NSWCCL in the media

Media Statement: Chris Minns Broken Promise & Backflip on Drug Law Reform

This week Chris Minns has broken his promise to the people of New South Wales. He has abandoned his commitment to the drug law reform agenda he spruiked pre-election.

In Tuesday's budget, there was no funding for the long-promised Drug Summit. There was no funding to support the harm reduction strategies our communities so desperately need.

It has now been 25 years since the last Drug Summit occurred, and each day without action puts our communities further at risk of harm.

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Media Statement: Australia should reconsider weak and ineffectual whistleblower protections

Former Australian Taxation Office debt collector Richard Boyle has lost his appeal against a finding that he was not immune from prosecution under existing whistleblower protections.

Boyle had sought to rely on the Public Interest Disclosure Act, the whistleblowing law for public servants, to shield him from a criminal trial. He applied for a declaration from the South Australian District Court that he was immune from prosecution.

The PID laws shield a person who makes a “public interest disclosure from any civil, criminal or administrative liability (including disciplinary action)” for making the disclosure.

The matter will likely now go back to the District Court where Mr Boyle is expected to face trial in September. 

If convicted, Mr Boyle could face up to 46 years in prison.

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Green Left: NSW Labor’s harmful juvenile bail laws

“Punitive approaches simply don’t work,” says Lydia Shelly, President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties.

In March, the Minns government introduced harsh new bail laws. The Bail and Crimes Amendment Bill 2024 makes it more difficult for juveniles, between 14-18 years old, to get bail. But tougher bail laws are a “tried and failed” method of reducing crime.

The NSWCCL accused the Minns government of taking a reactive policy approach once again and ignoring consistent evidence that increasing incarceration of young people has damaging consequences. As Shelly commented, “When children this young are forced through a criminal legal process, their health, well-being and future are put at risk.”

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The Guardian: NSW knife laws allowing suspects to be scanned without a warrant could be ‘abused by police’

Legal experts have cautioned that proposed laws expanding police powers in New South Wales to randomly "wand" or "scan" individuals for knives without a warrant may be prone to abuse due to the ambiguous language of the legislation.

Jordyn Beazley reported on June 4, 2024, that the NSW legislation, scheduled for debate this week, was developed following stabbings in Bondi Junction, Wakeley, and Coffs Harbour. Despite a 20-year decline in knife crime according to the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, the proposed laws aim to address public safety concerns.

The legislation mirrors Queensland's Jack's Law, implemented after a two-year trial on the Gold Coast following the 2019 death of 17-year-old Jack Beasley. However, Sam Lee, a senior solicitor at Redfern Legal Centre, argued that the NSW legislation lacks the explicit legal safeguards present in Queensland's law, potentially leading to misuse of power by police.

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Media Statement: Safety in Regional and Rural Communities Inquiry

The New South Wales Legislative Assembly Committee on community safety in regional and rural communities is focused on investigating drivers of youth crime in regional and rural NSW and how community safety can be improved.

Rather than empowering the Government to criminalise more conduct, increase sentences, and more permissively incarcerate people, we urge the Committee to look to solutions which focus on the causes of crime, harm minimisation and creating connected and inclusive communities where children can thrive.

Measures taken need to be proportionate to the need for concern. We should not pander to the public “law and order” demands by some politicians and sections of the media through tougher laws and policies which have historically had adverse consequences. The focus should be on addressing underlying issues that lead to harm.

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The Guardian: ‘We should all be furious’: Aboriginal people make up record 31% of adult prison population in NSW

New figures released on Tuesday show that the number of Aboriginal adults and young people in NSW prisons is the highest on record.

In March, the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (Bocsar) reported that the number of Aboriginal adults in prison had hit a record high. Aboriginal adults now make up 31% of the prison population.

“To put that in perspective, in NSW, 3.2% of adults are Aboriginal, and one in 29 Aboriginal men in NSW are currently incarcerated,” said Bocsar executive director Jackie Fitzgerald.

“Alarmingly, NSW is no longer on track to meet its Close the Gap target to reduce the rate of Aboriginal adults in prison.” The goal was to decrease the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults held in custody by at least 15% by 2031.

Of the 12,456 adults in prison in March, 3,841 were Indigenous. This rise is not limited to adults, Fitzgerald noted.

Aboriginal young people now account for two-thirds (66.4%) of the youth detention population, which is also a new record in NSW. The overwhelming majority of Aboriginal youth in detention are on remand (78.4%), mainly for offenses like break and enter (29.3%) and car theft (22.4%).

“This is a crisis we should all be outraged about,” said Nadine Miles, principal legal officer of the Aboriginal Legal Service.

“The mass incarceration of Aboriginal people in NSW is the direct result of government policies developed without community input, which allow continued discrimination against Aboriginal people in the legal system.” NSW Premier Chris Minns acknowledged the statistics as a “major issue” facing the state.

“We want to work with Capo [the NSW Coalition of Aboriginal Peak Organisations] and other peak Indigenous organisations to reduce the rate of incarceration,” Minns said.

“That means addressing the underlying causes of crime in our communities.”

When asked if the state’s proposed knife-wanding laws would increase the number of Aboriginal people in custody, he said it was “difficult to say” but expressed hope that it would lead to a cultural change.

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Media Statement: A weak government will always make weak laws

We call on the Minns Government to abandon these reckless, and ill-conceived laws and instead, convene a meeting of the Government, the Opposition and main stakeholders within the criminal justice system and civil liberties community to chart a way forward with respect to bail and criminal law reform.

We call on the Minns Government to stop their reckless and reactive policy announcements and commit, like the previous Liberal Government did, to utilise the established State Government law reform bodies such as the Law Reform Commission and the Sentencing Council, to drive evidence based policy solutions.

New South Wales now has the highest rate of adults on remand on record, as well as the number of Aboriginal adults on record on remand. We have officially abandoned the Close the Gap target. The Premier has introduced changes to bail that will see our prison populations explode for people charged with offences but who have not been convicted of any criminal offence.

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Media Statement: It is not books that Cumberland Council should fear – it is their own prejudice

We are aware that the Cumberland Councillors are meeting tomorrow to vote on whether they should overturn their discriminatory decision to ban Holly Duhig’s book “A Focus on Same-Sex Parents”.

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties calls on the Cumberland Councillors to overturn their motion and publicly affirm that they will abide by their own Code of Conduct, but the values of equality, diversity, and freedom of expression. 

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Guardian: Labor councillor stands by vote to ban same-sex parenting books in Sydney council libraries – as it happened

Book banning does not ‘bode well for social cohesion’, civil liberties council says

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties says the decision of a Sydney council to ban a book on same-sex parenting is “out of step with Australian values and is discriminatory”.

NSWCCL president Lydia Shelly said that banning books is the “polar opposite” of what public libraries are intended for – to provide “essential repositories of knowledge and information [with] spaces for learning, exploration, and intellectual freedom”.

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Media Statement: Happy birthday to the Kings Cross Medically Supervised Injecting Centre

This month marks twenty-three years since the opening of the Uniting Medically Supervised Injecting Centre in King's Cross. With no deaths from drug overdose on the premises since the beginning of operation, this is an incredible milestone, delivering decades of lifesaving, compassionate and evidence-based care to some of the most vulnerable people in our community.

In 1999, the Carr Government hosted a NSW Drug Summit that recommended the establishment of a medically supervised injecting centre.

In the years since, the Centre has provided supervision for over 1.28 million injections, provided clinical support during 11,371 overdoses without a single death, and made nearly 23,000 health and welfare referrals. The Centre has become a model of care for harm reduction across the globe.

The Uniting Medically Supervised Injecting Centre is a story of evidence-based harm reduction policy in action. Yet, the current NSW Government has seemingly stalled on the further progress it promised.

Last week NSW Council for Civil Liberties came together with leaders in the sector including Uniting, ACON, Unharm, Drug Offender Program and USYD to talk about what’s driving this inaction and what can, and should, happen to reform NSW Drug Laws.

The promised Drug Summit is an election commitment that has not yet been delivered. It should be an opportunity to recast the problematic use of drugs as a matter of public health policy with whole of government implications, but we are yet to have a date. The NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Uniting, ACON, Unharm and the Drug Offender Program call on the Minns Government to commit to a date and to a community inclusive agenda for the 2024 Drug Summit.

SIGN OUR PETITION HERE calling on all NSW Parliamentarians to support a 2024 NSW Drug Summit which takes an all of government approach, and the program includes public forums, regional and rural engagement, diverse and multicultural communities; meaningful engagement with stakeholders across festivals, nightlife venues, community groups, legal and justice stakeholders, the education sector and the health sector.

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