furnished its report: Inquiry into NSW Police Force strip search practices to Parliament on Tuesday 15th December, 2020. 

It is the final report in the Commission’s ongoing inquiry into police strip search practices. The Inquiry represents a significant body of work, comprising a total of seven investigations, as well as analysis of NSW Police Force policies and training, and oversight of police investigations of complaints about strip searches.

 

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Statement: Drug Supply Prohibition Order (DSPO) Pilot Scheme Bill 2020

PUBLIC STATEMENT – 9 NOVEMBER 2020

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) is opposed to the Drug Supply Prohibition Order (DSPO) Pilot Scheme Bill 2020 (the Bill) which provides police with extraordinary powers in circumstances where adequate powers currently exist to search and seize items related to drug activity.

The Second Reading Speech highlights that the purpose of the Bill is to “assist police to gather evidence of drug supply and drug manufacture effectively and efficiently”. The Bill is designed to have a “deterrent effect on a person subject to a DSPO, who may reconsider whether re‑engaging in a lifestyle involving the manufacture or supply of illicit drugs is worth the increased risk of police detection and further conviction”.

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Policy: ICAC role and funding

2020 NSWCCL AGM

Item 9.2 Policy on ICAC

 NSWCCL strongly affirms the crucial role of the Independent Commission Against Corruption in NSW. As Richard Ackland writes, the episode currently playing out with respect to Daryl Maguire, and incidentally, Gladys Berejiklian, is “a timely reminder of the disinfecting sunlight that ICAC is capable of shining”.[1] To quote our President, “while the present proceedings may not encourage federal parliamentarians to move forward more speedily with a federal ICAC, they are certainly encouraging the electors to push for one.”[2]

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