Draconian new Stop And Search Powers To Become Permanent in Queensland


The Qld Government plans to give police enhanced powers to search people with a handheld metal detector in certain areas, without their consent or the usual ‘reasonable’ suspicion requirement.

Initially, the new laws will apply only to people within Queensland’s ‘safe-night precincts’ and ‘transport areas’, but there is little doubt they are intended to be applied more broadly over time.

Under current legislation, police cannot stop and search someone without their consent or without ‘reasonably suspecting’ them of having committed an offence.

It is a requirement which protects ordinary, law-abiding citizens from arbitrary interference that infringes on their right to privacy and free movement.

The requirement of ‘reasonable suspicion’ also gives police an objective standard for carrying out searches fairly and without discrimination.

In 2021, legislation was passed in Parliament enabling a ‘trial’ of the new laws at two sites on the Gold Coast.

According to the Premier, the laws will now be made permanent as a “necessary response to the increased incidence of weapon seizures” during the trial.

What the Premier failed to mention was that the Evaluation Report on that trial, had found that:

“…apart from the increase in weapons offences noted for Surfers Paradise, there was no statistically significant change in any other category of crime across the two areas, or in any of the adjacent areas we examined… From this we conclude that, as yet, there is no evidence to suggest that increased detection of knives has reduced violent or other offending”.

The potential invasiveness of the laws has also been downplayed by the government.

Given most people carry keys and other metal objects, a lot of people are going to be subjected to far more invasive public searches than a simple ‘once-over’ with a metal detector.

Such laws will inevitably cause increased feelings of distrust and resentment towards police, particularly from those groups/ethnicities who may feel unfairly singled out by police.

Deputy police commissioner, Mark Wheeler, said officers will be “judicious” in using the new powers, however, according to the Trial Report, the powers had been:

“inconsistently used across different groups in the community” and “there is some evidence of inappropriate use of stereotypes and cultural assumptions by a small number of officers in determining who to select for wanding”.

There is simply no clear evidence that these extra powers are needed in Queensland.

Or that such powers will lead to reduced crime levels.

What they will do, however, is further erode our civil liberties and lead to even more intrusive and coercive forms of policing down the track.
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