NSWCCL in the media

NSWCCL Vice President on invasive searches and drug testing at Sydney festival

Media coverage: Sydney Morning Herald

One in 10 children at a Sydney under-age music festival faced random drug testing that has been labelled by legal experts "potentially unlawful" and an infringement on civil liberties.

Samantha Lee, police accountability solicitor at the Redfern Legal Centre, said the measures were "potentially unlawful" and jeopardised the safety of young people.

"This weekend, young people still considered minors under the law – and without a parent or guardian present – are about to be subjected to invasive drug and alcohol testing usually restricted to roadside use or conducted on people operating dangerous workplace machinery," she said.

"Upon entry to the festival, these young people will be confronted by drug dogs, police and security with no understanding of their legal rights, and no one present to advocate on their behalf."

Rebecca McMahon, vice-president of the NSW Council of Civil Liberties, said the measures adopted by festival organisers were a concerning infringement on civil liberties and personal integrity.

"Young people especially should have the freedom to enjoy music without being subjected to unreasonable restrictions on their possessions, oppressive searches and invasive drug testing," she said.

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NSWCCL concerned LECC Inquiry into strip searches effectively 'scrapped'

Media coverage: 9 News
The NSW police watchdog will hear further evidence regarding strip searches, its acting boss says, following concerns the inquiry had effectively been "scrapped" by the state government.
Concerns were raised over the future of the inquiry after the coalition revealed in December that the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission's then-chief commissioner, Michael Adams QC, would not have his appointment renewed.

NSW Council for Civil Liberties vice president Dr Eugene Schofield-Georgeson on the weekend expressed concern the inquiry was effectively being "scrapped" by the government because it "stands to be embarrassed by the commission's findings".

He said the commission had been poised to hear "some of the most damning and dramatic evidence against routinised strip-searches" before Mr Adams was let go.

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NSWCCL also joined calls to re-instate Commissioner Adams

"The commission has been shut down at precisely the moment when it was poised to hear some of the most damning and dramatic evidence against routinised strip-searches," Dr Schofield-Georgeson told AAP.
"What we would like in an ideal world is for Mr Adams QC to be reappointed as the commissioner.

 

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NSWCCL President 'police strip search targets a political exercise'

Media coverage: The Saturday Paper

In New South Wales, police now have quotas to search people and move on others. They call these “proactive strategies”. This financial year, they will conduct 237,089 searches. Some will be strip-searches. Some will be conducted against minors. Few will turn up results.

Police set these targets. They hoped for 241,632 searches last financial year, but fell short by a couple of thousand. There is no evidence the targets reduce crime. If anything, they distract police and malign the community.

On Thursday, Nicholas Cowdery, QC, told The Sydney Morning Herald that the quotas created a “great potential for abuse of power”. The state’s former director of public prosecutions said the “natural human response will be to seek to meet the target by proper or improper means – by fudging, by exercising power where it is not properly warranted”.

Most potently, he said the targets were “a political exercise on the part of the police and, consequently, on the part of the government”.

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NSWCCL President says police strip search targets open to abuse of power

Media coverage: Sydney Morning Herald

NSW Police aimed to conduct almost a quarter of a million personal searches last financial year as part of a quota-driven system slammed as a politically motivated "numbers game" by the state's ex-top prosecutor.

Figures revealed under freedom-of-information laws show individual police area commands are set targets for the execution of powers such as searches and move-on orders, as well as addressing an array of crimes, with people in some areas targeted for searches at nearly 13 times the average rate.

Former director of public prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery, QC, who is now the president of the NSW Council of Civil Liberties, said the use of targets meant there was "great potential for abuse of power."

"If a target is set by superior officers, especially a target that will be relevant to performance assessment, natural human response will be to seek to meet the target by proper or improper means - by fudging, by exercising power where it is not properly warranted," he said.

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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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NSWCCL President on ABC The Drum

NSWCCL President Nick Cowdery AO QC appeared on ABC The Drum on 28th January 2020, speaking from his expertise as previous Director of Public Prosecutions. 

Adam Spencer joined Dr Ngiare Brown, Nicholas Cowdery and Erin Watson-Lynn to discuss the impact of coronavirus plus an ABC investigation revealed a pattern of failure by police to take action on sexual assault complaints.

Are police failing some survivors of sexual assault? New data reveals a significant lack of action on assault claims lodged.

"I’ve been told it took years for your researchers to get these figures, and it was very difficult, and in the Northern Territory they wouldn’t even play ball."

On the broader effects of #coronavirus in Australia:

"We must be very careful not to treat this as an ethnic issue. The virus doesn’t discriminate against different ethnicities and neither should we."

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Australia's 'secret trials'

Media Coverage: ABC Radio The World Today

Are ‘secret trials’ happening in Australia more than we think?

The mysterious case of a man imprisoned in the ACT last year in a process which was hidden from the public, is raising questions over whether more such "secret trials" are taking place in Australia.

It is understood that the prisoner, given a pseudonym of Alan Johns, was a former intelligence official, but details about his crime and background have been kept suppressed.

Interview with: Stephen Blanks, spokesperson, New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties, Brian Toohey, author and Michael Shoebridge, defence director, Australian Strategic Policy Institute

Listen HERE.

 

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Mobile phone detection cameras, 'there's no need to reverse the onus of proof' - NSWCCL's Stephen Blanks

Media coverage: The Guardian

Legislation that reverses onus of proof described as ‘a dangerous precedent’

NSW courts could be flooded with tens of thousands of cases every year if the NSW government moves ahead with plans to roll out cameras that use artificial intelligence to detect drivers using their mobile phones, a parliamentary committee has warned.

The NSW Council of Civil Liberties’ Stephen Blanks said there was no need to reverse the onus of proof if the quality of the photographs was high enough to rule out confusion about what was in a driver’s hand.

Read more HERE.

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NSW mandatory disease testing, frontline worker attacks

Media Coverage: 7 News

NSWCCL Treasurer, Stephen Blanks, spoke to 7NEWS Sydney in relation to the NSW Government's announcement to introduce a scheme for mandatory disease testing for people who expose frontline workers to bodily fluid. The proposed scheme would test for blood borne viruses including HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. "Reasonable suspicion of a police officer doesn't really provide an evidence-based, medical reason for the action."

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NSWCCL President (and Former DPP) urges drug overhaul

Media coverage: Sydney Morning Herald

The state's former top prosecutor has urged the Berejiklian government to decriminalise the use and possession of illicit drugs in NSW as the "first step" towards full legalisation, as the Premier maintains her opposition to overhauling drug policy to allow a pill testing trial.

Nicholas Cowdery, QC, who was Director of Public Prosecutions in NSW for 16 years, said "any coherent government drug and alcohol policy must be based on health and social foundations, not on the criminal law".

"It is the only practical and principled way to proceed, [and is] also in accordance with human rights," he said.

Mr Cowdery, who is now president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, said "decriminalisation, in my view, is just a first step" and the state should eventually move to the "legalisation, regulation, control and taxation of all drugs".

Read more HERE.

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