The NSW Ombudsman’s review of the consorting laws has shown that the impact of criminalizing association is being borne by young people and the Aboriginal community.
The Ombudsman found the laws being used well beyond their stated purpose of fighting organized crime to target instead “a broad range of offending, including minor and nuisance offending”.
One of the most notable findings was the “exceptionally high police error rate when issuing consorting warnings in relation to children and young people”.
Greens MP and Justice Spokesperson David Shoebridge said:
“It shows just how much these laws are failing to tackle outlaw motorcycle gangs when 44% of those targeted by general duties police were Aboriginal.
“Half of the adult women targeted under the law by general duties police were Aboriginal and over 60% of children and young people were Aboriginal.
“In just a 3 year period, 1,102 Aboriginal people were targeted by general duties police using the expanded consorting laws. This represents a staggering 44% of those targeted by general duties police.
“A completely unacceptable 80% of children and young people who had their associates warned about consorting with them were mistakenly identified as ‘convicted offenders’ by police
“It’s hard to imagine the impact on the lives of the young people involved in the over 200 cases where people close to them were given heavy handed invalid warnings and were falsely told they were a “convicted offender” .
“These laws are overkill even for skilled specialist police, and extraordinary discretionary powers like this should never have been rolled out to general duties police.
“It is no accident that the majority of submissions received called for this law to be repealed. It is bad law, and the risk and fact of its misuse should be enough justification to remove it from the statute books in NSW.
“Laws that grant excessive discretion to police officers raise serious concerns with the general public, especially when they see those laws being enforced in ways that are at odds with their stated purpose,” Mr Shoebridge said.
Read the complete report here.