Invisible powers to punish – the epitome of individualised control

Clare Farmer1
1Deakin University, Waurn Ponds, Geelong, Australia

Problems associated with excessive alcohol consumption in and around licensed premises have prompted a range of legislative, regulatory and operational responses. One provision empowers licensees in Victoria, Australia, to formally bar patrons from their venues and the surrounding area. This mirrors similar mechanisms which enable police officers to exclude individuals from public areas for alcohol-related disorderly behaviours. While the rationale for formal licensee barring powers is sound, the manner of their implementation is more problematic.

The imposition of a licensee barring order requires no proof to be documented and it takes effect immediately. Non-compliance is subject to police enforcement and possible criminal breach proceedings. The process through which a barring order can be challenged is ambiguous, and the punishment is served regardless of the review outcome. No data is available to enable assessment of the way in which barring orders are used, who the recipients are, or the number of review requests submitted.

Barring orders extend to non-judicial and non-law enforcement officers a formal discretionary and pre-emptive power to punish. Yet, with no training, monitoring or oversight of their use, Victoria’s licensee barring order powers are open to abuse.

This paper highlights the disconnect between provisions which are implemented to address issues of community safety, but which create the potential for unwarranted punishment, discrimination, and the dilution of individual rights. Licensee barring orders embody the individualised control of problematic behaviours, and continue the steady progression of summary powers to punish that are opaque to scrutiny.

Dr Clare Farmer is a Lecturer in Criminology at Deakin University. Her current research interests include the balance between police powers and individual rights, responses to alcohol-related disorderly behaviours, and sentencing practices.

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