right to protest protected by lawbreaking police

Thursday, 1 May 2003 NSWCCL media release: 13/2003


NSW Council for Civil Liberties President, Mr Cameron Murphy, welcomed a decision by Magistrate Ellis in the Downing Centre Local Court on 1 May 2003 rejecting police evidence obtained in an unlawful search. Two billboards advertising the Victoria Park land development were altered from “Sydney’s new centre of attention” to read “Villawood – Sydney’s new centre of detention”. The defendants were assisted in their case by the NSW Council for Civil Liberties. , 

Mr Murphy said:-- 

“This case first came to our attention because of the important issue of a constitutional right to protest but soon developed into case of police excess.” 

“The billboard alteration was clearly a political protest and should never have been treated as a crime by the police.” 

“There is clearly a big difference between the reality of this event and the crime which these people were charged with. This was a temporary political statement and not the malicious damage that they were charged with.” 

“There must be protection provided in the law so that a right to protest is guaranteed and that this doesn’t happen again. Protestors should not have to rely on police overstepping the law for protection.” 

“This case is a good example of how the police break the law and conduct illegal searches. Fortunately, the police were caught out in this illegal search but many others go unnoticed every day.” 

“We need to ensure that police act within the law, and we urgently need to provide legal protection for people engaging in peaceful protest.”

For Further Information Contact: 

Cameron Murphy, NSWCCL President, 0411-769-769

***A briefing note on the decision and a photograph of the billboard are available upon request.***