Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (8 December) . . Page.. 3297 ..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
Clause 10 of the Bill enables regulations to be made in relation to the search by an escort of a person in custody. Given the intrusion on personal liberty which a personal search entails, and the possible consequences in terms of criminal liability of the person searched, the Committee raises the question whether the extent of a power to make a personal search should be provided for in the Act, and not in regulations.
For myself, I believe that that sort of invasion of personal liberties really should be the subject of substantive legislation. Whilst, as I have indicated, the Labor Party supports these two Bills, I accept the comment which the scrutiny of Bills committee is making, that in relation to those significant invasions of personal liberties we really should be dealing with those as substantive matters and not in regulations. I am concerned - and perhaps it is a debate for another day when we do an audit of some of the legislation that has been introduced and passed this year - at the extent to which we have wound back a range of personal rights and liberties. I think, from time to time, we really do need to audit our attitude to these things.
The Minister, of course, also only received the scrutiny of Bills committee report today. He did not have available to him that particular comment and has not had a chance yet to respond to it. Recognising that this legislation does need to be passed before the end of the month, I am suggesting to the Minister that he take that particular suggestion to heart and introduce amendments next year to actually remove the power of search from the regulations and place it within the Act, perhaps with some conditions. I do not object to the power of search. I just do not think it should be in the regulations. I have always felt in relation to the power of search that perhaps there should be some indication of the circumstances in which it will be used and how it will be recorded, et cetera - those sorts of checks and balances in relation to its use. So I do not object to it; I just believe that, in the regulations, it is in the wrong place.
I agree with the scrutiny of Bills committee, to the extent that I think that is what they are suggesting to us. I make the suggestion to the Minister now. I have just foreshadowed that I will actually write to him about it, with a view to his perhaps considering that sort of amendment. As I say, I think there are some trends in relation to the arming of other than police and the extension of police duties that, on balance, leave us with perhaps some feelings of unease. But, on balance, we accept them in the interests of broadening the range of functions that our police can concentrate on, and the Labor Party is happy to support these two Bills.
MR RUGENDYKE (9.52): These two Bills are commonsense pieces of legislation, which enable custodial officers to perform their full range of duties in relation to the escort of prisoners. The need for the legislation has obviously come about since police were relieved of the duty to operate the court cells and, hence, of the responsibility for the custody of persons due to appear in court. The legislation essentially allows police to be released from this task and, of course, it enables custodial officers escorting arrested persons to do the job safely and effectively.