A man died in police custody in Bowral after a taser was used to subdue him. An investigation into his death will be overseen by the Police Professional Standards Command. President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, discussed the incident on Sunrise.
Blanks emphasised the need for police investigations to be overseen by an independent authority, and highlighted problems with the use of tasers by police.
He said: "The community cannot be satisfied with the police investigating themselves. We’ve seen too many cases where the police twist the facts to exonerate themselves in situations like this."
"The problem with tasers is that there is misunderstanding about their potential lethality. Police can tend to use them in circumstances not realising what the consequences could be."
Watch video: 37yr old dies after tasing
Source: Sunrise, Yahoo!7, 13/01/2014
NSW Council for Civil Liberties co-founder Kep Enderby QC died on 8 January 2015. Media reports credited the “lifelong civil libertarian” with his contributions to politics, the law and civil liberties in Australia.
The Sydney Morning Herald remembered his political and legal achievements through the words of his peers: “Gifted, ebullient, imaginative, well dressed, with a razor sharp mind, gaunt face and beautiful speaking voice, Enderby cut a confident figure.”
“Enderby was one of Australia's most significant and interesting left liberal intellectuals, who was widely respected, despite disagreements, for the passion and honesty he brought to his convictions.”
Article: Former federal Attorney General Kep Enderby remembered among his peers (Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 14/1/2015)
As well as his political and legal career, The Australian highlighted Enderby’s work as the head of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society of NSW, as President of the World Esperanto Association, and his support of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
“Mr Enderby was a lifelong champion of human rights, civil liberties and the underdog; a romantic idealist who learnt Esperanto out of a belief that if the world spoke a single language it would lessen conflict.”
Article: Enderby a man of achievement, from the cockpit to the bench (Source: The Australin, 9/1/2015)
“Age did not weary this crusader. Right up until his later years, Kep Enderby remained a vocal proponent of civil liberties, unafraid to write and speak on controversial issues such as the rights of prisoners. Thanks to the changes Enderby brought about, Australians now suffer less discrimination than they did before his time in politics.”
Article: Vale Kep Enderby (Source: City News Canberra, 12/1/15)
Article: Former Whitlam minister Kep Enderby dies aged 88 (Source: ABC News, 9/1/15)
Two men, who were part of a group of seven told they would be released after Asio reversed its negative security assessment, are still in detention
The head of the New South Wales Council of Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, said Australia had made security determinations about Tamil asylum seekers based on its close relationship with the Sri Lankan government.
Sri Lanka’s outgoing president Mahinda Rajapaksa, whose government was unexpectedly defeated in last week’s election, has been accused of committing war crimes against the Tamil minority in the dying days of the civil war.
“Given the election result in Sri Lanka, it is time for Asio to reassess whether assessments made of Tamils are still relevant,” Blanks told Guardian Australia.
He said he hoped Dutton would take a “fresh look” at the refugees who were still in limbo following adverse security assessments.
“It was never appropriate to lock these people up,” he said.
Blanks said the fact that the refugees had been released quietly over the past few years meant it was likely they were never a real threat to in the first place, but he said the secrecy around the issue meant the public would never know for sure.
Source: The Guardian, 12/1/2015
A group of 10 refugees assessed by ASIO as threats to national security have been freed to live in the Australian community after the agency quietly reversed its decision.
NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks said it was good ASIO had cases under review but the lack of transparency was "completely unsatisfactory".
"The public is entitled to know why these people are locked up, and why the security agency has changed its mind and decided they can be released into the community," Mr Blanks said.
"Locking people up is not something that should be done in secret."
Source: Sydney Morning Herald 11/1/2015
Article: Welcome to the secret society (Source: The Age, 10/1/2015)
A 'one-punch' incident involving two Irish brothers will not be subject to the new mandatory minimum sentencing laws as the accused had a blood-alcohol reading of below 0.15, the minimum threshold for the law to apply.
President Stephen Blanks spoke to Channel 7 News about the case, reaffirming NSWCCL's opposition to arbitrary mandatory minimum sentencing laws:
"Mandatory minimum sentencing is a bad idea because it inherently results in the court being unable to take into account all of the unusual circumstances of a particular case"
Watch video: Brother escapes one-punch laws
Source: 7 News, 4/1/2015
The 33-year-old man, who is being held in the Wickham Point Immigration Detention Centre near Darwin, refused to eat after being denied refugee status.
Human rights lawyer Steven Blanks said there was legislation in place that would allow authorities to save the man's life.
"It authorises the Department of Immigration to direct doctors to provide medical treatment against the consent of asylum seekers where that medical treatment is necessary to preserve their life or health," he said.
The Iranian man has given written instruction that he must not be revived if he loses consciousness.
But Mr Blanks said international standards specify medical treatment should be used, even if an asylum seeker had refused it.
Source: Yahoo 7 News, 20/12/15
Nicholas Cowdery SC, former Director of Public Prosecutions in NSW and NSWCCL Committee member, has been prominent in the media speaking on bail law in relation to Sydney siege gunman, Man Haron Monis.
Cowdery has said to the Sydney Morning Herald that the changes to bail law, due to commence in January, would not have made any difference in Monis' case as judicial officers and police were not aware of his "dark and evil" thoughts.
"You can't legislate to deal with that. It doesn't matter how much you muck around with the laws, there are still going to be occasions - hopefully rare - where the justice system cannot see into the deep psyche of such a person."
Article: Man Monis granted bail six days after controversial bail laws bought in (Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 16/12/14)
Speaking on the 7.30 Report last night, Cowdery told Leigh Sales in relation to the way forward from this tragedy: "I don't think we need any changes to the law, I think we have the laws that [police and other agencies] can work with quite effectively, and I think that politicians need to accept that."
Watch: Sydney siege: criticism of judicial and police officers over bail 'unfair' says former DPP (Source: 7.30 Report, ABC, 16/12/14)
He also told ABC radio:
"With the benefit of hindsight all of us can be geniuses and make the right decisions.
But the fact is that when it comes to matters of bail or sentencing, or any orders that are made by a court in the course of a criminal justice process, the judicial officer can act only on the information of the evidence that is then known and made available for that purpose.
So it's a matter of a proper presentation of the facts and the evidence to the court, it's a matter of the court making, striking an appropriate balance between the freedom on the individual, which we do take very seriously in our society, and the protection of the community."
Listen: Lawyers defend releasing Man Haron Monis on bail (Source: The World Today, ABC Radio 16/12/14)
Cowdery further noted in the Australian that the incident highlights the need for better resourcing of the justice system.
Article: Sydney siege: Risks of playing politics with law (Source: The Australian, 17/12/14)
Listen: Did Man Haron Monis slip through legal cracks? (Source: RN Drive, ABC Radio, 16/12/14)
Listen: Questions asked about why Sydney gunman was on bail (Source: PM, ABC Radio, 16/12/14)
Article: Sydney siege: Gunman Man Haron Monis would have been in custody if Bail Act changes had been in place, NSW Attorney-General says (Source: 7 News, 17/12/14)
Listen: Former Director of Public Prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery discusses why Sydney siege gunman Man Haron Monis was on bail and allowed to walk free (Source: ABC Radio, 17/12/14)
Article: Sydney siege: Aberrant case not an argument for tougher bail laws (Source: WA Today, 17/12/14)
NSWCCL Committee Member Lydia Shelley speaks to ABC radio:
"Coming down here today was a very important personal choice to me, but it's also indicative of the overwhelming feelings coming from the Muslim community as well," Ms Shelly said.
"We wanted to pay our respects for the lives that have been lost and to pay our respects to those who were injured in the experience that they went through.
"I'm just incredibly sad ... every single other Australian today is feeling the exact same thing."
Ms Shelly said the focus today should be on the victims rather than a potential backlash against the Muslim community.
"Our overwhelming focus has been on those who have lost their lives and our thoughts and prayers and condolences go out to the family members," she said.
"I don't even feel like it's right to speak about any potential blowback on a day like this because obviously that's not our focus at all.
"I would hope that the overwhelming messages of support that we've received is indicative of Australians rising up, reaching out to each other, strengthening our bonds.
"We're not going to give into fear and mistrust of each other."
Ms Shelly has denied claims the man responsible for the attack, Man Haron Monis, was an Islamic cleric. She said he was a sick man who was not representative of Muslim Australia.
"This man was not an Islamic cleric at all," she said.
"He was a self styled sheik, that's the name that he gave himself. He was not known to preach in our mosques or anything like that.
"These are the actions of somebody who is incredibly sick and very disturbed. It is not a reflection on our sheiks, on our faith at all, on our community and I think the majority of Australians and the support that we've received understand that message."
Read the full story and listen: Muslim community leaders join mourners to pay respects to Sydney siege victims
Source: The World Today, ABC Radio 16/12/14
The NSW Police is trialling unmanned drone aircraft, which if successful could be used in search and rescue and emergencies.
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks said he did not oppose police using drones for search and rescue operations.
But he said the public must be assured they would never be used for general surveillance activity.
"If there are benefits which can be had from the use of devices like this in emergency situations then there should be rules in place which allow these devices to be used," Mr Blanks said.
"But we also need rules that make it absolutely clear how long recordings are kept for, when they are destroyed and notification of people who may be concerned about being captured by these devices."
Article: NSW Police to trial unmanned drones
Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 6/12/2014
NSWCCL Committee member Nicholas Cowdery and Dr Alex Wodak discuss the failure of NSW drug surveillance programs
"Drug arrests and the rare fatalities at dance parties and music festivals are major media stories. Community concerns about drugs ensure that politicians and police leaders are keen to be seen to be doing something. Intensive police operations fit the bill. But do they actually reduce drug use or drug harms?
During surveillance operations only in a tiny minority of searches find any drugs. Interpreting signals from the dogs, police officers often think drugs are present when there are none. Very many people who have drugs at these events are not detected. These operations achieve little and too often they are counter-productive.
NSW passed laws in 2001 to allow police to use dogs for public surveillance with the intention of catching more drug traffickers. In 2006, the NSW Ombudsman reviewed the program and found that successful prosecutions for supply were achieved in just 19 of 10211 searches. Given the scale of the NSW drug market it is an abject failure.
The impact of these intrusive searches on people's lives is a major negative of the program. Another cost is that these operations seem to only increase the health risks. The presence of drug dogs at festivals and parties creates an incentive for attendees to take all their drugs at once prior to entering. Often this is preplanned, but sometimes it is a panicked decision when confronted by the dogs. In a study of drug safety at raves, 30 per cent of those interviewed reported that they consumed drugs to avoid detection after seeing dogs at an event. A young man overdosed and died after doing this at a music festival in Penrith in 2013. Many other harmful but nonfatal overdoses undoubtedly occur."
The full article can be found at the link below
Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 30/11/2014