State government gives NSW police right to ban people from public places
NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione has announced new laws targeting organised crime gangs. Photo: Dallas Kilponen
Police will be able to ban people from public places and events without a judge’s approval as part of a raft of anti-organised crime legislation proposed by the state government.
A bill unveiled by the state government on Tuesday aims to “cripple” organised crime groups by clamping down on their movements, associations and business dealings.
But critics warn the laws could lead to an overreach of police powers.
Deputy Premier and Justice Minister Troy Grant says the changes will make it “quicker and easier” for law enforcement to take action against gangs, including “bikies”. Photo: Dallas Kilponen
Under the legislation police will be able to apply to judges for “crime prevention orders” that would stop people involved in serious criminal activity from activities such as using a phone or a computer.
The legislation would introduce “public safety orders” which will give senior police officers the power to ban a person deemed a risk to public safety from a public place or event for 72 hours, a right usually reserved for judges. Breaches of the orders will carry a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment.
Deputy Premier and Justice Minister Troy Grant said the changes will make it “quicker and easier” for law enforcement to take action against gangs, including “bikies”.
“My concern is in relation to the public safety, and not in relation to the sensibility of civil libertarians,” Mr Grant said. “[This is a] significant step forward”.
The bill introduces other measures including stricter penalties for laundering money or property, with increased sentences of between three and five years in prison if the crime is below or above $100,000. The current sentence is two years in prison.
Substitution orders would force criminals who use someone else’s property to commit their crime, such as a car, to pay for damages to that property out of their own pocket.
NSW Greens MLC Jeremy Buckingham said the Greens were concerned that increased police powers may focus on legitimate activities.
“The Greens are very concerned Public Safety Orders can be easily misused by police to stop certain people from attending or taking part in protest activity, such as against coal seam gas or coal mining,” Mr Buckingham told Fairfax Media.
The bill comes a week after controversial anti-mining protest laws were passed, putting some protesters at risk of massive fines and seven years’ imprisonment for “interfering” with equipment on a mine site. Fines for trespassing were also increased significantly.
NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said the legislation would enhance police powers to fight organised crime.
“The reality of this legislation means we’ll be able to be flexible, we’ll be able to be nimble in the way we go about those organised crime groups we target and we continue to target today,” he said on Tuesday.
Last year Premier Mike Baird introduced similar legislation which allowed police officers, with the aid of the courts, to forbid people from “attending places they may commit a crime“.
Joshua Dale, a spokesman for the Australian Lawyers’ Alliance, said the legislation could raise concerns about police powers.
“Public safety orders in particular have the real ability to deny a person of their constitutional right to freedom of political communication,” Mr Dale said.