Concerns raised about ‘wanding’ trial triggered by stabbings
THE state's top two legal bodies say proposed laws giving police powers to scan revellers for weapons at random could lead to discrimination and impinge on basic privacy rights.
The Queensland Law Society and The Bar Association of Queensland say the changes could result in "arbitrary" searches in the popular tourist strip. Under the trial, announced as part of a suite of measures targeting youth crime, police officers would be able to conduct searches without a warrant in the Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach safe-night precincts.
It was announced after a spate of stabbing deaths on the Glitter Strip, including 17-year-old Jack Beasley in December 2019.
Harrison Geppert, 17, (September 2019), Nicholas Braid, 35, (April 2020), Cian English, 19, (May 2020) and Raymond Harris, 27, (September 2020) all died in incidents involving knives.
" … the association is opposed to the arbitrary use of police search powers on people without the requirement for any degree of suspicion of wrongdoing," said Bar Association of Queensland president Tom Sullivan QC in a submission to a committee reviewing the proposed changes to the Youth Justice Act.
"Such a search power impinges on the basic right to privacy enshrined in … the Human Rights Act 2019. Given the proposed locations to which these new powers will apply, the association also submits that they are at risk of being discriminatory against young people given the greater propensity of young people to visit those locations."
The Queensland Law Society (QLS) said in a submission that it had concerns "about the extended powers to use scanners" along with the "power to require the production of objects which may contain metal, without a warrant".
Under the legislation a senior officer - a rank of senior sergeant or inspector - must authorise the use of the handheld scanner, but "the legislation does not provide for any criteria to guide decision-making about such authorisation", the submission said.
"Committee members raised concerns that there does not appear to be any requirement that an authorising officer holds a 'reasonable suspicion' before engaging these powers," president Elizabeth Shearer wrote.
"This raises the risk that the power will be exercised arbitrarily."
The legal body recommended there be "clear, prescribed criteria that dictate the circumstances in which the powers may be authorised".
"QLS recommends that the proposed amendments … be amended to ensure these powers are not engaged unless an authorising officer holds a 'reasonable suspicion' that the person has a knife or dangerous weapon," Ms Shearer wrote.
"This will mitigate the risk that these powers will be exercised arbitrarily and discriminatorily."
In February, Police Minister Mark Ryan said the proposed law changes were about "preventing crime before it happens".
At the time, when announcing details of the trial, Assistant Commissioner Mark Wheeler said it was hoped the powers would deter people from carrying knives.
"What I would say is we have to be responsible with this power; this isn't just a power that we will use ad hoc because we think it's great," Asst Commissioner Wheeler said.
"This will be very specific, it'll be targeted. But where we have any doubts about someone, we will have that authority to conduct those searches."
Originally published as Concerns raised about 'wanding' trial triggered by fatal stabbings