There’s a blog on our website dated 21st of July 2012, which is titled Sniffer Dogs and Reasonable Suspicion.
That blog talks about media reports at the time, that four out of five positive indications by sniffer dogs are false, there because the person has dogs themselves, or because they have food on them, or had food on them, or other sources other than them having drugs on them.
Now this morning I went to Silverwater Correctional Centre to visit a client.
I parked there, got out, and as sometimes occurs I was asked by the correctional officer to accompany other people in a line to be searched by the sniffer dog, or to be sniffed by the sniffer dog.
Now long and behold the dog sits in front of me indicating that I may have drugs on me.
Now the correction officer quite properly came up to me and said is there anything that you may have on you that would be illegal, because before that of course the correctional officer said that we are not allowed to have any drugs or any needles or anything of that sort on us.
I said well I have drugs.
I was taken out of the line.
I was taken to the side and of course then quite properly asked to empty my pockets, which I did, I was then asked do I consent to a search and I wanted to go in and see my client so I consented to the search.
My car was then searched and of course nothing was on me.
Like obviously I don’t have anything to do with drugs and I was then told that the correctional officer would ring his superior and ask them what to do next.
He did that, came back, and he said that he had three options.
The first option was to call the police.
The second option was to allow me to go into the jail for what’s called a boxed visit with my client.
Now normally when we go to the jail as lawyers we can sit down in a room with our clients and because we may have a lot of materials we can take them through those materials, get them to sign what needs to be signed, and really those face-to-face visits when you know you can get them to sign things and show them certain documents are the way we need to operate in order to properly communicate to our clients.
A boxed visit is a little bit different.
There are two pieces of glass, your client is on one side you’re on the other side, and it’s quite hard to speak with them and to show them certain documents of course it’s difficult to get them to sign things and so on.
Because it’s a Saturday and the clients cases on Tuesday I accepted the invitation for a boxed visit.
I went in, saw my client.
Unfortunately we couldn’t communicate properly and I had to leave.
Now this whole experience I think is very, very common and I would be interested to know if other people have gone through the same thing.
Now this experience has reinforced my views that these drug sniffing dogs are not reliable.
The indications are not accurate as was reported in the media.
Now I’d be interested to know who this has occurred to, the circumstances in which this has occurred.
Now this experience has showed me a number of things.
Firstly when the correctional officers stopped me and were searching me and were around me and were suggesting that I had drugs on me I admittedly and I think quite naturally because I’m not used to this sort of a situation became apprehensive perhaps a little nervous, and I think that’s a normal natural reaction to that type of a situation.
Now I was thinking, things were going through my mind, I was thinking well could someone have put something on me, may I have shaken the hands of someone that was using drugs, or what’s going on here, could someone have left something in my car; not that I know of any one that I associate with on a personal level that has anything to do with drugs, but you know all of these things go through your mind.
Now the reason I’m saying this is that when my clients who are searched for drugs get the police fact sheet you will quite often see that they were nervous when they were approached and police would quite often use this as a reason to search them.
Now I think again that that is not a reason to search them.
It’s quite natural or normal to become a little bit apprehensive in that situation, and I think that it’s quite unfair and perhaps not legal to search someone because they are nervous or tbecause they’re acting in a particular way.
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