NSW Police powers challenged

October 4, 2021
NSW Police van in Camperdown Memorial Park. Photo: Pip Hinman

The  Australian Criminal and Family Lawyers (ACFL) is challenging several New South Wales Police powers under COVID-19 public health orders in the Supreme Court.

Specifically, the ACFL is challenging police powers to stop and ask people for their personal information — including their vaccination status, evidence of COVID-19 tests, and their identification. It argues that such powers have the effect of abrogating a person’s right to silence and right to refrain from doing anything that may incriminate them.

ACFL is requesting an agreement with the state of New South Wales that neither party seek legal costs against the other, regardless of the outcome. This has been refused by government solicitors.

If ACFL loses the case, the court will have to decide whether to grant its client, a 21-year-old apprentice builder with limited means, protection from paying costs. 

Meanwhile, the Aboriginal Legal Service ACT/NSW, Redfern Legal Centre, Community Legal Centres NSW and Public Interest Advocacy Service published an open letter on September 16 calling on the NSW government to revoke wrongly issued COVID-19 fines, reduce fines and invest in non-punitive approaches.

The letter has been endorsed by more than 100 prominent lawyers, academics and politicians.

It said Revenue NSW reported that 10,232 fines totalling $9,402,500 had been issued for breaches of COVID-19 rules between March last year and July. Police issued $7,839,500 of these, with a total of $8,922,500 given to individuals. In July, 6815 fines were handed out — more than 3 times the total amount for the last financial year.

It said NSW Police has incorrectly given many people fines for thousands of dollars when they were taking lawful outdoor recreation activities, such as sitting in a park or car alone, eating in an outdoor public space alone, or sitting in a park with members of their household.

[Sign ACFL’s  online petition here.]

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