Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 8 Hansard (9 August) . . Page.. 2801..
MR SPEAKER: Is it the wish of the Assembly to reconsider clause 19? There being no objection, we will reconsider the clause 19.
MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (12.46 am): I regret all the confusion. Clause 19 involves the first of a series of amendments by the Attorney to permit a police officer to arrest a person if the police officer suspects, rather than believes, the person has committed or is committing an offence. This is a very significant change to the standard. This is one of the more significant amendments in the bill. It is a major change in the powers of police in relation to arrest. It is a significant lessening of the test.
All of the submissions I have received oppose these amendments. We have now been going for four or five hours, and people may have forgotten, but, as I said, I received a number of submissions from people other than those consulted by the Attorney in proposing these amendments. The Law Society, for instance, points out that the deprivation of liberty is the most serious action that may be taken against a person and it should not occur without clear and identifiable justification. Suspicion may be aroused without the police officer being required to check allegations of facts, whereas a belief would require some checking. This is a significant issue we are debating here-a move from "believes" to "suspects" as the lesser standard which a police officer, if this proposal is passed, will have to satisfy.
The Attorney has made great play about there not being a significant difference between the meaning of "suspicion" and the meaning of "belief", particularly if both are qualified by having to be reasonable. All that his protestations along that line have done is arouse suspicion about why he wants to make the change if it is not significant. The Attorney cannot have it both ways. He cannot argue that it is not significant to change from "believes" to "suspects", particularly if he does not give us any justification for lessening the standard or the test a policeman needs to satisfy in order to arrest a person.
We might all have some suspicions about why the Attorney would wish to lower from "suspects" to "believes" the standard or the test that a policeman needs to satisfy before arresting somebody. He says the power is necessary to enable police officers to act swiftly in solving crime. He says that much of our crime is committed by repeat offenders. These statements need to be judged against what is happening on the ground.
Over the past three years in the ACT, 3,849 people have been arrested by the police without a warrant, and 3,066 have been arrested on warrants of all types, including warrants for outstanding fines. This is information supplied to me by the Attorney. These figures do not indicate that there is any particular problem using the existing provisions. This amendment and all those that follow it-and there are a range of amendments after this also changing the test from "believe" to "suspect"-should all be opposed, and will be opposed by the ALP.