Debates Day 5 - Wednesday 17 October 2007
Parliamentary Record 17
Debates for 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; Parliamentary Record; ParliamentNT
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES Wednesday 17 October 2007 4844 There are no grounds to extend this period, even though the person may continue to be seriously affected by alcohol. Consequently, police are placed in the position of having to elect whether to charge the person whilst they are intoxicated or unlawfully detain the person. This amendment will give police the protection of delaying the charging of the person for as long as it reasonably appears to the member that the person remains intoxicated. This is a practical solution as it will not only ensure police meet their duty of care obligations, but also the person will be in the position of making a rational decision in relation to their rights. What is a reasonable period is a subjective test and is based on the members experience from detaining people in protective custody pursuant to section 128 of the act. The next significant amendment concerns the introduction of a new Division 7A of Part 7 to give police powers to establish and maintain crime scenes. Notwithstanding the common law gives police the power to enter upon a persons premises in certain circumstances, the power to remain on the premises is quite limited. The rights of NT Police forensic personnel to enter and remain at a place to enable them to carry out their tests are non-existent. Notwithstanding there is little evidence police are regularly refused entry to premises to investigate offences, there is necessarily a community expectation in having police investigate and prosecute serious criminal offences unhindered of threats of trespass or the loss of vital evidence. This does not mean police can establish a crime scene to the detriment of the occupier of premises for just any offence. Before establishing a crime scene, the responsible member must not only suspect on reasonable grounds that a relevant offence has been, is being, or is about to be committed at the place, but also the member must be satisfied it is reasonably necessary to establish the crime scene. In determining whether it is reasonably necessary, the member can only have regard to the preservation of evidence and the searching for and gathering of evidence to the relevant offence. I must stress that these powers are not exhaustive. The term relevant offence has been broadly drafted and means an offence punishable by a term of imprisonment of six months or more. Following the establishment of a crime scene, other persons who assist police in their investigations, such as photographers and forensic personnel who provide essential specialist support to the police, can lawfully be on that place to carry out their work. Likewise, members are able to exercise a range of crime powers where the circumstances of a case require their exercise, for example, excluding or removing people from the crime scene, opening anything which is locked at the crime scene, digging up anything at the crime scene, or removing part of the structure. The bill also provides that the crime scene may only be maintained for a reasonable period necessary for the investigations to be carried out. What is a reasonable period is to be determined by a number of factors, including but not limited to the complexity of the crime, the size of the crime scene, the time of day, availability of qualified examiners, and time to conduct re-enactments. Madam Speaker, I believe these powers are essential to enable police and their specialist technical support personnel to get on with the job of investigating criminal offences unhindered by any threats of trespass by occupiers of premises. I now turn to the powers of police dogs and horses. As honourable members will be aware, the use of drug detection dogs was launched in December 2004. The drug detection dogs are currently based in Darwin; however, they have travelled on operation deployments throughout the Territory, supporting operational police in the execution of their duties. Although the drug dogs give operational support for police officers, one of their core functions is to support the Drug Enforcement Sections Remote Community Drug Desk. The Drug Enforcement Section conducts regular remote operations to target the supply of illicit drugs and other substances into Aboriginal communities. It also conducts regular checks of passengers, baggage and freight on regional airlines travelling into and out of remote communities. To date, drug dogs have detected and prevented in excess of 700 instances of illicit drugs being taken into or out of those communities. This has had a significant impact on criminal activity in the Northern Territory and has resulted in the arrest of a number of suppliers whose operations would otherwise have gone undetected. In addition, earlier this year, a general purpose police dog was introduced into the service. The role of this dog is to assist in keeping the community safe in a range of different situations. By way of an example, modern technology cannot replicate a dogs ability to track or locate a hidden or lost person or thing. The addition of the general purpose police dog is a valuable asset for police. Other specifically trained dogs will be recruited into service in the near future. The role of these dogs will be to provide police with operational support in searching for or detecting such things as firearms and explosives and for crowd control purposes. The bill also covers the Mounted Police Patrol Unit.