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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (24 June) . . Page.. 997 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

really carefully at the range of offences in respect of which we deem it appropriate that police have a power of search. I am not quite sure - and I am prepared to admit this - what is the range of other offences in relation to which police have a power of search prior to arrest. I think it is extremely limited, and I must say I do have a concern that in this legislation we are being asked to consider whether or not, in relation to this offence, it is actually appropriate that we catapult the carrying of knives above a whole range of other potential offences. I must say that I am speaking to some extent on a theoretical basis because I do not know the answers to those questions, but it does concern me that the power of search is now being applied to the carrying of knives. I am not at all convinced that that is necessarily appropriate. The power of search is a most significant power. It is a power that actually impacts on the most direct liberty of individuals - the inviolability of their person.

I am also concerned that this particular clause does not provide significant details about the modus or the operation of the power - whether or not it will be conducted in public; whether or not persons that are approached to be searched will be required to remove any garments; whether or not they can say that they will not remove any garments; and whether or not the police have to show appropriate identification. The policeman conducting the search must be in uniform; it does say that. I believe that a basic accountability mechanism is required. I notice that there is included in the Bill a suggestion that the circumstances of the search do need to be recorded in a register. We could have been much more directive about the way those things are done. So there is a whole range of things that I believe could have been done better, but that does not undercut the fact that I do not believe we should be applying a power of search in these circumstances.

I do not think we should be going from a situation where the Crimes Act does not specifically outlaw the carrying of knives to a situation where it does; and on top of that, allow the police what I think, even on a generous interpretation, must be regarded as a fairly arbitrary power to search, a power to search on reasonable suspicion that a person is carrying a knife. I am not quite sure of the basis on which the police in every circumstance will determine that reasonable suspicion, and I have grave concerns about the power of search. I think, traditionally, it is accepted that powers of search should not be exercised until arrest. I think one of the things that we could have considered - and it needs to be considered in this context - is whether or not there are other methods of getting some sort of judicial certification of the need to search. We are in a high-tech age; we have a capacity now, I think, in terms of the hardware available to police, to make arrangements perhaps for tele-warrants. If there were a circumstance demanding a search of somebody on reasonable suspicion, there should be a mechanism for having that search authorised by a judicial officer, perhaps by telephone.

I am also concerned that, once again, this legislation will impact, I think, in the main, on young people; and there are genuine concerns about how legislation of this ilk impacts on young people. I notice that section 30 of the Children's Services Act requires that a child not be interviewed by the police unless reasonable attempts have been made to contact that child's parents. Perhaps no child should be subjected to a search by police unless reasonable attempts have been made to contact the child's parents. I am not sure that we

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