NSWCCL in the media

NSWCCL on amending Bail Act and protecting prison communities, COVID-19

Media coverage: 7 News

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties wants the Bail Act amended to ensure courts take into account the fact that the pandemic has caused major delays in finalising cases.

"An express provision ... which provides that the court must take into account the risks posed by COVID-19 to inmates, correctional staff and other gaol workers, their families and the community more broadly, would send a clear message to police and the courts," council president Nicholas Cowdery QC said in a statement.

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NSWCCL calls for sunset clauses and strict oversight on COVID-19 powers

Media coverage: The Weekend Australian

NSW Council for Civil Liberties spokesman Stephen Blanks says any extraordinary powers used by health officials to curb the COVID-19 contagion must be subject to 'clear, short sunset clauses'.

"These tracking powers have been effective in other countries,” Blanks told The Weekend Australian. “This is an extreme situation. “I think it’s appropriate for this data to be used, provided it’s used only for this purpose and subject to strict oversight.”

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NSWCCL calls for clarity around policing and COVID-19 restrictions

Media coverage: SBS News

"Police should be trying to promote understanding of the new regulations and new restrictions and doing everything they can to get voluntary compliance," spokesperson for the NSW Council for Civil Liberties Stephen Blanks told SBS News.

"It shouldn't be a revenue-raising exercise for the government," Mr Blanks said.

"And it's so important that when restrictions are imposed, that proper notice is given to a community, that restrictions are clearly available on government websites. So people can see what it is that they are allowed and not allowed to do."

But he said in this instance, officials "have been struggling to achieve clarity".

"This confusion makes it hard for members of the public to know what they are allowed to do," he said.

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NSWCCL: Overcrowded detention centres are ripe for the spread of infectious diseases

Media coverage: 9 News

Staff at a detention centre in NSW are ignoring fears cramped conditions will aid the spread of coronavirus, detainees and advocates say. 

Issa Andrwas, a detainee at Sydney's Villawood Immigration Detention Centre, says social distancing rules are not being enforced by the home affairs department. "We are not supposed to be gathered together but two or three people are sleeping in one room," Mr Adrwas told AAP from inside Villawood.

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties says overcrowded detention centres are ripe for the spread of infectious diseases.

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Privacy advocates warnings on metadata laws

Media coverage: Information Age, Australian Computer Society

Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton has once again invoked the spectre of paedophiles and terrorists in calling for an expansion of the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD)’s powers that would allow the foreign-focused agency to conduct domestic investigations for the first time.

A long-simmering policy change, the ABC reports, would allow the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to enlist the services of the ASD – the government’s overseas surveillance and signals-intelligence unit, which “operates in the slim area between the difficult and the impossible”, as its Web site puts it – to investigate certain matters within Australia’s borders.

Privacy advocates such as the Law Council of Australia and NSW Council for Civil Liberties, labelled metadata laws “indiscriminate and excessive” warned about the “cumulative chilling and intimidatory impact of the Government’s expanded surveillance powers and secrecy offences”.

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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".

"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.



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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