Police Offences Amendment (Consorting) Bill 2018 (No. 37)
Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - Mr President, I, too, find this a confronting bill. I accept some parts of it and have concerns with other parts. I will support it into the Committee stage because I look forward to some of the proposed amendments. I thank the Government for the ongoing briefings we have had over the past couple of weeks. It has been very good. The information received this morning from Chris Gunson from the Tasmanian Bar, Tasmania Police and, of course, Shaun Kelly was very good. It was good to hear everyone give their opinions.
Chris Gunson told us this morning that by necessity this bill impinges on civil liberties. However, he pointed out parliaments do this all the time when making laws. As mentioned by other members, we impinge on movement - among a variety of things, you cannot drive when drunk, you cannot drive wherever you want and you have to wear a seatbelt.
As Chris Gunson stated, checks and balances are needed for the necessary impingement of civil liberties to be balanced against the rights of people. The reality of policing today is that police need modern tools to disrupt and destroy criminal organisations or associations. In the mind of the Bar, we were told it is necessary, but that there should not be unintended consequences for people who could be picked up in the system.
The Government has put a requirement in the legislation requiring the Ombudsman to review it. We know the current pressure on the Ombudsman and the amount of time it will take for issues to actual go before the Ombudsman. Chris Gunson said the Integrity Commission Tasmania could look at that area.
A commissioned officer must consider the matter following a constable serving a warning on a person he considers to be consorting. When making the decision to make an official warning, they must be sure it would further disrupt the criminal organisation. I am concerned people must prove innocence rather than the police having to prove them guilty. Following the issue of a warning by the commissioned officer, on appeal it would go to a higher commanding officer or a commissioner, depending on the level of the commissioned officer, and then on to a magistrate.
Chris Gunson advised it can be difficult for a person warned if they are unable to access the evidence held the police. A range of criminal intelligence should be provided to people seeking to review the informants who should be protected.
I have a better understanding and appreciation of this now. I put on the record a question I asked this morning: if two people charged with indictable offences have served their time in prison and are not on parole see each other regularly as friends, but are not necessarily consorting, can they do this without feeling they will get a warning from police who believe they might be members of a motorcycle group?
Ms Rattray - Or not.
Ms ARMITAGE - Or not, but they might be. As mentioned by other members, in some ways motorcycle groups are targeted by this bill. Am I correct that these people may feel they cannot have a BBQ or keep each other company? It might be difficult if they have been friends for a long time and then be warned that, 'If you continue to do this, there will be charges against you and you could go to prison or have a substantial fine if you meet with someone twice within five years.'
I would like to put on the record the answer I received this morning - it will not be the case and police will not target people who have had indictable offences and are not consorting, and they can meet with their friends and comfortably go about their business.
My other question is with regard to the motorcycle groups. This question has been asked of me in the community. Some people undertake criminal activity regardless of whether they are in a motorcycle group. If two or more people in a particular motorcycle group were charged in the past with indictable offences, but have served their time, are they still able to ride, whether it be 20 or 30 on a national ride, without being warned by the police they are not allowed to ride because they might be seen as consorting? That issue was raised with me.
Mrs Hiscutt - To be clear, are you asking are two people -
Ms ARMITAGE - Two or more.
Mrs Hiscutt - For this example, a motorcycle gang -
Ms ARMITAGE - Riding along together -
Mrs Hiscutt - Who have a consorting order against each other, if they are in the gang riding, are they allowed to? Is that what you are saying?
Ms ARMITAGE - I am not saying if they already have a consorting order, no. People are concerned that if they are riding with their friends in a motorcycle group, they will be pulled over because they are not allowed to ride together because they are classed as criminals.
Mrs Hiscutt - They are criminals, but they have no consorting -
Ms ARMITAGE - They have been criminals, but whether they still are, or not, is another matter.
Mrs Hiscutt - But they do not have a consorting order against them. Is that your question?
Ms ARMITAGE - That is the question asked of me. Will they be targeted by police who will say they are consorting because they are all riding together?
Mr Gaffney - It is whether this legislation says they can be targeted by police.
Ms ARMITAGE - Yes.
Mr Gaffney - Not whether the police will actually do that, but under this legislation -
Ms ARMITAGE - Whether it is possible.
Mr Gaffney - Whether it is possible.
Ms ARMITAGE - Most police are great. They have a very hard job to do, but you cannot control everyone and what everyone does. It was also questioned under, I think, proposed section 20C of the bill, whether two criminals playing in the same team could be seen as consorting? How do you get around it? Consorting as a concept is the seeking out of the company of a person. I would like it confirmed that playing on a sporting team, or attending official or semi-official functions afterwards, should not be seen as consorting.
It is normal for people after playing a game to get together for a meal or a few drinks. It is the same after training. It is the camaraderie. I would hate to see -
Ms Rattray - What about Mad Monday?
Ms ARMITAGE - What is Mad Monday?
Ms Rattray - The day after they have played in a grand final.
Mr Finch - Through you, Mr President, recently prisoners were let out of prison to play footy. That is a situation where there would be quite a few in contact with other people.
Ms ARMITAGE - That is my main concern - that people can go about their normal lives. As I said this morning in the briefing, if the member for McInytre and myself were in prison together - I think this morning I mentioned the member for Huon - and we had served our time and we were out, we should feel comfortable we can get together, whether it be every day -
Mrs Hiscutt - I will provide an answer. But, yes, the answer is yes, you can.
Ms ARMITAGE - Without feeling they are targeted.
Mrs Hiscutt - It is a good point.
Ms ARMITAGE - It is one of the real concerns. People need to have that relationship with friends and family. The bill mentions family. As I mentioned this morning in the briefings, you might get two brothers or two sisters or family members consorting criminally as much as you might get a couple of friends.
It was said this morning in another briefing that democracy should be justice, that it was distasteful, but necessary medicine. We need to find that balance in protecting the community and also protecting the rights of people.
Shaun Kelly said today that 75 per cent of people spoken to believe if it was only an indictable offence, it would not affect as many people. He was concerned with the theft, the $5000 not being indictable, but once you are over $5000, it being an indictable offence. He also mentioned the firearms. Leader, it would be good if in your summing up you could address some of the issues mentioned this morning about a farmer dropping a shell in the car found by police. I remember when we debated the firearms bill, I mentioned that when my mother passed away, I found a heap of bullets at her home because her second husband had been a shooter. I was extremely nervous about packaging those bullets up and taking them down to the police station, thinking I had to get them there as soon as possible and hoping I did not drop one in the car somewhere. I could remember the charges you could have from the police pulling you over for a random breath test and finding a bullet in your car - things as simple as that.
While I understand it is not intended the police will act in that way, as the member for Mersey says, we have to ensure they cannot act in that way.
This morning the possibility of neighbours and friends having charges was also mentioned. I accept that much of the worry around this bill is more fear of what could happen rather than of what realistically is likely to happen. There is also the fact that people are not aware that legislation has been in place since -
Ms Rattray - Eighty-four years.
Ms ARMITAGE - For 84 years, since 1935. I am quite sure not many people are aware that legislation has been in place. I will pass this legislation into Committee. I have concerns with the bill as it is, but I believe many of the amendments will put some more safeguards into the legislation. I look forward to the debate in Committee on the amendments.
Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - Mr President, I support the bill going to a short committee. I do not have a problem with that because, as I mentioned in my contribution, I have some concerns about this bill, some of which would be addressed with the proposed amendments. I appreciate the comments of the member for Huon that people have given up their time. The real purpose behind everything is to make sure that any legislation we pass in this House is the best it can be. While I appreciate people coming in and giving briefings and giving up their time, in the end it is important we come out with some legislation that is the very best it can be. I would be happy for this matter to go to a short committee.