Media release: Brumby concedes knife searches aren't working
5 March 2009
While the Brumby government is desperate to be seen to be tackling knife crime in Victoria, yesterday's announcement of expanded police powers demonstrate the government is fumbling blindly from one flawed policy to another, according to the PILCH Homeless Persons' Legal Clinic.
In measures announced yesterday, the Victorian government has claimed to be 'tough on crime' by introducing the following new policies:
- reversing the onus of proof (which is forbidden under international human rights law, Australian common law and Victoria's Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities) to allow anyone with any knife to be fined $1000;
- providing Victoria Police with the powers to designate an area without notice for random knife searches; and
- prohibiting people under the age of 18 from legally buying a prohibited or controlled weapon.
In December, the Government introduced new random search powers in breach of its own Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities. 'Despite being warned that the powers were unnecessary and unlikely to have any effect on knife crime, these powers have been used twice, with one operation yielding zero weapons, and the Government is already going back to the drawing board,' said James Farrell, Manager/Principal Lawyer of the PILCH Homeless Persons' Legal Clinic. 'This government is developing poor policy, on the run, that won't work and will not give the community any confidence that they are in control.'
'The government has conceded that the powers introduced in December were unjustifiable, unreasonable and disproportionate,' said Mr Farrell. 'With these changes, the Premier also concedes that they are ineffective. These measures show that this Government is more concerned with the polls than sound, evidence-based policy.'
Mr Farrell welcomed some of the Government's recent initiatives, including cracking down on the sale of weapons. 'The Brumby Government wants to be seen to be tough on crime, but it should adopt smart justice approaches that recognise genuine community safety is really about education, health, housing and human rights. Sound policy would include stricter controls on the sale of weapons and knife amnesties.’
Knife crime in Victoria has been falling every year since 2004, including by almost 3% in 2008-09.
Manager/Principal Lawyer, HPLC
(03) 8636 4408 / 0411 206 835