Parliamentary committee opposes stop-and-search law

Photo: perth.indymedia.org

On October 20, the committee of the WA parliament tasked to look into the proposed Criminal Investigation Amendment Bill 2009 reported its findings. A majority of the committee opposed the bill, which would drastically expand police stop-and-search powers at the expense of civil liberties.

The report was delayed twice due to the controversial nature of the bill and disagreements on the committee. Protests against the proposed laws were held this year by the group, Search For Your Rights.

The committee reported that it “could find no justification for the bill” and that “the committee was of the view that the bill ought not to proceed in its current form”.

These findings have cast doubt over the future of the bill, despite it being pushed strongly by Liberal Premier Colin Barnett.

Notably, National Party MLC Mia Davies opposed the bill. While still propping up the Liberal government, the Nationals have acted more independently than their traditional coalition with the Liberals, and refer to the current government as an “alliance”.

The committee found that “based on the evidence of the experience of other jurisdictions available to the committee, there is a legitimate concern that the purported benefits of such wide-ranging powers as those proposed by the Criminal Investigation Amendment Bill 2009 could be outweighed by the disadvantages of such powers”.

A majority of the committee “believes that the evidence suggests giving police the power to stop and search without either consent or reasonable suspicion (and in the absence of a requirement for a search warrant or arrest) inevitably results in negative effects on personal liberties”.

Media reports to the contrary notwithstanding, the committee found that “the evidence did not conclusively establish that the Criminal Investigation Amendment Bill 2009 would reduce the incidence of the carriage and use of weapons in entertainment areas, which is the policy objective”.

The committee’s findings are a great step towards quashing the bill and defending civil rights in Western Australia. However the laws are still far from dead. Police minister Rob Johnston assured the West Australian on October 22 that the state government was “certainly not” going to scrap the proposed legislation and the WA Police Union continues to support it.