Premier Mike Baird.
Premier Mike Baird. Marc Stapelberg

Ballina MP speaks out against new police powers

A BILL giving police new powers to restrict the movements of anyone convicted, or even acquitted, of a serious criminal offence has drawn the ire of Ballina MP Tamara Smith.

Under the Baird Government's proposed laws, police could limit the movements and communications of anyone suspected of a serious crime, ban them from certain jobs and business dealings, and impose curfews for up to five years.

It would apply even after they had paid their dues to society, or even if they were suspected but never convicted of a crime.

The Bar Association has already called the plan an "unprecedented attack on individual freedoms and the rule of law".

Only the Greens opposed the bill during parliamentary debate, claiming applying restrictions on people not found guilty of a crime subverted the criminal justice process.

"What it does is undermine the first principles of criminal law - that is, once offenders have served a sentence their liberty is restored and that a person is innocent of any future crimes until he or she is arrested and proven guilty by a court of law," Ms Smith said.

"As uncomfortable as these principles are alongside the statistics of violent reoffending in New South Wales and in other states and jurisdictions, we need to be very clear about the road we are travelling on when we make exceptions to these first principles, as we have seen over the past decade," she said.

Liberal MP Alister Henskens said Ms Smith's stance highlighted the "philosophical difference between those who would put individual liberties above all else and those who recognise that in a truly free society there must be a balance between individual liberties and community liberties".

"We just heard that the member for Ballina would prefer seriously dangerous individuals, even if extremely small in number and clearly identified, to be released into the community to kill, rape or seriously harm the community before the law will act to protect the community," Mr Henskens said.

The bill will pass through parliament regardless of the Greens' opposition, with Labor's support.


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