Page 5169 - Week 14 - Tuesday, 28 November 2017
investigations and will lead to more successful prosecutions related to outlaw motorcycle gang activity.
The bill creates a new offence to capture drive-by shootings. Current offences under the Crimes Act have proven inadequate to deal with the act of discharging a firearm into a building or conveyance. Current offences address the severity of shooting at a person. The act of endangering life requires the offender to discharge a loaded firearm at another person so as to cause that person reasonable apprehension for their safety. The maximum penalty for this offence is 10 years imprisonment. However, if an empty building is shot at in a drive-by shooting, it can be difficult to make out an offence, as no-one would have feared for their safety at the time of the shooting. Furthermore, if the victim is a member of a rival OMCG or other criminal organisation they will often be unwilling to cooperate with police and, for example, not admit to feeling apprehension for their safety.
There are also a range of offences available to police under the Firearms Act. However, these offences are aimed at regulating the use of firearms by licensed firearm owners and do not target serious crimes. This is reflected in the maximum penalty of 12 months imprisonment.
The new offence created in this bill will cover situations where a person, from a car or otherwise, shoots at a building or vehicle, including homes and businesses. A particular individual need not be the target of the shooting; nor is there a requirement for someone to be injured in the shooting or for a victim to have a fear or apprehension for their safety. This will better capture OMCG activity, where drive-by shootings are often done to intimidate members of rival gangs. The new offence has a maximum penalty of 10 years, the same as for acts endangering life.
The crime scene powers give police a new power to secure a crime scene without a warrant. This is a significant power. I note that there have been concerns raised about this power, including by the bar and the Law Society. However, the Greens are satisfied that there are enough safeguards in place to ensure that the power will only be used appropriately.
Currently police do not have an express statutory power to establish a crime scene, either in a public space or a private premise. Common law powers relating to crime scenes are limited and inadequate when there is the potential for evidence to be interfered with, removed or destroyed. For example, a police officer can only enter a premises without a warrant when pursuing an offender who enters the premises. This means that even when police arrive 10 minutes after a shooting, they are unable to secure the scene. The ability to preserve evidence is fundamental for police to be able to conduct investigations. As has been touched on previously, I think by the Attorney in this place, we have seen examples where people have sought to clear away evidence, or even have tradesmen turn up and be fixing it by the time police have got there. The removal of crucial evidence is obviously a significant problem for police in trying to prosecute matters.
As there should be, there are significant limitations regarding when a police officer can use these powers. For a private premises, where the owner or occupier consents to