‘Without favour or affection…?’ The operation of licensee barring orders in Victoria, Australia: legitimacy, proportionality and effect

Dr Clare Farmer1

1Deakin University

A feature of recent responses to anti-social and violent behaviour, around licensed premises and more generally, is the introduction of provisions which ban, prohibit or exclude but which are imposed by non-law enforcement and non-judicial officers. In Australia, one example is the venue or licensee barring order; a discretionary power to punish which is operational in various forms across jurisdictions. The remit of licensee barring orders can extend beyond the private domain of the venue to cover public spaces, and be imposed for extended periods. To date, there has been very little public commentary or formal scrutiny of the use or effect of licensee barring provisions.


This paper compares the legislative framing of Victoria’s barring order policy, with the experiences of barring order recipients. Key findings are examined in two sections: the first sets out the rationale and operational expectations for licensee barring, in relation to key themes which emerged during parliamentary debates of the legislation; the second juxtaposes the legislative expectations with the reported experiences of barring order recipients.


The findings point to a disconnect between the expected and actual operation of licensee barring orders. More concerning is the complete absence of oversight of their use. Barring orders extend a police-enforceable power to punish to ordinary citizens, yet licensees currently act without scrutiny or accountability. There is a clear need for legislative amendments to introduce a robust and meaningful process to ensure effective ongoing monitoring of the use and effect of licensee barring order powers.


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