LAW firm Arnold Bloch Leiber is helping a Victorian-based legal centre take a race discrimination case to the Federal Court of Australia against members of the Victoria Police, the Chief Commissioner of Police and the State of Victoria.
The firm has confirmed that it is acting pro bono on the case, with a team of barristers also acting pro bono.
The Flemington and Kensington Community Legal Centre (FKCLC) is helping 17 young people from the area, who have filed a race discrimination application in the Federal Court.
“In our view, police violence, racial profiling and racism have been and continue to be a critical and systemic concern for newly arrived Australians,” said Tamar Hopkins, principal solicitor of the FKCLC.
FKCLC is acting as co-advocates in this matter with Arnold Bloch Leibler.
“Young Africans in the Flemington area have been bringing their complaints to us since 2006. We have tried the complaint process, which leaves police investigating themselves, without success. Now, thanks to the pro-bono assistance of Arnold Bloch Leibler and an expert team of pro-bono barristers, we are able to take this critical issue of national importance before the Federal Court for independent determination,” said Peter Seidel, public interest law partner at Arnold Bloch Leibler.
“I was horrified to listen to the experiences of these courageous young people, their mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers.”
“The scale of the problems in issue here we say requires serious attention and redress. As a law firm, we felt duty-bound to assist. This community seeks an apology and genuine changes to police practices to prevent from ever happening again what they say has occurred here,” he said.
The claim before the Federal Court seeks the discipline of police engaged in these alleged actions and seeks measure to prevent racism and violence. A further measure being sought is a requirement that Victoria Police issue receipts to all people they stop and search, setting out the legal reason for the stop. The applicants believe this will prevent the kind of arbitrary and discriminatory policing that they contend has occurred, Arnold Bloch Leibler said in a statement.
“Victoria now has a Charter of Human Rights. We maintain that the issues raised in this case clearly indicate that these rights are not being realised,” said the FKCLC’s Hopkins.
“One of the means to rectify this situation is for the State of Victoria to ensure that the investigation of complaints against police is carried out by a truly independent mechanism.”
“This a land mark case of public interest law significance as the Federal Court of Australia will potentially examine whether there exists here a systemic police practice of racial profiling, in policing the African community members and their associates, and if such a practice exists, whether that practice is racially discriminatory under Australian law. The Court may also examine the effectiveness of a system in which Victoria Police ‘investigates itself’ when complaints against police are made,” said Seidel.