Police powers: hearing today on excessive ‘bail compliance checks’

PIAC is challenging in court the powers of police to conduct ‘bail compliance checks’ at people’s homes without a court order.

The case, Dargan and Green v the State of NSW, arises from concerns that police have conducting excessive and invasive bail compliance checks, including late at night and multiple times in a night, without any reason to believe that a person is not complying with their bail conditions.

‘We hope today’s hearing will clarify the powers of NSW Police officers to monitor compliance with bail conditions in NSW, particularly curfews. It will also clarify the powers of police to enter private property,’ said PIAC CEO, Jonathon Hunyor.

PIAC is representing two Aboriginal clients who were subjected to repeated bail compliance checks at their property by the police in 2014. In a three-month period, the police came to their house on at least 50 occasions between 9pm and 2:15am. One of our clients who lived at the property (and not subject to bail conditions) was heavily pregnant and her two-year-old child was living at the property. On at least six occasions the police visited twice in one night.

‘Our clients have told us that these checks were intrusive, excessive, distressing and very disruptive to family life,’ said Jonathon Hunyor.

Under the current law, if police want to monitor or ensure a person is complying with their bail conditions, they can ask the court for an order to do so (called an ‘enforcement condition’). In deciding whether to make an order, a court must be satisfied that it is ‘reasonable and necessary’. The hearing will decide whether the police have the power to conduct bail compliance checks without a court order.

‘We will be arguing that the police in NSW have been stepping outside their power by repeatedly visiting peoples’ homes and requiring them to present themselves at all hours without a court order. In our view, a court should decide whether intrusive bail checks of this type, which can have an impact on a whole household, are warranted and set limits on what is reasonable,’ added Jonathon Hunyor.

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