Police powers under review

Wednesday, 13th February, 2013

Laws that give police more powers to stop alcohol-fuelled violence are being put under the microscope. Laws that give police more powers to stop alcohol-fuelled violence are being put under the microscope.

By Kurtis J Eichler

Laws that give police more powers to stop alcohol-fuelled violence are being put under the microscope.

Less than two years after its implementation, the NSW Ombudsman is conducting a sweeping review of police powers to move intoxicated people on.

Police always had the power to move drunken people on if they caused problems, but since September 2011, those who fail to abide by the order can be fined or arrested.

They can also be fined or arrested if they return or keep up their antisocial behaviour elsewhere in public.

In the first year, 400 people were prosecuted under the new laws.

The laws were passed to reduce alcohol-related incidents, keep public areas safe and reduce the burden on health services and the police.

"The new law can be an effective tool for police to manage a very widespread and growing social problem," NSW Ombudsman Bruce Barbour said.

"But we need to ensure safeguards are being met and that the new powers are being used as intended."

Mr Barbour said concerns were raised in parliament about the impact it was having on vulnerable people, including the mentally ill.

"Our review will examine whether the legislation has been implemented fairly and effectively, both from the perspective of police and those who are moved on."

The Australian Hoteliers Association's Broken Hill delegate, Dean Trengove, said he'd seen improvements since police gained the extra powers.

"It certainly makes a difference when dealing with people who are not only intoxicated by alcohol but intoxicated by other things," Mr Trengove told the BDT.

"It definitely makes it easier when something can actually be done.

"I believe they've been fairly successful here in this area and in my experience most duty officers give plenty of leeway to individuals, but some of them just can't be told."