On the use of sniffer dogs, and unacceptably broad police powers of exclusion at Sydney Olympic Park

NSW Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) has condemned the six-month bans handed out to patrons of the Above and Beyond music festival, on the basis of identification by drug sniffer dogs. NSW Police announced before the event that they would exclude patrons, regardless of whether any drugs were found after indications by the drug dogs.

CCL is deeply concerned by these bans. According to the NSW Ombudsman, when drug dogs indicate a person has drugs on them, those dogs are right about a quarter of the time. NSW Police have reportedly ripped up the tickets of people just because they were identified by drug dogs, even when no drugs were found. In effect, the police have declared a willingness to infringe on the rights of people who have done nothing wrong.

The tickets in question cost over a hundred dollars. To treat those people in that way shows a fundamental lack of respect for their rights, and for due process. To make matters worse, this police harassment has been followed by six month bans from the Olympic Park. It is incredible that people who have done nothing wrong should be subjected to this kind of treatment, without any kind of natural justice or due process.

The Sydney Olympic Park Authority Regulations give incredibly wide scope for exclusions from Olympic Park. It gives the Authority, or its delegates the police, extremely broad discretions. These include the power to “prohibit categories of persons from entering”, or to “prohibit persons from entering” if they are in “possession of any specified thing”. Giving police these kinds of wide-ranging powers infringes civil liberties, because such powers are subject to abuse. Police behaviour on the weekend demonstrates why such provisions are inappropriate.

Greens representative David Shoebridge has indicated that legal action will be taken to defend the rights of those excluded from the event. CCL will follow this matter with interest.

Stephen Blanks


NSW Council for Civil Liberties