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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 8 Hansard (9 August) . . Page.. 2809 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

We are dealing with a very well regulated, highly scrutinised police force which has been rigorous in terms of punishing offenders within its midst. I can think of a number of examples of where officers have been thrown out of the force, dismissed, for relatively minor infractions, and rightly so. The force has very high standards, and the community expects that. Our police force is used to being subject to those very high standards and this is important if police are to exercise discretion properly.

Police in any police force could never do their job if they did not have the ability to exercise discretion. There may be some concerns. Quite clearly, the exercise of that power would be totally inappropriate in respect of a car with a bald tyre and I think anyone who tried to use this power in those circumstances would be hauled over the coals.

Mr Stanhope: Don't give them the power.

MR STEFANIAK: That, I think, might be a bit of a cop-out, Mr Stanhope. But there are instances where the exercise of this power is necessary. It is certainly necessary in relation to some things like minor theft, some of the more dangerous driving offences and offensive weapon offences. Those are quite serious offences and, indeed, that is why I think a power like this is necessary.

I make those points. I think we do need to differentiate between the checks and balances that our police force has had and continues to have, and some of the problems that have been experienced interstate.

MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (1.19 am): I did the Law Society a disservice by not informing members of its views on this provision. This is the other group which were not consulted . The Law Society stated:

We reject the bald assertion that there is a need to extend the existing powers of police to enters a person's home.

The Law Society simply does not believe this provision is necessary. They say:

We accept the reasoning behind extending that power to entry to situations where a weapon is involved, but the broad brush that is cast in the definition of "relevant summary offence" is not appropriate. We do not agree that a power of entry should be allowed in the case of a traffic offence-particularly negligent driving. A negligent driving charge can be sustained on the basis of some (even minor) irregularity in the motor vehicle involved. It is difficult to see that justification for allowing police entry to a person's home because they drove a vehicle with a cracked windscreen or bald tyres for example.

Attorney, if you say that the use of this power would be inappropriate and would not be used in these circumstances, then do not give the power. The Law Society is telling you that you are empowering police in the ACT to kick in someone's front door. You say they will not use it, that it would be inappropriate and we have got all these strict conditions. But you are giving the police the power to kick in somebody's front door because they drove a car with a cracked windscreen.

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