Police And Public Safety Legislation Review

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SpeakersGrusovin The Hon Deirdre; Whelan Mr Paul
BusinessQuestions Without Notice

Page: 7870

    Mrs GRUSOVIN: My question without notice is to the Minister for Police. What is the Government's response to the Ombudsman's review of the police and public safety legislation?

    Mr WHELAN: Honourable members will recall the shock that swept through the community following the vicious stabbing death of Constable Peter Forsyth in February 1998. That incident was a tragic reminder of the danger that illegal knives pose to police and to the people of this State. The Government took quick action to reduce that danger, which I am pleased to say significantly reduced the number of knives which would otherwise wind up in the hands of criminals. The latest figures show that there are now 8,105 fewer knives and weapons in the community as a result of the Government's Crimes Legislation Amendment (Police and Public Safety) Act. I am sure the honourable member for Heffron will be pleased to know that the police, using powers granted to them under that Act, have moved on 38,000 people for antisocial behaviour. The Act is achieving its aims of reducing knife crime and the carrying of knives and ensuring police have adequate power to deal with antisocial behaviour in public places.

    When the Government introduced the legislation it made a commitment to review it. The former Ombudsman completed her report in November last year. I am pleased to report that she supports the aims and powers of the Act. In her report, she also acknowledged what she called the appreciable community support for the Act's objectives. She clearly supported the retention of search and move on powers for police. The report contained a number of recommendations regarding finetuning the legislation, training and community consultation. It is worthwhile noting that the Government and the Police Service have already taken action such as implementing changes to allow police to use warnings and cautions for young people involved in less serious offences under this Act. As I have announced before, the Government is currently working on simplifying all police powers under one bill. That consolidation will address any possible ambiguity related to search powers.

    It is also important to note that this month's Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research [BOCSAR] report into knife offences and policing reveals that the number of robberies with knives has dropped significantly since the introduction of the legislation. The bureau says there may be a number of factors involved in this welcome trend, but police have used the new powers given to them, and a high proportion of the searches were successful. I welcome the Ombudsman's report. A number of matters in the Ombudsman's report remain to be addressed. These include further training and education, continuing refinement of police practices, and ongoing community consultation. Her report and findings were used as the basis for the Government's review by my Parliamentary Secretary, the honourable member for Newcastle.

    The review by the honourable member for Newcastle involved extensive consultation with the Police Service, the Ethnic Communities Council of New South Wales, the Aboriginal Justice Advisory Council, the Juvenile Crime Prevention Advisory Council, the Greens, the Shopfront Youth Legal Centre and other groups. The Government will implement a plan of action to ensure the matters raised by the Ombudsman are addressed. I assure honourable members that there will be continued consultation with the Ombudsman's office on these issues. I take this opportunity to thank the honourable member for Newcastle for his report. Later I will table the Ombudsman's report and the review of the honourable member for Newcastle for the benefit of all honourable members of this House.