Death Penalty

NSWCCL's policy is total opposition to the death penalty under all circumstances and in all countries.

NSWCCL has been advocating on behalf of the abolition of the death penalty in Australia and globally since it began. Now that the death penalty has been abolished in Australia, NSWCCL remains a strong advocate for Australians and others on death row.

On this page you will find...

  1. Information about the death penalty in Australia.
  2. Information about the death penalty in international law.
  3. Information about the death penalty in Europe.
  4. Information about the death penalty in the United States of America.
  5. Information about the current status and history of Australians on Death Row.
  6. Information about the current NSWCCL Policy on the Death Penalty.

  

Latest NSWCCL activity

CCL at Religious Discrimination Bill protest rally

Despite the rain, NSWCCL Committee member, Lydia Shelly (pictured) spoke at Sydney's No Right to Discriminate: Religious Discrimination Bill protest rally this month. Lydia spoke to the CCL position on the bill, how religious groups have been co-opted, and the implications of the proposed bill.

CCL supports the need for a law against religious discrimination, but this Bill subverts key principles as to the ‘indivisibility and equality’ of human rights. It grossly over-privileges religious rights to the detriment of other rights. It seriously weakens existing anti-discrimination laws. It will cause harm to many groups and generate dissension and ill-will in our community.

It is CCL's view that the Government must withdraw this Bill and start again with a better and more cohesive process. More detail on CCL position HERE.

*Lydia Shelly is a lawyer and student in terrorism and security studies, and  a Committee Member, NSW Council for Civil Liberties.

 Here we share the speech Lydia gave at the rally.


 

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Walking together for a better future

In 2018, CCL endorsed the recommendations of the Final Report of the National Constitutional Convention, held at Uluru in 2017. CCL resolved to call on the Australian Government/Parliament to respect and act on the recommendations of the Report and to progress the Uluru Statement From The Heart recommendation for a constitutionally enshrined First Nations a Voice to the Commonwealth Parliament. The Convention also called for the establishment of a ‘Makaratta Commission’ to oversee the process of truthtelling and agreement making, referencing the notion, 'nothing about us, without us'. 

CCL also supports extra-constitutional recognition of the unique role played by First Nations communities in Australia. This would be a clear assertion of self-determination, with the potential to profoundly benefit First Nations Peoples.

In late 2019 we founded our First Nations Justice Action Group to plan and guide our work in this space.

CCL joins advocates and community leaders to talk First Nations Justice

Recently, CCL was invited to join a meeting at Australia Hall with advocates and First Nations community leaders to talk about paths forward for recognition of truth, for self-determination, and First Nations justice. Present were representatives from Reconciliation NSW, Change the RecordAustralians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR), Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land CouncilAboriginal Catholic Ministry and the Jewish Board of Deputies. Also attending were community members who are passionate about progress on justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 

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Strip search inquiry cut short

NSWCCL condemns the premature closure of the inquiry into potentially illegal strip searches conducted on minors by police in NSW. The Guardian has revealed that the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) confirmed it will no longer hold further hearings as part of the inquiry, which last year uncovered evidence of the widespread misuse of strip search powers by police in NSW.  

The LECC had been due to hold more public hearings in either late January or February into the psychological impacts of strip searching on minors, but in a brief statement a spokeswoman for the LECC said it now had “no intention to call further evidence at this stage”.

The decision to cut the inquiry short comes just a month after the NSW government announced it would not renew the term of its chief commissioner, Michael Adams QC, which prompted accusations his removal was a “cynical” attempt to cut the inquiry short.

Held in October and December, the public hearings revealed a disturbing pattern of police misusing strip search powers on minors, as well as evidence that many police do not understand the laws governing strip searches. Police data referenced at the inquiry shows that routinely, strip searches are not being used only in 'serious and urgent circumstances', indicating widespread contravention of the law.

Evidence tabled shows that when 30 teenagers were strip searched at an underage Sydney music festival in February 2019, just five had an appropriate adult present. Presence of a parent/guardian is mandatory under the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act for anyone aged between 10 and 18.

In one case a 16-year-old girl was fearful and in tears after she was forced to strip naked and squat in front of a police officer who then “looked underneath” her at the Splendour in the Grass festival in 2018.

NSW Council for Civil Liberties Vice-President, Dr Eugene Schofield-Georgeson states, "This inquiry was key to uncovering processes and investigating questionable practices. Reform is needed, both internal police practice, as well as legislative reform. Clarification of strip search powers in both the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 (NSW), and in regulations, was recommended by UNSW law academics Dr Michael Grewcock and Dr Vicki Sentas in Rethinking Strip Searches by NSW Police. It's important people, particularly minors, are aware of their rights when asked by police to submit to a strip search." 

This issue is "about changing the conversation about policing in NSW," explains Redfern Legal Centre head of police accountability Samantha Lee. "It's a conversation that talks about minimising harms, securing dignity and still keeping the community safe."

Strip search practices raise major issues of police accountability. Strip searches are on the rise in New South Wales, with searches increasing by 46.8 percent over four years and on average, in 64 percent of cases, nothing unlawful is being found. Find out more in Rethinking Strip Searches by NSW Police, commissioned by Redfern Legal Centre and published by UNSW Law.

- NSWCCL President, Nick Cowdery AO QC

Contact: office@nswccl.org.au


NSWCCL, Redfern Legal Centre and 2SER are collaborating on Strip searches and the law: Project Podcast. The episodes will cover issues such as what to do if you, your family or friends are approached by police and or drug detection dogs, and what powers police have to search, seize, detain and arrest.

Will you help us make Project Podcast happen? We are looking for community support to produce the episodes. For an organisation like ours that relies on members and supporters to further our work, every dollar counts. 

Please support this project with a donation today.


NSWCCL calls for withdrawal of revised religious discrimination bill

NSWCCL has made a submission on the Government's second exposure draft of the Religious Discrimination Bill 2019. This follows our highly critical, but nonetheless, slightly hopeful submission on the first exposure draft of the Bill in October last year. We had been hopeful that the many problems civil liberties and human rights groups had identified in the Bill might be addressed, so that this second version would provide much needed protections against religious discrimination -particularly for minority religions - which are appropriately balanced with the rights of other groups in the Australian community. 

The draft Bill's up-front objectives are spot-on: to eliminate discrimination on the grounds of religious belief; to ensure everyone has the same rights to equality before the law and that people can make statements of religious belief- all subject to reasonable restrictions. Most significantly they affirm the 'indivisibility and universality of human rights and their equal status in international law.' (Clause 3) 

However the new draft  Bill fails to deliver on these objectives - it dangerously expands the over-privileging of religious rights in relation to other rights, weakens existing protections available for other groups under current state and federal anti-discrimination laws.  If it becomes law, this Bill will increase  discrimination against and harm for many groups in the Australian community. 

It seems clear that the objects of the draft Bill have been distorted by the insertion of numerous provisions for the sole reason of conceding to the demands of major religious groups for both exceptionally broad rights and protections from discrimination by others and an extraordinary range of exemptions and exceptions amounting to an extensive right to discriminate against others with legal impunity.

In summary, NSWCCL considers this second exposure draft Bill privileges religious rights to the detriment of other rights and weakens existing anti-discrimination laws much more seriously than did the first exposure draft. We are firmly of the belief that the Government must withdraw the Bill and start again with a better and more cohesive process. 

 

 NSWCCL submission on the second exposure draft RDB

 


Religious Discrimination Bill: a Trojan Horse

Media Coverage: The Guardian

- Article by NSWCCL Committee Member, Lydia Shelly, lawyer and student in terrorism and security studies.

'‘For Muslims, this bill is a Trojan horse. It will enshrine prejudice and discrimination into law."

This article brings to light the very real challenges that the Religious Discrimination Bill 2019 raises for people of minority faiths and the LGBTQI community.

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Protesting the planet is not a crime

Freedom of speech and protest are fundamental to a democratic political process. NSWCCL affirms support for urgent action, at the federal and state levels, to combat the severe, climate change threat.

On January 31st, we joined climate defenders at the Downing Centre before they headed into court. They were arrested in December at Kirribilli House while protesting in favour of climate action. Those arrested included Greens MP David Shoebridge. He was charged with disobeying a police direction to move on.

NSWCCL Secretary Michelle Falstein spoke to those gathered saying that citizens of this state should not fear the police when exercising their constitutional rights and that, change in the policy of intimidation by the NSW police force, is clearly required.

David Shoebridge told the crowd, "Most of us will be pleading not guilty today because we refuse to bow to police and government pressure - they cannot police their way out of the climate crisis". 

We will keep you updated as to the date fixed for hearing of the charges.

 

 


Strip searches and the law: Project Podcast 2020

$2,910.00 raised
GOAL: $5,000.00

NSWCCL, Redfern Legal Centre and 2SER are collaborating on Strip searches and the law: Project Podcast. Strip search practices raise major issues of police accountability. Strip searches are on the rise in New South Wales, with searches increasing by 46.8 percent over four years and on average, in 64 percent of cases, nothing unlawful is found. Find out more in Rethinking Strip Searches by NSW Police, commissioned by Redfern Legal and published by UNSW Law.

The episodes will answer many of the common questions about your rights/your teenager's rights, and will explore some of the issues behind the rising number of searches across NSW.

We are aiming to produce several podcast episodes that will be written by community and academic lawyers and produced with the help of 2SER Radio. The episodes will cover issues like what to do if you are approached by police and or drug detection dogs, and what powers police have to search, seize, detain and arrest.

We'll hear personal stories from the field - people who have experienced detection and searches at music festivals, sporting events and going about daily life. If you'd like to share your story with us, please email: office@nswccl.org.au.

Will you help us make Project Podcast happen? We are looking for community support to produce the episodes. For an organisation like ours that relies on members and supporters to further our work, every dollar counts. 

Please support this project with a donation today!

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Correspondence with the NSW AG

In August CCL wrote to the NSW Attorney General on a number of matters relating to the administration of justice. We recently received a response from the Attorney General

We remained deeply concerned that, despite the Government Commissioning reports to address the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in custody, the statistics remain shamefully high. We remain uninformed about the details of the specific additional funding/initiatives. It is important that these initiatives are detailed to the community so that the community, in particular the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, are in a position to evaluate government action in relation to this crucial issue.

We call upon the government, as a starting point to:

  • Fund the Walama Court (specific sentencing court for Aboriginal people); 
  • Fund residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation centres in a regional areas (noting many regional areas simply do not have a residential rehabilitation facility, making it difficult if not impossible for people to access the assistance they need thus leaving individuals, families and communities vulnerable to the devastating impacts of serious addiction)     
  • Establish a committee led by the advice and knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander justice and health professionals to implement the recommendations of the ALRC pathways report (insert link). The committee should include Federal and State representatives to ensure there is a whole of government response to addressing this important issue.

 

NSWCCL letter to Mark Speakman, Attorney General (26th August 2019)

Return correspondence from the Attorney General (Dated January 2020)

 

NSWCCL Action Group Convenors, First Nations Justice - Rebecca McMahon, and Criminal justice, police powers and mental health, Dr Eugene Schofield-Georgeson

 


Concerning additions to census collection topics

NSWCCL provided a submission to the Australian Treasury on the Census and Statistics Amendment (Statistical Information) Regulations 2019 (Regs) amending the Census and Statistics Regulation 2016. This amendment makes significant and concerning changes to the regulation which we oppose on privacy grounds.

Whilst NSWCCL supports the updating of the statistical information topics for inclusion in the census we oppose mandatory collection of sensitive health information and its storage for 4 years by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

The amendment proposes the insertion of a new topic relating to health conditions diagnosed by a doctor or a nurse which must be answered by all respondents.  The rationale is that this information will assist health service planning and delivery.

We oppose this proposal is given the retention of that information by the ABS.

In 2016 the Australian government reinstated a plan to retain names and addresses from the census, a move which leaves open the opportunity for a future government to access sensitive personal information. NSWCCL appreciates the need for longitudinal studies but considers these can be conducted on a sample basis.  We continue to support the prior approach to the census which collected important census information but which was disassociated from the individual identification data.  

As a minimum we recommend the ABS conduct an adequate, independent, publicly available, Privacy Impact Statement (PIA).

We also registered our objection to the timing of the consultation period which ended on 10th January to the Xmas/NY holiday period.  This does not suggest a serious desire to generate community input to the review process.

 

NSWCCL submission


Australian doctors' plea for Assange

Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans has rallied a group of over 100 doctors who have written to the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Marise Payne asking that the Australian government meet its obligation to its citizen and intervene for wellbeing of Julian Assange.

The doctors' action follows warnings from medical and human rights experts that Mr Assange’s health is rapidly deteriorating and that he might die in a UK prison where he is being held pending US extradition hearings that begin in February.

Extract from the #Doctors4Assange letter:

'We call upon you to intervene as a matter of urgency. As Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, you have an undeniable legal obligation to protect your citizen against the abuse of his fundamental human rights, stemming from US efforts to extradite Mr Assange for journalism and publishing that exposed US war crimes.

“The evidence is overwhelming and clear.. Mr. Assange has been deliberately exposed, for a period of several years, to progressively severe forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the cumulative effects of which can only be described as psychological torture.” - UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Professor Nils Melzer

On 1 November 2019, Professor Melzer was forced to intervene once more: “What we have seen from the UK Government's outright contempt for Mr Assange’s rights and integrity... Despite the medical urgency of my appeal, and the seriousness of the alleged violations, the UK has not undertaken any measures of investigation, prevention and redress required under international law.” He concluded: “Unless the UK urgently changes course and alleviates his inhumane situation, Mr Assange’s continued exposure to arbitrariness and abuse may soon end up costing his life.”

These are extraordinary and unprecedented statements by the world’s foremost authority on torture. The Australian government has shamefully been complicit by its refusal to act, over many years. Should Mr Assange die in a British prison, people will want to know what you, Minister, did to prevent his death.

We urge you to negotiate Julian Assange’s safe passage from Belmarsh Prison to an appropriate hospital setting in Australia, before it is too late.'

 

If you are a doctor and wish to join the campaign, please contact - doctors4assange@gmail.com

Read the letter HERE and the ADDENDUM.