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Review of SA Police frontline services to hear of convoluted laws

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Changes to criminal laws that police believe unnecessarily “tie up resources” will be proposed under a State Government-commissioned independent review designed to make SA Police “more efficient and effective”.

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Police Minister Corey Wingard today confirmed to InDaily the review – announced before the March state election – would be led by retired Supreme Court judge Kevin Duggan QC, who he says will report back to the Marshall Government with recommendations by October next year.

Wingard insisted the process would not involve ministerial intervention in police procedures, insisting it was “an independent review” designed to ensure police were “meeting community expectations in delivering on their operations and functions”.

“We’re working with the independent review to get efficiencies out of the police force,” he said, citing examples such as “police sitting around when court proceedings are on and they’re giving evidence”.

He suggested the terms of reference – which it’s understood are broad-ranging – would allow the review to focus on aspects such as the use of technology in such instances “to find aspects we think we can do more efficiently and effectively”.

“SAPOL already do a marvellous job protecting our community but we should always be looking at ways we can improve our frontline services,” he said.

Wingard said he had “consulted with the Police Commissioner, the Police Association and other key stakeholders who are supportive of this review and will be involved throughout the process”.

But Police Association president Mark Carroll stopped short of endorsing the review, telling InDaily: “All I can say is we will be responding to the terms of reference.”

“We were aware of the review – as announced by the Liberal Party in Opposition at our [annual] conference in 2017,” he said.

“They’ve been elected and they’re following through with that commitment, and we’ll respond to it.”

That response is likely to include a critique of changes to the criminal law and summary procedures act over several years that police believe have made the demarcation of offences “a bit convoluted”.

“Part of our submission will focus on the very widespread changes to the criminal law and summary procedures act over the last 15 years, to make sure that the laws are streamlined
sufficiently to ensure they don’t unintentionally tie up police resources,” Carroll said.

Wingard conceded the review would take in “relevant legislative provisions and internal protocols with a focus on reducing red tape”, including a focus on “Major Indictable Offences reform that commenced recently”.

Part of the proposed change may, ironically, unwind a major legislative change that happened under the last Liberal State Government, when categories of breaking and entering were reclassified as “serious criminal trespass” after a public outcry over home invasion sentencing, championed by ‘I’m With Ivy’ campaigner Ivy Skowronski.

Other reclassifications occurred under the Rann Labor Government, whose Attorney-General, recenetly retired MP Michael Atkinson, told InDaily: “Defence and prosecution probably want to have elements of proof and procedure that the police find burdensome – there’s that tension at all levels in the criminal justice system.”

“There’s always tension between the legal profession and the criminal defence bar and the police, and to a lesser extent between the prosecution and police and to an even lesser extent between the ministers and police about procedures,” he said.

“The police association wants to have maximum discretion for police officers to have the most streamlined procedure [but] obviously we wanted to put in things we regarded as safeguards for the citizens.”

Wingard said current Attorney-General Vickie Chapman was “right across” the review – and its prospective impact on her portfolio, saying: “We’ve been in constant conversation.”

Acting SA Police Commissioner Linda Williams welcomed the review of frontline services.

‘The Government has today announced a review of all aspects of police work with a focus on reviewing legislative provisions, reducing red tape, streamlining operations and looking at new and innovative policing technologies to allow more time to be devoted to frontline policing,” she said.

‘The review will commence in October and provides another opportunity for SAPOL to continue to look at enhancing frontline services including the forth-coming introduction of the District Policing model.”

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