Crime prevention orders a step too far: Bar Association
LAWYERS have accused the New South Wales Government of an "unprecedented attack on individual freedoms and the rule of law" over proposed new police powers.
Deputy Premier Troy Grant's bid to introduce "serious crime prevention orders" has drawn the ire of the state's peak barrister organisation, the NSW Bar Association.
Under the proposed laws, police suspecting a serious crime may take place could restrict a suspect's movements and communications, ban them from certain jobs and business dealings and impose curfews for up to five years.
The Bar Association said the change "potentially endangers the liberties of tens of thousands of NSW citizens".
"The government has not provided any justification as to why such powers should be conferred on police and prosecution authorities and in a manner which is so contradictory to long settled principles concerning the adjudication of criminal guilt by a fair trial," president Noel Hutley said.
"The bill applies to a wide range of individuals and circumstances well beyond the range of public safety activities."
A person who has ever been convicted of a crime carrying a penalty of more than five years - including theft, minor firearms offences or damage to property - could be subject to the new powers.
Other offences such as possession of a marijuana plant, tax evasion and illegal gambling also fall under the bill's umbrella.
It would also apply to anyone who had "facilitated a serious crime" - a provision the Bar Association said was cast so widely it "would apply to a father lending the family car to his son while unaware the son intended to use the car to commit 'a serious criminal offence'."
Anyone breaching an order could face up to five years in jail and a $33,000 fine, with a $165,000 maximum fine for corporations.
When announcing the bill in March, the deputy premier said it was about "showing we're serious about crippling the organised crime economy in NSW and hitting criminals financially, where it hurts".
"We make no apologies for improving community safety by getting tough on criminals, including those who peddle drugs or weapons, who make their living dealing off the misery of others," Mr Grant added.
Mr Hutley said the proposed powers undermined the state's justice through trial process and raised questions about its constitutionality.
He added that the bill had been introduced without consultation with the legal profession or civil liberties organisations.
"The current 'cluster' arrangements within government have provided the Minister for Police, the senior justice portfolio minister, with unprecedented power in determining legal policy without the historical checks and balances," Mr Hutley said.
The bill will be debated when parliament returns next month. -ARM NEWSDESK