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Police officer punched in face during routine questioning

A man was filmed allegedly punching a police officer in a full-blown assault captured on camera during a routine traffic stop in Western Sydney.

The hit occurred as Emad Khassem was being arrested at Merrylands before he fled.The officer then appears to pepper spray him in the face.

The incident is an all-too common occurrence for police on the beat, according to former detective Tim Priest. "Typical these days of what police are confronted with, there's just absolutely no respect for authority anymore," Mr Priest told 7 News.

Mr Khassem was charged with resist arrest and assaulting police although it's not clear what led to him apparently being pepper-sprayed.

NSW Council of Civil Liberties Stephen Blanks noted, "It's clearly something which is going to have to examined in its whole context when the matter goes to court."

Article/VideoPolice officer punched in face during routine questioning

Source: Channel 7 News

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February 2017 Newsletter

National issues | Defending s18C and the AHRC...again! | Asylum Seekers | Ratification of OPCAT | Civil Liberties perspective on a national integrity body | Access to telecommunications data in civil proceedings

NSW Issues | New police oversight body | Defending the right to protest | Know your Rights Booklet | Reorganisation of Justice portfolio 

CCL Issues | 10th Anniversary Marsden Lecture | Submissions | Join an Action Group 

Download February 2017 Newsletter

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November 2016 Newsletter

National issues | Asylum Seekers | Counter-terrorism  

NSW Issues | Revenge Porn Inquiry | Civil Oversight of NSW Police  

CCL Issues | Annual Dinner | Annual General Meeting 2016 | Submissions | Join an Action Group 

Download November 2016 Newsletter

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August 2016 Newsletter

National issues | Census | Asylum Seekers | Royal Commission into Northern Territory Juvenile Detention  

NSW Issues | Anti-protest legislation | Euthanasia Bill  

CCL Issues | Annual Dinner | Submissions | Update from National Security and Counter-terrorism Action Group | Join an Action Group 

Download August 2016 Newsletter

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Submission: Access to telecommunications data in civil proceedings

NSWCCL recently lodged a submission with the Attorney General’s Department and the Department of Communications and Arts in January 2017. We reiterated our view that the current metadata scheme is an affront to civil liberties and oppose its extension into civil proceedings. Extension of the uses to which metadata may be put is one of the reasons that we opposed the introduction of laws requiring collection and retention of metadata in the first place.

In our submission we noted the international experience, which suggests that metadata rarely makes a difference in criminal investigations. 

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Senate reactivates inquiry into a national integrity body

In February 2016 a Senate Select Committee was set up to ‘inquire into whether a national integrity commission should be established to address institutional, organisational, political and electoral, and individual corruption and misconduct.’ NSWCCL gave some time to considering what position –if any-  it would take on this contentious matter,  however the Turnbull-generated double dissolution meant the Inquiry lapsed.

The Committee produced an interim report of no great consequence  in that it did not go beyond recommending further research into appropriate anti-corruption systems. It did however canvass the issues with the current system in some detail and it did conclude that there were shortcomings that needed addressing. Even this cautious conclusion was too much for the two government members of the committee (Eric Abetz and David Johnson) and they included a dissenting view that there was no evidence of such shortcomings. 

The inquiry attracted  some very useful submissions - notably that of the Law Council and the NSW ICAC. 

The political debate as to the need for a national anti-corruption body is again very much alive. Not surprisingly, the Senate moved  as soon as the current session began to reactivate an inquiry into whether a National Integrity Commission is needed and if so its scope and power.  It is to report by 15th August.  Senator Gallagher moved the resolution on behalf of the leader of the ALP  in the Senate (Penny Wong). 

This Senate decision pre-empted a motion later that day from the leader of the Greens, Senator Di Natale  calling on the Senate to bypass an inquiry and  move straight to the establishment of ‘an independent federal anti-corruption commission to oversee federal members of parliament and the public service”. This was defeated.

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Calls for 'Burka Ban' from NSW backbencher

The Member for Davidson, Jonathan O'Dea, said the burka should not be worn in public and police should be given powers to enforce its removal, saying Politicians should accept "reasonable societal norms" and ban the burka.

Mr O'Dea said his stance was not racially discriminatory because it would be extended to masks and helmets.

"Unless mainstream political parties respect what are are commonly acceptable and reasonable societal norms then it gives space for people like Pauline Hanson to capitalise and play on racial or religious bigotry," he said.

Stephen Blanks from the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties said the Premier Gladys Berejiklian should dismiss the calls.

"We really have to think carefully about who in society we want to criminalise [and] subject to the force of the police and the court system," he said.

"We could criminalise all sorts of things some people find annoying. But when you think about it, it just doesn't work for society to do that.

"We have to have a level of tolerance, we have to have a level of restraint."

Article: NSW MP Jonathan O'Dea says 'reasonable people' would support burka ban

Source: ABC News Online

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Oversight of NSW Police - reform or rebadging?

A new body of vital importance to the NSW justice sector -the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) – was set up in January following the passage of The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission Act last year. It brings together the oversight and investigative roles of the Police Integrity Commission, the Police Division of the Office of the Ombudsman and the Inspector of the Crime Commission into a single civilian body to oversight police operations.  It has royal commission type powers in some contexts. Its oversight powers relate to the NSW Police Force and the NSW Crimes Commission.

It is the latest outcome from the long (and unfinished) campaign to achieve effective independent oversight of NSW Police operations and was largely shaped by the recommendations of the 2015 Tink Report.  There are grounds to expect this body will significantly improve some aspects of police oversight and accountability but there are gaps and weaknesses in its structure which do not augur well for the much needed reform of police culture in critical areas and may undermine its overall effectiveness. 

 

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Defending s18C of RDA -AGAIN !

Both s18c of the Race Discrimination Act and the Australian Human Rights Commission are again under serious attack from the Federal Government. 

George Brandis’ attempt to weaken s18c in 2014 was soundly repudiated by the Australian people and the then PM (Abbott) wisely retreated and abandoned the amendment.  NSWCCL strongly opposed the Brandis Bill and thought the Government unlikely to try again given the depth of community anger aroused by the proposal..

We were misguided. Emboldened by the recent rise of the far right here and overseas – and within the Liberal Party - the Government is now targeting not just the legal protections against racist abuse provided under s18C but also the processes of the AHRC which have served Australia well for 20 plus years.

This new push poses a serious threat to the protections currently provided by the RDA and to the AHRC. We have therefore again joined many others in arguing the case against weakening s18C and in supporting the overwhelmingly positive record of the AHRC in resolving the vast majority of complaints effectively through conciliation while dismissing those that are trivial or vexatious.  We are not aware of any cases under the RDA which have unreasonably constrained freedom of speech in Australia.  

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Anti-lockout rally shut down: do you have the right to protest?

NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione has taken the Keep Sydney Open group to the Supreme Court over their plans for a protest in Kings Cross.

Keep Sydney Open organiser Tyson Koh says he was told about the Friday court hearing on Thursday evening and scrambled to find “a silk, two barristers and two solicitors” by the next day. Police argued Keep Sydney Open hadn’t properly planned for the event and pointed to a lack of security, traffic planning and mass evacuation and crowd dispersal plans. But Koh’s lawyers argued police had never asked for these things during the permit application process.

Judge Geoff Lindsay considered both perspectives but ultimately sided with the police, in making a prohibition order to stop the protest going ahead.

The president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties Stephen Blanks says while protesting is generally legal, there are some conditions.

“The law is that you should give the police seven days notice of an intention to hold a public assembly or protest,” he told Hack.

“If you have given the seven days notice you cannot be prosecuted for causing obstruction. You’ve got that immunity unless the commissioner of police applies to the Supreme Court in order to prohibit the assembly,” said Blanks.

And once it’s in court, it can go either way.

"There have been occasions where protests have been planned around important international events and the court has been reluctant to allow protesters that would potentially interfere with those kinds of events.”

Stephen Blanks says there “isn’t any exact criteria” for the court to apply.

“On this occasion the court has succumbed to police pressure and the public safety line. We’ve seen that a few times in the last couple of years."

“Unfortunately (you) have no legal protection under the Summary Offences act for causing obstruction. So yes people can turn up and protest but they have to do it in a way that doesn’t cause obstruction to anyone else,” said Blanks.

“There’s no law about holding a sign. So it would be an interesting test if people do go to the area where the protest was to be held and do want to deliver a message."

In a statement, a spokesperson for the NSW Police Force said they were committed to working with all protest groups but they were not just concerned about safety - they were also taking into account any possible impacts on businesses and residents.

ArticleAnti-lockout rally shut down: do you have the right to protest?

Source: ABC (Triple J-Hack)

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Video of violent western Sydney arrest prompts concerns over police use of force

In a video posted to social media, a NSW police officer is seen using pepper spray while another knees a man to the ribcage during an arrest in Mount Druitt.

Police had been called to the scene, after a 17-year-old girl allegedly threatened to kill a shop assistant after slamming a trolley through a glass door. The man in the video was eventually arrested and charged with obstructing police.

Former police officer, NSW Police Minister and now state MLC Mike Gallacher said the footage highlights the dangers officers put themselves in but according to civil libertarians, there was no need for officers to strike or knee the man they were trying to arrest.

“That does look like gratuitous violence by the police by someone who they were able to overpower and arrest,” NSW Council for Civil Liberties spokesperson Stephen Blanks said.

See Article, with VideoShocking video shows police officer knee man in ribcage during violent western Sydney arrest

Source: Channel 7 News

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Advocates predict ‘abolition of privacy’ with mooted law changes in civil and family disputes

Divorce lawyers could soon have access to the web, phone and email sessions of every private user in a scheme which has been slammed as “the most intrusive of any developed country”.

Since October 2015, all telephone and internet service providers have been required by law to retain for two years all their clients’ metadata including voice, text and email communications, time, date and device locations and internet sessions. The requirement was said to be needed for national security.

Now the Attorney-General’s department is seeking submissions by January 27 in a review looking to extend access of retained metadata to lawyers acting for clients in civil litigation.

President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties Stephen Blanks said the move for feuding partners to be allowed to demand internet and phone data history “exposes the inherent problem with the collection of personal information”.

Mr Blanks said the government’s original justification for the laws was that the information could be used to fight serious crime and terrorism but, having got the laws passed, was seeking to open up the use of the data to way beyond those justifications.

“The idea that there is now a data set that can be accessible for any court at all represents the abolition of any privacy,” Mr Blanks said.

“You can’t have an internet or telephone simply for the purpose of browsing online, sending emails or for the purpose of telecommunications — the price of doing those very ordinary things is going to be a traceable data set about everything you’ve done and everywhere you’ve been.

“This kind of permission for using this data generally in litigation represents the complete abolition of the idea that information is gathered and used only for the purpose for which it was really intended.

“Instead it represents the idea that if it exists and can be used for any purpose at all, then it’s legitimate to do so. That is an idea that ought to be rejected.”

The department plans to deliver the findings by April 13.

Article:Advocates predict ‘abolition of privacy’ with mooted law changes in civil and family disputes

Source:The Herald Sun

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Submission: Inquiry into Freedom of Speech in Australia

As one of the most racially and ethnically diverse nations in the world an effective statutory protection against race hatred is an essential safeguard for national harmony. NSWCCL believes the main issue with s18C centres on the lack of clarity of its terms. NSWCCL recommends only those amendments necessary to bring the section in line with its interpretation in case law and/or Australia’s international human rights obligations

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John Marsden Memorial Lecture 2016

marsden.jpeg

Jim Marsden welcomes the audience and gave powerful personal insight into his brother John's life

On 1 December 2016 the NSWCCL and the Marsden family hosted the 2016 John Marsden Memorial Lecture. John Marsden was a former President of the NSWCCL, former President of the NSW Law Society and activist for LGBTIQ rights and civil liberties. The event was held at the Masonic Centre in Sydney. It was a particularly successful and well-attended event, with over 120 people. Jim Marsden welcomed the audience and gave a powerful personal insight into his brother John's life, which was so tragically damaged by society's then deeply hostile attitude to homosexuals. Read more here.

Pauline Wright, Vice President of the NSWCCL and President elect of the New South Wales Law Society, spoke briefly of her experience as a young lawyer working for John Marsden, before introducing The Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG (an honorary life member of NSWCCL.)

Michael Kirby began with some thoughts on his friend John Marsden, including that John had chosen to be more “in your face” about his sexuality than others at the time. 

Kirby's speech (SEE FULL SPEECH HERE) reminded us of the contribution of John Marsden to the education of LGBTIQ students, noting that attendees at the lecture included recipients of scholarships that he established at the University of Western Sydney.

He mentioned prior John Marsden memorial lectures, by Anand Grover, Professor Jenni Millbank and then DPP Nick Cowdery (now an active member of the NSWCCL Committee). He thanked Nick Cowdery for his presence at this lecture.

Michael’s topic was John Marsden, LGBTIQ Rights today: the Ongoing Challenge for Equality. He delivered a clear and illuminating update on LGBTIQ rights issues from an international perspective, organized around a summary of the good news, the bad news and breaking news.

The good news concerns the greater acceptance of LGBTIQ rights and the important legislative improvements that have occurred in many countries in recent years. He noted that in the last 16 years, a very short time relatively speaking, many countries have enacted laws for marriage equality.

Sadly in Australia, out of step with other advanced democracies around the world, we do not yet have marriage equality. Michael Kirby’s reaffirmed his well-known opposition to the plebiscite and listed many other important legislative changes that have not required a plebiscite. Neither should marriage equality. Michael considered that with the blocking of the plebiscite, marriage equality in Australia is certainly a few more years away.

In his summary of the bad news he drew particular attention to the disturbing fact that in many countries around the world, including many Commonwealth countries, violence against LGBTIQ people is endemic.

As breaking news news, Michael reported on a recent important Human Rights Council resolution establishing the appointment of an expert to investigate violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

It was not an uncontested outcome. African nations in early November forced a vote on whether the appointment of the expert should be delayed. Thankfully that resolution was blocked. However, the vote in favour of the appointment of the expert was close. Several countries abstained or failed to vote. If they had voted, it is entirely possible the vote may have gone the other way.

This is a sobering situation, given that this issue is not about marriage equality or other rights, but violence against LGBTIQ people - a fundamental right that people should not fear violence just because of their sexual orientation.

The audience response to Michael's speech made it clear that they appreciated his informative summary of the state of LGBTIQ rights around the world.

Louise Marsden (one of Johns sisters) gave a vote of thanks to Michael Kirby. In passing she noted their Catholic father's injunction that she and her siblings should not only love well, but love whoever they choose.

The evening finished in a convivial atmosphere, sharing drinks and canapés with old and new friends. It was a fitting reminder of the trail blazing work of John Marsden.

We would like to express our sincere thanks to the Marsden family for supporting the evening.

 

Therese Cochrane

Secretary 

 

Links:

Jim Marsden Speech

Michael Kirby Speech

JM.jpg  PW_and_MK_1.jpg LM2.jpg

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Steep rise in police requests for Opal data to track people on NSW public transport

Law enforcement agencies are dramatically increasing their use of Opal card public transport data to track the movements of people in New South Wales, with approvals for data more than doubling this year.

Internal documents also reveal that police can be handed the information of “collateral cardholders”, or people who are not suspects, when their person of interest’s identity is unknown.

The details of collateral cardholders may be handed over when police request details of all travellers who have used their card at a particular time and place. That may occur, for example, when police have seen a suspect on CCTV, but do not know who they are. 

The vice-president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Pauline Wright, said the number of refusals showed that “inappropriate requests are surely being made”.

“Our view still is that requests for this kind of information should only be able to be made by warrant, rather than leaving it up to the discretion of Transport NSW,” she said. “Clearly there’s been a huge increase in two years in the number of requests, so one can only surmise that the circumstances in which those requests are being made are broadening.

“So as police realise how easy it is to get this, there’s a real potential that it’s being requested in completely inappropriate circumstances.”

Article: Steep rise in police requests for Opal data to track people on NSW public transport

Source: The Guardian

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Stephen Blanks talks anti-protest laws with Colin Hesse

Stephen Blanks, President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties discusses anti-protest legislation enacted by the NSW Government, its impact on community opposition to WestConnex and the way the legislation is used by business, government and the police.

"The right to protest guards against the dynamism of politics and society. Freedom to express your opinion in spite of pressure is an important aspect of the NSW democracy."

"We have also had longstanding concerns with the way in which this unit of police has been deployed specifically to suppress protest, and its a paramilitary force which is not a thing of balance between protesters and the community. They are designed to oppress protesters. Protesters should be looking TO police for protection, not the other way around. To turn the police into an anti-protest riot squad is a huge infringement of democracy"

Hear full interview below:

Audio: Stephen Blanks talks anti-protest laws w Colin Hesse

Source: SkidRow Radio 88

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Stephen Blanks talks to Ombudsman's Report on review of firearm prohibition search orders

The NSW Ombudsman report on "Review of police use of the firearms prohibition order search powers" was released yesterday, leading some commentators to point out that the orders and redundant, unnecessary and improperly used. 

Stephen Blanks talked with Robbie Buck on ABC 702 morning radio to explain some of the issues raised by the report.

Audio: Breakfast with Robbie Buck (interview at 1:20:00)

Source: ABC 702 Radio

Transcript: See Here

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Parliamentary committee backs call to keep terrorists in jail after sentences expire

A parliamentary committee has endorsed new laws allowing convicted terrorists to be kept in jail once their sentences expire, provided a court rules they pose a threat to society.The strengthening of Australia's counter-terrorism laws was recommended by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull earlier this year after high-profile terror attacks in Orlando, Nice and Paris.

On Friday, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security recommended the laws be introduced along with 23 amendments.

Civil liberties groups expressed concern about the proposed laws earlier this year claiming they were a distraction and window-dressing.

"People who have been convicted of serious terrorism offences are in jail for many years to come, we're not being told who is about to be released that they're concerned about," New South Wales Council of Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks said.

Article: Parliamentary committee backs call to keep terrorists in jail after sentences expire

Source: ABC News

*PJCIS REPORT can be viewed online here*

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Policy statement (2016) - Juvenile justice

1. NSWCCL advocates for a juvenile justice system that:

  • Prioritises the child’s best interests, including that it provides education equivalent to their rights within the community
  • Caters for children’s specific needs, particularly in relation to age, physical and mental wellbeing and cultural background;
  • Aims towards rehabilitation and social integration, not punishment, with detention only used as an absolute last resort in exceptional circumstances and for the shortest appropriate period of time;
  • Upholds children’s rights, including the right to liberty, security, freedom from arbitrary detention, and to a fair trial;
  • Ensures accessible and well-funded legal and social support services for children;
  • Treats children with respect and dignity;
  • Protects children from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment;
  • Preserves a child’s relationship with family and community; and
  • Together with other social and educational institutions, undertakes proactive, preventative measures to divert young people from the criminal justice system and prevent re-offending.

 

2. In light of Australia’s human rights obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and associated United Nations juvenile justice guidelines, NSWCCL calls for:

  • The minimum age of children’s criminal responsibility to be raised from 10 to 12 years old across all Australian states and territories;
  • The maximum age of criminal responsibility for young people to be raised to 18 years old;
  • The abolition of mandatory sentencing for children and young people;
  • The reduction of rates of young people in detention pre-trial on remand;
  • Clearer and more consistent prohibitions on punishment for children in detention across all states and territories;
  • The separation of young people younger than 18 years from adults in detention facilities, accompanied by the removal of Australia’s reservations to Articles 10(2)(b) and (3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Article 37(c) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child; and
  • Ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the Third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

 

3. NSWCCL supports policies aimed at reducing the incarceration rates of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. These policies should be developed in a way that is consistent with their rights under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including but not limited to the right to self-determination, autonomy and freedom from discrimination.

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Policy statement (2016) - marriage equality

AGM, October 2016.

Resolution

NSWCCL supports amending the law on marriage so that no discrimination is made between prospective spouses on the basis of their sex; in particular, so that same sex couples can be married, and that those who have same sex marriages they have entered into overseas are recognised as married in Australia.

The arguments supporting this policy position are set out in the following submissions listed below:

2013
NSW Legislative Council’s Standing Committee on Social Issues Inquiry into Same Sex Marriage Law in NSW
2012
Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee concerning the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010
2009
Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee concerning the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2009

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