Territory Stories

Debates Day 5 - Wednesday 17 October 2007



Debates Day 5 - Wednesday 17 October 2007

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Parliamentary Record 17


Debates for 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; Parliamentary Record; ParliamentNT




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES Wednesday 17 October 2007 4845 I will briefly discuss the role of the drug detection dogs because it is these animals that the public will, at some stage, come into contact with. First, these animals may be used by the Dog Operations Unit either with or without a warrant. Section 120 of the act empowers a member of the police force to stop, detain and search, amongst other things, a person in a public place if the member suspects on reasonable grounds the person is in possession of a dangerous drug, precursor or drug manufacturing equipment. It is not necessary for a search warrant to be issued for the purpose of carrying out a search of a person in a public place as long as the member holds the requisite suspicion. A police officer is entitled to walk in the vicinity of a person and, if the member were able to smell, for example, cannabis in the persons possession, the member would justifiably form a reasonable suspicion sufficient to entitle him to search the person. He would not thereby commit trespass of the person. Treating a drug detection dog as an extension of a police officer or as an aid to his olfactory senses, the position is unchanged. It does not matter that the dog acts differently from the police officer in the way he detects and indicates, short of trespassing to the person, the presence of a substance or that the dog acts under the encouragement of the police officer. Used in this manner, the drug detection dogs do not search. Rather, they merely act as an extension of the members senses, whereby the member can form the necessary suspicion where, in other circumstances, they would be unable to do so. If the dogs are used under the authority of a search warrant, the circumstances of their use is treated differently. If a search warrant has been issued under section 120B of the act, the drug detection dogs may lawfully be used to assist the authorised member to search for the dangerous drug which is the subject of the warrant. To overcome any conflict between the operational use of the animals by police with any existing laws or by-laws, this bill will override any statutory prohibitions or other obligations. For example, the bill exempts police from the registration requirements under relevant by-laws. Importantly, significant penalties will apply for intentionally killing or injuring a police animal in the execution of the members duties. The maximum penalty will be $25 000 or five years in imprisonment. Similar penalties now apply in New South Wales following the callous and deliberate killing of a New South Wales Police Dog Squad animal in December 2004. The next amendment I wish to draw your attention to relates to section 84G of the act, the powers of the commissioner to suspend a member without salary. Currently, the decision to suspend a member without salary lies with the minister. However, government believes that the decision to suspend a member without salary should be a managerial prerogative of the commissioner exercising administrative responsibility as other chief executives do. The Territory is the only jurisdiction in Australia where the decision to suspend a members salary rests with the minister. To ensure the principles of natural justice are upheld, a member who is aggrieved by the decision of the commissioner to suspend the member without pay will have a right to appeal the decision to the Disciplinary Appeal Tribunal. I now turn to the last amendment I would like to comment on and which I briefly raised earlier. This amendment comes about as a result of significant changes in technology. Like other sectors of the community, it is in the best interests of police to make use of modern technology in their day-to-day operations. One change which is easily implemented but requires legislative reform for evidentiary purposes is the use of digital recordings in records of interview or confessions of suspects. Sections 141 and 142 of the act, which deal with the recording of confessions and admissions, were inserted in 1992 when the predominant technology of the time was tape recorders. These provisions came about following a 1986 High Court decision which held the police practice in some jurisdictions of taking arrested persons to police stations for the purposes of questioning as opposed to before a magistrate was unlawful. This meant that any confessions, including voluntary confessions, were excluded. This amendment will give police the ability to use a digital recorder - meaning both audio or video - for the purposes of recording interviews and confessions as required under the act. For example, if police are investigating an offence in a remote location, the digital recorder will have the capacity to store a large number of interviews. This is opposed to a tape recorder, where each interview requires the use of multiple tapes. However, unlike a tape, which permanently electromagnetically stores the recording, digital technology stores the sounds on an in-built memory card, which is not permanent. This data would be downloaded onto a computer hard drive at some stage during or following the investigation. Notwithstanding the risk of tampering or manipulation of the recording is very remote, the statutory provision will ensure proper conduct by police. Moreover, the effect of downloading the recording from the recorder to a computer may render the recording inadmissible as the recording is no longer the electronic recording which could be tendered in evidence. To overcome this, it is proposed modelling the amendment on the equivalent provision in section 464AA of the