What are the Police Powers in NSW in Relation to Move On Powers?


When can police move me on from a public place?

Police can’t move you on from a public place with out a reason.

According to section 197 of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act NSW, they can only direct you to move on if they believe on reasonable grounds that you are:

  •     Obstructing traffic or another person;
  •     Engaging in behaviour that is considered harassment or intimidation to another person (or people);
  •     Behaving in such a way that, or your presence is causing or likely to cause fear to a reasonable person; or
  •     Present in the place in order to unlawfully supply or cause another person to unlawfully supply drugs

The direction of the police must be reasonable and aimed at stopping the above offences or intimidating behaviour.

Police must tell you why they are moving you on and what you have to do in order to comply with their order.

When using their power to give a move on order, police must give you a warning.

According to the NSW Police Code of Practice, there is a two-step process for a warning:

  • Police must tell you that you are required by law to comply with the request or direction as soon as possible after telling you to move on (unless you have already complied)
  • If you refuse to move on after the first step, police are required to tell you that your failure to comply with the request is an offence

Move on directions that are given to a group of people do not require that the police repeat the warning to every member of the group, however there is no presumption that each person in the group heard the warning.

Police may not use this power in order to disrupt an industrial dispute, an apparently genuine protest or demonstration, procession or organised assembly.

Move on orders and intoxication

Police powers in NSW in relation to intoxicated people allow police to issue directions to move on from a particular place for a specified time, which must not be more than six hours.

This legislation, which previously only extended to people in groups of three or more, now extends to individuals.

When making a move on order to an intoxicated person, the police officer must believe on reasonable grounds that their behaviour, as a result of intoxication is likely:

  •     To cause injury to any other person or people;
  •     Damage to property;
  •     Give rise to risk in public safety; or
  •     Is disorderly

Warnings for a move on order if you are intoxicated involve the same two steps outlined above but also require the police to tell you that it is an offence to be drunk and disorderly in that particular place, or any other public place for the next six hours.

What happens if I don’t comply with a move on direction?

Not complying with a move on direction is an offence.

It is punishable with a maximum fine of $220, and police can issue fines on the spot.

Continuing to be drunk and disorderly following a move on direction is also an offence under the Summary Offences Act.

The penalty for refusing to move on is $1,650.

If you believe that the move-on order was issued unfairly, it may be best to comply and later make a formal complaint rather than risk a fine, or an altercation with the police.

Expansion of police powers in NSW in recent years has meant new changes in many areas of the law.

Not only to police have increased scope when issuing move on orders but another important area which has been affected by the new police powers in NSW surrounding circumstances in which police may arrest without a warrant.


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About Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Specialist Criminal Lawyer and Principal at Sydney Criminal Lawyers, Sydney's leading firm of criminal and traffic defence lawyers.

One comment

  1. Zackary Enslow

    Me and my brother were in Sydney for the grand final and were charged $1100 each on the spot as well as being arrested for walking away.

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