Concerns re risk of heavy-handed policing in Melbourne hot spots

1st Jul 2020

Extraordinary police measures being used to enforce lock downs in Melbourne virus hot spots must be measured and be culturally appropriate, says the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

“We are concerned that the residents of these ten suburbs could be unfairly targeted or inappropriately harassed by police as the government takes extra measures to slow down the spread of the virus,” said ALA national criminal justice spokesperson, Mr Greg Barns SC.

“Road blocks and police patrols in the neighbourhood are intimidating for residents, and we are concerned that we may see aggressive policing of the new lock downs with excessive use of force or over-reach in issuing fines.

“The purpose of the lock-down is to help residents to stay safe and reduce the spread of COVID-19. In this circumstance, education and harm minimisation is clearly more important that the rigid application of the law.”

The ten postcodes that are subject to the additional lock-downs are all located in the lower socio-economic northern and western suburbs of Melbourne and are culturally diverse.

“We already know that COVID-19 fines disproportionally affect people from lower socio-economic backgrounds, and we know that there are risks around racial profiling and over-policing already in these targeted areas,” said ALA Victorian President, Mr Jeremy King.

“We understand that public health emergencies require the government to take extraordinary measures but these new laws must be implemented appropriately and sensitively to ensure everyone’s rights are protected.

“I encourage anyone who feels they have been subject to unfair or unreasonable policing of the new lockdown laws in these suburbs to register their complaint on the COVID policing website -”

“We need to follow public health restrictions but it is important that residents in these targeted areas know that they have rights and they have options if they are being treated unfairly.”

Tags: police powers COVID-19