Victoria Introduces Bill To Make Reforms To PSO Powers and Other Police-Related Amendments

Tuesday 3 September 2019 @ 12.12 p.m. | Legal Research

On 28 August 2019, the Minister for Police and Emergency Services Lisa Neville (“the Minister”) introduced the Police Legislation Amendment (Road Safety Camera Commissioner and Other Matters) Bill 2019 (VIC) (“the Bill”) into the Victorian Legislative Assembly.

Amendments under the Bill

The Bill proposes a number of amendments across various Acts in order to:

  • Enable Protective Services Officers (“PSOs”) to execute any arrest warrant
  • Retrospectively validate arrest warrants executed by PSOs
  • Enhance the ability of the Road Safety Camera Commissioner (“the Commissioner”) to perform the functions of its office
  • Enable the Victorian Police to dispose of unclaimed found property in a timely manner

In 2011, PSOs were introduced to every metropolitan and selected regional train stations in order to enhance community safety. In order to support PSOs and to ensure that they had the powers to carry out their duties, the Magistrates' Court Act 1989 (VIC) (“the Magistrates Court Act”) was amended by the Justice Legislation Amendment (Protective Services Officers) Act 2011 (VIC). This amendment gave PSOs the power to arrest an individual where there was a warrant issued.

According to the Media Release:

"A drafting error from 2011 ... meant that PSOs did not have legislative authority to execute a very limited number of warrants issued generally to police. Warrants issued to specifically named police officers were included in the original legislation.

This bill will fix this unintended inconsistency and ensure PSOs have the powers they need to execute all arrest warrants and will validate previous arrests made by PSOs in good faith."

If passed, the Bill will amend the Magistrates Court Act to enable PSOs to execute all arrest warrants, including warrants issued generally to all police under section 63 of the Magistrates Court Act. 

The role of the Commissioner was created in order to oversee the operation of the road safety camera system and to maintain public confidence in the accurate and efficient operation of the road safety camera system. Some of the Commissioner’s functions include independently reviewing and assessing the accuracy of the systems, undertaking complaints investigations relevant to the operation of the systems, and investigations requested by the Minister. In order to effectively perform these functions, the Commissioner requires comprehensive and timely information from other departments.

A report from the Commissioner delivered in May 2018, however, included findings of a lack of cooperation and transparency from the Department of Justice and Community Safety (“the Department”), when responding to the Commissioner’s requests for information. Consequently, the Bill contains potential amendments to the Road Safety Camera Commissioner Act 2011 (VIC) ("the Road Safety Commissioner Act") which:

  • Authorises the Department and its private contractors to disclose information in response to a request of information from the Commissioner in regards to the road safety camera system
  • Requires the information to be given in a timely manner
  • Requires the information be comprehensive and relevant to the request given
  • Imposes a duty of cooperation on the Department and its contractors to any reasonable request for information made by the Commissioner

Additionally, the Bill makes a number of amendments in regards to reporting and procedural fairness under the Road Safety Commissioner Act. These amendments include:

  • Requiring the Commissioner to prepare a draft work program at the beginning of each financial year in consultation with the Department
  • Any person or body that is subject to a comment or finding in a report must be given a reasonable opportunity to respond before the report is tabled at Parliament, this response is to be fairly included in the report
  • A copy of the report must be submitted to the Minister 28 days before tabling at Parliament
  • The Minister is also enabled to make additional guidelines in regards to reporting and record-keeping and information sharing between the Department, its private contractors and the Commissioner

The Bill also proposes to amend the Victoria Police Act 2013 (VIC) (“the Police Act”) in order to reduce the prescribed period during which unclaimed found property must be retained by the Victoria Police. Unclaimed found property includes lost or abandoned property handed to the police, and does not include property seized by or surrendered to the police. Under the current Police Act, these items must be retained for 3 months prior to disposal. The Bill would reduce this prescribed period to one month, following a review that found that there is little likelihood of an item being retrieved after one month. The amendment aims to increase the capacity for the Victorian Police to adequately store important items and evidence exhibits.

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Police Legislation Amendment (Road Safety Camera Commissioner and Other Matters) Bill 2019 (VIC) and supporting materials, available from TimeBase's LawOne service.

Media Release: Reforms To Better Protect Victorians (Minister for Police and Emergency Services, 28 August 2019)

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