NSW Police fall short in response to consorting laws criticisms

The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) has published NSW Police Force responses to recommendations made in the LECC’s review of consorting laws. The LECC review showed the laws are largely not being used to disrupt the serious, organised crime for which they were intended but are being misused, including against people under the age of 18, with Aboriginal people in NSW disproportionately targeted.

In their responses, NSW Police appear to have largely ignored or dismissed the findings and recommendations of the LECC review. The issues of most concern to the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) include:

  • NSW Police do not support a LECC recommendation to reform consorting laws so they do not apply to people under the age of 18, but gave no explanation as to why;

  • NSW Police have ignored a LECC recommendation to require all consorting law warnings given to people under the age of 18 to be in writing;

  • NSW Police have not taken sufficient action to implement a LECC recommendation that an officer issuing a warning to a person under the age of 18 ensures the person understands the warning and knows it is valid for six months;

  • NSW Police have not taken sufficient action to implement a LECC recommendation to require officers to tell any person receiving a warning that they can request the warning in writing; and

  • NSW Police do not support a LECC recommendation to clearly state in the legislation that the purpose of the consorting law is to prevent serious criminal offending, despite this being the premise under which the laws were introduced, but gave no explanation as to why they do not support this.

Quotes can be attributed to PIAC Principal Solicitor Jonathan Hall Spence. Jonathan is also available for interview.

‘Consorting law were meant to disrupt serious, organised crime. The LECC review showed significant misuse that targeted kids drinking in parks and Aboriginal people in communities. The NSW Police response to this review shows a refusal to seriously address this misuse of police power.’

‘The LECC’s recommendations gave police an opportunity to refocus consorting laws on the criminal networks they were designed to disrupt. But NSW Police have failed to support and implement several key recommendations, including clear advice that the laws should not apply to people under the age of 18.’

‘Young people shouldn’t be turned into criminals just for spending time with someone who has committed an indictable offence.’

‘NSW Police are trying to dodge responsibility for ensuring that young people understand what a warning means and the consequences if they don’t comply.’

‘We’re also disappointed that the LECC has overlooked the obvious failings of the NSW Police response to the LECC’s own criticisms. The action taken by NSW Police does little to address the significant issues identified in the LECC review.’

‘The law reform recommended by the LECC review is now more important than ever. We urge the NSW Government to act quickly to prevent further misuse of consorting laws.’ 

Media contact:
PIAC Media and Communications Manager, Danielle Buhagiar: 0478 739 280, [email protected]

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