Author Topic: NSW Bar Association president Anna Katzmann SC (World Youth Day Police powers)  (Read 3549 times)

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Offline mr anderson

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Thou shalt not annoy on Youth Day

http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2008/06/30/1214677946009.html


EXTRAORDINARY new powers will allow police to arrest and fine people for "causing annoyance" to World Youth Day participants and permit partial strip searches at hundreds of Sydney sites, beginning today.

The laws, which operate until the end of July, have the potential to make a crime of wearing a T-shirt with a message on it, undertaking a Chaser-style stunt, handing out condoms at protests, riding a skateboard or even playing music, critics say.

Police and volunteers from the State Emergency Service and Rural Fire Service will be able to direct people to cease engaging in conduct that "causes annoyance or inconvenience to participants in a World Youth Day event".

People who fail to comply will be subject to a $5500 fine.

The president of the NSW Bar Association, Anna Katzmann, SC, described the regulations as "unnecessary and repugnant".

The Greens MP Lee Rhiannon said if someone exposed themselves in public, they faced a fine of only $1100 or six months' jail under the Summary Offences Act.

"So if someone flashes a WYD participant they will face a $1100 penalty but if they wear an anti-Catholic T-shirt they could face a $5500 penalty," she said.

A police source said causing an "annoyance or inconvenience" was a highly subjective offence. A police lawyer would define it in layman's terms for operational use by officers.

Civil libertarians said they had never seen anything like the new powers and believed they are more extreme and broader in scope than those used during last year's APEC summit and the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

But the State Government said "World Youth Day is a happy and positive celebration of youth" and "no additional or 'APEC-like' police powers have been granted under the World Youth Day regulations".

The Catholic Church denied it had called for such powers.

The regulations were quietly gazetted by the Deputy Premier, John Watkins, on Friday afternoon and apply to more than 40 city locations, including museums, galleries and cinemas, as well as Darling Harbour, the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, Randwick Racecourse and parklands.

More than 500 schools across Sydney and 35 train and bus stations have also been listed as "declared areas". People entering them will be subject to vehicle and baggage searches that require them to remove jackets, gloves, shoes and headwear if requested. "Reasonable force may be used to effect the person's exclusion" if they do not permit the search, the regulations stipulate.

The Government's World Youth Day spokeswoman, Kristina Keneally, said "bag checks are a sensible safety precaution which any young person who is going to a major event in Australia … would expect". Everyone had the right to protest so long as it was "peaceful and lawful".

The president of the NSW Council of Civil Liberties, Cameron Murphy, said the broad meaning of "causes annoyance" had the potential to encompass any activity. "This sort of amendment is extreme, unnecessary and is likely to escalate conflict when officers issue directions," he said. "People are going to be unaware that they have the power to do this and will find themselves in court facing an enormous fine."

Ms Katzmann said: "The mere presence in the vicinity of a person wearing the apparel or insignia of another religion might be annoying or inconvenient to a participant in a World Youth Day event."

Ms Rhiannon said the regulations were about "shutting down protests and quarantining the Pope and visiting Catholics away from messages World Youth Day authorities don't approve of".
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Protests need our blessing, say police

http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/protests-need-our-blessing-say-police/2008/07/01/1214678038215.html?page=fullpage#contentSwap1

POLICE have told organisations planning to campaign during World Youth Day events they need to have placards, banners and T-shirts pre-approved or risk losing their protest "rights" - even those groups representing victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests.

The State Government faced a public backlash yesterday after the Herald revealed laws had been quietly introduced to prevent people "causing annoyance" to participants in the huge Catholic event which will climax with the Pope's arrival in Sydney in two weeks.

During a meeting with two leading victims groups yesterday, senior police said protesters would also have to include details of their planned messages.

Protesting without police clearance could result in demonstrators being charged under extraordinary new powers which came into effect yesterday.

The sweeping nature of the regulations is threatening to create a legal and political minefield with protesters apparently willing to test both the scope of the laws and the willingness of the authorities to uphold them.

Chris MacIsaac, the president of the victims' group Broken Rites, said his organisation was warned of the sweeping new powers during a police briefing.

"It will anger a lot of people who are very frustrated as they can't get anywhere with the church and now they are losing the right to get out there and tell the world," he said.

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    * Linguistics expert Nick Riemer, from the University of Sydney, said the word annoy had its origins in the french word for annoyance - ennui. The Oxford Dictionary defines 'annoy' as causing "slight anger or mental distress'', but Dr Riemer said the word was extremely ambiguous. "One person's annoyance may be another person's freedom of expression,'' he said. Dr Riemer said the wording of the new laws would be a nightmare for those tasked with enforcing the legislation. "One guess is that [the lawmakers] did it very quickly and on the run. Or it may be that they wanted to pass the laws to placate someone but make them totally meaningless when challenged,'' he said. Daniel Emerson

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Other protesters said they would defy the regulations, and risk a $5500 fine.

"We will protect our civil liberties, and help young people to protect their health, and no Pope or premier will stop us," said Rachel Evans, a spokeswoman for the NoToPope coalition, which is planning to hand out condoms at a July 19 rally.

An online retailer is selling T-shirts that may "cause annoyance" to pilgrims. "$5500 - a small price to pay for annoying Catholics," reads one. "Good luck, Pope. I've been waiting for a miracle at Randwick for years," says another.

The NSW Police Commissioner, Andrew Scipione, said the new laws were no different from existing police powers for sporting venues. But in a written statement, police refused to rule out prohibiting T-shirts or condom hand-outs. "Anyone engaging in behaviour so as to prevent people from across the world participating in the event, or impacting on their ability to participate, will need to be dealt with," the statement said.

The president of the NSW Bar Association, Anna Katzmann, said the regulations were far less defined than other "annoyance or inconvenience" legislation.

In the Mount Panorama Motor Racing Act and the Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Act, people must be "disorderly or insulting" before they can be removed.

Talkback radio, online forums and the Herald's letters page were flooded with criticism of the new rules.

"That we have had our right to protest effectively snuffed out is a mockery to those of us who have been harmed by the Catholic Church," wrote Stephen Kilkeary, who said he, his siblings and his late mother suffered "horrendous abuse at the hands of the Catholic clergy".

Police have begun arranging meetings with a range of possible protesters and pranksters, from anti-homophobia and pro-contraception activists, to victims of abuse, and even comedians from The Chaser.

The Opposition Leader, Barry O'Farrell, said the Government should reveal who requested the regulations.

The Catholic Church said "neither the Catholic Church nor Cardinal Pell asked for the additional police powers", adding "we understand some people may want to protest and they have the right to do so peacefully and lawfully".

The Minister for World Youth Day, Kristina Keneally, said the Government framed the laws on advice from police and after consulting the church. She stressed they were not drafted at the behest of Cardinal George Pell.
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