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June 21, 2014

Clare Farmer examines the legitimacy of police imposed punishments for alcohol violence

Clare Farmer Profile Pic

Last week, Deakin Criminologist Clare Farmer (Associate Lecturer and Doctoral Candidate) presented a paper at the Crime Prevention and Communities Conference in Melbourne (10-11 June). The paper, ‘Police imposed punishment: a legitimate response to alcohol-related violence and disorder in Victoria’s night-time economy?’ examined the effectiveness of Victoria’s banning order legislation.

At a time when several Australian jurisdictions are implementing new policies in response to alcohol-related violence, often with minimal evidence based and consultation, Clare’s research was well received by those attending the conference, including members of Victoria Police.

Conference paper abstract:
Patterns and trends in alcohol-related violence and disorder in Victoria’s night-time economy (NTE), and attendant media and political focus, have precipitated an expanding regulatory and legislative framework. A key feature of the legislative response is the proliferation of police-imposed discretionary justice. Measures such as infringement notices, move-on powers, exclusion and banning orders enable police-initiated resolutions and punishments to be imposed locally and immediately. The nature and extent of discretionary police powers has expanded over the last decade, but was limited analysis of their effectiveness or potential broader consequences.

This paper addresses key features of new research into Victoria’s banning order legislation. Banning orders enable police officers to compel the recipient to leave a designated area and prohibits re-entry for up to 72 hours, implicitly criminalising the act of being in a public space. Banning orders sidestep judicial oversight, potentially undermined the presumption of innocence and conflate notions of pre-emption and punishment.

The effectiveness of banning as a mechanism to control and reduce violence in the NTE is unclear, yet their scope continues to increase. The rhetoric upon which the legislation is predicated serves to diminish any challenge to the diminution of rights that is evident in its enactment. The perceived ‘need’ to address a problem is used to justify any potential impact upon the principles of criminal law, due process procedural protections and individual rights. Consequently, the potential exists for discretionary powers, devised as a limited response to specific concerns, to become ‘normalised’ and extended through use rather than scrutiny.

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