Justice Legislation Amendment (Police and Other Matters) Bill 2019 Introduced In Victoria

Tuesday 19 February 2019 @ 12.09 p.m. | Crime | Legal Research

The Justice Legislation Amendment (Police and Other Matters) Bill 2019 (Vic) (‘the Bill’) was introduced in the Victorian Legislative Assembly on 5 February 2019. The Bill makes key amendments to various Acts focusing on changes to police investigative powers (particularly in regards to DNA evidence), drug and firearm matters, and introducing additional offences against harm and threats against officers.

DNA Evidence

The main changes to be implemented by the Bill in regards to DNA evidence are:

  • Police will no longer be required to obtain a court order to gather a DNA profile sample from certain suspects and offenders (this includes suspected adults committing indictable offences)
  • Police will also be able to gather a DNA profile sample from 15 to 17 year olds suspected of serious offences without a court order

These changes aim to reduce the administrative burden on courts, whilst simultaneously assisting the Police in identifying offenders, in particular serious recidivist offenders.

However, some parties have raised concerns at the announcement of these new powers. Mel Walker, co-chair of the Law Institute of Victoria’s criminal law section noted that such powers could undermine the presumption of innocence and lead to wrongful convictions.

The Minister for Police and Emergency Services addressed these concerns in the Bill’s statement of compatibility, and further explained the operation of these powers and the oversight  mechanisms to be put in place:

“To complement these reforms, clause 76 of the Bill creates new oversight mechanisms that will be performed by the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) to monitor compliance with provisions governing the authorising, taking, use, retention and destruction of DNA profile samples …  A senior police officer must be satisfied of particular criteria before authorising the taking of a DNA profile sample from a suspect or an offender. In relation to adult suspects, the senior police officer must be satisfied that the person is in lawful custody, the person is not incapable of giving informed consent and has refused to consent, the person is believed to have committed a particular indictable offence, and taking the sample without the consent of the person is justified in all the circumstances. When the suspect is aged 15 to 17 years old, the senior police officer must believe on reasonable grounds that the child has committed a DNA sample offence, which is defined in clause 52 and includes a number of serious indictable offences listed in clause 78 … The taking of DNA profile samples will also be governed by requirements to ensure that the procedures are carried out safely and with respect to the person’s privacy. The Bill inserts a new requirement to use the least intrusive and least painful method of obtaining a DNA sample that is practicable in the circumstances.”

The Bill also stipulates that the Police must destroy and delete DNA samples collected if the suspect is not charged with an offence within 12 months, the charge is withdrawn or not proceeded with, or if the person is found not guilty.

Drug offences

The Bill also amends various drug-related offences, aimed against organised crime drug traffickers:

  • Trafficking commercial quantities of a drug of dependence, when carried out for the benefit of, or at the direction of a criminal organisation will be punishable by life imprisonment
  • The quantum of commercial quantity of heroin has been reduced, bringing harsher sentences to these dealers

Additional offences

The Bill will also introduce new offences and higher penalties in order to increase protections for police officers, protective services officers (“PSOs”), police custody officers (“PCOs”), custodial officers, youth custodial officers and their families. The new offences and penalties include:

  • Discharging a firearm, including firing into the air or at the ground, when recklessly endangering a police officer or a protective services officer (‘PCO’) will be an offence punishable by up to 15 years in jail
  • Intimidation of an officer will be an offence punishable by up to 10 years in jail
  • Armed offenders guilty of assault of an officer on duty will now face up to 10 years in jail, or 15 years if the offender was armed with a firearm or imitation firearm

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The Justice Legislation Amendment (Police and Other Matters) Bill 2019 (Vic) and supporting materials, available from TimeBase's LawOne service.

Tougher Laws To Solve Crime And Protect Police (Media release), 5 February 2019.

Victoria's DNA laws need fixing, fast (The Age), 21 January 2019.  

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