The Lobby recently met with New Mardi Gras and ACON to discuss the use of sniffer dogs and police behaviour at Sleaze Ball this year.

Many who attended have expressed anger at what they felt to be over-zealous policing.

The Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 outlines the laws relating to police and other law enforcement officers’ powers and responsibilities and sets out the safeguards applicable in respect of persons being investigated for offences. The legislation attempts to strike a balance between effective law enforcement and protecting people’s rights.

Police have some powers to search people they suspect to be in possession of drugs, but these powers are not unlimited. They can search anyone they ‘reasonably suspect’ to be in possession of drugs. They can use sniffer dogs but only for ‘general drug detection’.

Police must, as far as reasonably practicable, ensure that if a search is required it is done in a way that provides reasonable privacy for the person searched, and as quickly as is reasonably practicable.
The police officer must conduct the least invasive search practicable.

Complaints made by some who attended Sleaze suggest these rules aimed at protecting people’s right to privacy and dignity may not have been followed.

NMG works to build a good relationship and develop protocols with the police to ensure their presence at parties does not unduly affect the enjoyment of their patrons, however, community feedback has shown more needs to be done.

Our community needs to know what powers the police have and the limits to those powers. The GLRL and ACON will work with NMG to develop a strategy to educate the community (and the police) on this issue in preparation for the next Mardi Gras season.

info: For more information see Party Rights: Your Legal Rights on the Scene which can be found at www.iclc.org.au or contact the Inner City Legal Centre on 9332 1966.

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