Domestic Violence Blitz Raises Questions Regarding Lawfulness of Arrests

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The New South Wales Police Force is boasting about the arrest of nearly 600 people during this week’s four-day operation targeting ‘domestic violence offences’.

And as usual, the mainstream media is right behind them, labelling those arrested as ‘predators’ and ‘cowards’ with few or no details of the alleged offences, and entirely ignoring both the presumption of innocence – the fundamental democratic principle that a person is presumed to be innocent until and unless found guilty by a court of law – and issues surrounding the legality of, and motivation behind, such bulk, ‘RBT-like’ arrests of hundreds of people.

Indeed, the sparse information published to date raises questions about whether the arrests, or at least many of them, satisfy the legal requirements for an arrest and whether taxpayers will once again have to foot the bill for unlawful arrests by overzealous police officers.

The ‘blitz’

According to police, Operation Amarok III – which took place across the state from Wednesday 12th until yesterday, Saturday 15 July 2023 and involved police commands across the state – resulted in the arrest of 592 people who were charged with domestic-violence offences as well as firearm and weapon possession, and drug possession and supply.

Police say that 139 of those arrested were “identified amongst NSW’s most dangerous domestic violence offenders” and 103 had “outstanding warrants for violent offences”.

They report that a total of 1107 criminal charges were laid.

Over the course of the four days, police “engaged with high-risk domestic violence offenders on 1169 occasions, made 315 applications for Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders (ADVOs), served 500 outstanding ADVOs, completed 4882 ADVO compliance checks and 1465 bail compliance checks”.

The also say they conducted 116 Firearms Prohibition Order (FPO) searches, seized 22 firearms and 40 prohibited weapons, and ‘detected’ illicit drugs on 89 occasions.

“You’ve been warned. Your predatory behaviour will be policed at your door”.

Questions raised

But while this may all sound positive on the surface, and has certainly given tabloid police fan boy and girl ‘reporters’  – who rely entirely on police versions of events without a shred of scrutiny – a reason to publish about what a great job their doing, the fact of the matter is there is very little information about whether many of these arrests are actually legally justified – in other words, whether police had in fact satisfied the requirements of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2007 (‘the LEPRA’) in the execution of the arrests.

In that regard, section 99 of the LEPRA makes clear that a police officer is not permitted to perform an arrest without a warrant unless he or she:

  1. ‘Suspects on reasonable grounds’ (the operative word being ‘reasonable’) that the person is committing or has committing an offence, and
  2. Is satisfied that the arrest is ‘reasonably necessary’ for any one or more of the following reasons:

(i) to stop the person committing or repeating the offence or committing another offence,

(ii) to stop the person fleeing from a police officer or from the location of the offence,

(iii) to enable inquiries to be made to establish the person’s identity if it cannot be readily established or if the police officer suspects on reasonable grounds that identity information provided is false,

(iv) to ensure that the person appears before a court in relation to the offence,

(v) to obtain property in the possession of the person that is connected with the offence,

(vi) to preserve evidence of the offence or prevent the fabrication of evidence,

(vii) to prevent the harassment of, or interference with, any person who may give evidence in relation to the offence,

(viii) to protect the safety or welfare of any person (including the person arrested),

(ix) because of the nature and seriousness of the offence.

This failure to follow these requirements will render an arrest to be unlawful, opening the way for a civil claim for unlawful arrest – a claim which, if successful, would be paid by the New South Wales taxpayer.

Indeed, our state’s taxpayers foot the bill for tens of millions of dollars every year over such misconduct.

In addition to this, mainstream media photos and footage of heavily-armed tactical response team members violently arresting individuals who are – in the words of the mainstream media “cowering” and “hiding” – has raised questions about whether ‘reasonable force’ was exercised during the arrests.

In terms of the law, section 231 of the LEPRA makes clear that ‘such force as is reasonably necessary’ can be used to arrest a person.

And while what is reasonable will depend on all of the relevant circumstances, it is important to be aware that any force in excess of this will amount to an assault under the criminal law as well as, once again, potentially render the police force liable to pay compensation for the misconduct; which, again, will ultimately be paid by the state’s taxpayers.

So, while the tabloid media is summarily hailing the efforts of the police force, it appears closer scrutiny is required and, on a more general level, there should be a discussion regarding whether such wholesale raids and arrests are desirable in our society.

Who are the predators?

Indeed in the eyes of many, including those innocent of any offences as well as those who have ‘served their time’ and are merely trying to get on with their lives, the ones engaging in the “predatory conduct” of which police speak are the police themselves, and their warning of people being “police at your door” amounts to overreach by the state, and even harassment and intimidation.

And while it may be socially acceptable to conduct mass arrests against those labelled domestic violence offenders, one has to wonder which group will be targeted next.

The frog is well and truly boiling

Going to court over an alleged domestic violence-related incident?

If you are going to court over a domestic-violence related incident such as an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order and/or an Assault Offence, call Sydney Criminal Lawyers anytime on (02) 9261 8881 for expert advice and formidable legal representation, so you can get the events behind you and move on with your life.

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