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New booze laws go "too far"

New booze laws go "too far"

Plans to change the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act to allow patting down of minors suspected of carrying alcohol in public have been criticised by the Australian Lawyers Alliance…

Plans to change the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act to allow patting down of minors suspected of carrying alcohol in public have been criticised by the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

Mohamed Haneef's lawyer and member of the ALA, Peter Russo, told Lawyers Weekly that the Bill amendments are open to abuse and may further exacerbate the power inequality between youth and police.

"It's using the sledgehammer to crack the walnut," said Russo. "It's an invasion of privacy on already vulnerable juveniles."

Russo said the difficulty police have with Schoolies - which will take over the Gold Coast in late November - was a motivating force behind the legislation.

While Russo said he doesn't envy police trying to look after kids on Schoolies, he said teens would not be less likely to drink in public if they knew the police could pat them down.

"It's a bit like saying, 'Do teenagers carry a copy of the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act around in their back pockets? Or read it?' The answer is no," he said.

In its submission to the Legal Affairs, Police, Corrective Services and Emergency Services Committee (the Committee) in QLD, the ALA warned that police could wrongly use pat down powers to victimise some groups of youths, and that juveniles would be more likely to react physically.

"The kid will feel threatened. The next thing they do is resist or push the policeman's hand away and there we have an assault on our hands," said Russo.

Currently police can place a juvenile under arrest for suspicion that they are in possession of alcohol. Once inside the police station, a juvenile must then have a responsible adult called to be with them.

While Russo acknowledges that this is time consuming, he said it is the correct way to manage the situation because police are then under "real control" in what they are doing.

The Committee - which will present its report to Parliament in November - discussed the role of pat down powers in reducing alcohol-fuelled violence, but mainly focused on health issues with juveniles drinking.

"We live in a culture where drinking is openly and actively encouraged, so why pick on juveniles as being the root cause of consumption of alcohol?" said Russo.

"It could be the case that the kid with a backpack of Bundy Rum comes from a responsible family who are shocked to hear that little Johnny's been behaving like this, and will take appropriate action, or it could be that he's from a vulnerable family who don't care.

"The protection of the juvenile is the ultimate concern. Parents need to be informed and take appropriate action and there are provisions within the acts for family services or child safety to get involved if they don't."

Like this story? Read more:

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New booze laws go "too far"
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