Should the use of Australia’s police-imposed public area banning powers be subject to independent oversight and review?

Dr Clare Farmer1

1Deakin University, ,

Jurisdictions across Australia have implemented policies to tackle problems associated with alcohol consumption in and around licensed premises. Patron banning is one measure which has become increasingly popular. Discretionary police-imposed bans are typically imposed on-the-spot, and can exclude recipients from expansive public areas for extended periods of time. Concern has been expressed regarding the risk that bans may be imposed inappropriately, their capacity to undermine due process, and the potential vulnerability of recipients. This presentation examines an aspect of police-imposed banning which has received little attention; the general absence of options for independent or judicial review of the imposition of a ban.

In Victoria, the framing and implementation the legislation permitted no scrutiny of police-imposed banning provisions via post-hoc judicial review processes. Interviews were conducted with Magistrates in Victoria and their views sought with respect to issues of procedural fairness, the risk of mis-use, and consequential effects for police legitimacy arising from the operation of discretionary police bans.

The findings raise questions about the Victorian Parliament’s dismissal of an independent appeal process for on-the-spot police-imposed bans. Their discretionary nature, the absence of meaningful oversight and the attendant potential for their mis-use, points to the need for the legislation covering police bans to be revised to ensure an independent process of review. This issue extends beyond Victoria, as six of Australia’s jurisdictions do not permit any independent review of a discretionary police decision to impose a public area ban.


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