New legislation is being introduced to change the powers of police in variety of ways.
The Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Amendment Act 2014 comes after a brief review by the Hon. Andrew Tink and Paul Whelan, and a year-long review by what is now called the Department of Police and Justice.
Many of the amendments are intended to make the law read more clearly, and reflect the way police apply those powers. For example, where police could ‘request’ proof of identity from a driver, they can now ‘require’ it.
Many of the amendments will reduce the number of different legislative interpretations used by police across the state when performing property searches, suspect interviews, strip searches and other activities.
Importantly for all people in NSW, the Act extends the general time for holding a person under arrest. In practice it is flexible, but the standard now increases from four hours to six hours. When combined with the new arrest powers that came into effect in December 2013, our expectation is that more people will be spending longer at the police station. In NSW this is likely to result in increased police resources being used in custody management rather than in investigation.
One other amendment is that the Commissioner will now explicitly have the power to destroy mug-shots and other photos taken as part of the charging process. This is a power that the Commissioner previously had, and was routinely used by the NSW Police Force for many years. When the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 [LEPRA] was introduced, this power fell between the cracks. For people who have successfully defended charges and have no criminal record, the existence of these photos can be highly distressing. We expect that the backlog of twelve years of dismissed charges will soon see requests made to the Commissioner to destroy these images. Practitioners with clients seeking assistance on this issue should contact RLC’s Police Powers solicitor.
The heavy force used against the 78-year-old has disturbed many, and on Wednesday about 100 people protested outside Surry Hills police station, calling for the officers involved to be suspended and for an independent investigation.