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Police given new powers in West End

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Police will be given new powers over members of the public in a large swathe of the city’s West End under the first use of legislation designed to crack down on anti-social and disorderly behaviour.

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Beginning this weekend, Police will be able to exercise the new powers from 6pm to 6am overnight on Fridays and Saturdays inside an area around Hindley Street bordered by King William Street, North Terrace, West Terrace and Currie Street (see map below).

Police will be able to treat people within the area in a similar way to patrons at a licensed venue.

Within the declared area, Police will be able to conduct a metal detector search of an individual, ban a person between specified hours, direct a person to “move on”, remove children, or fine people more than $1000 for the offence of “behave in a disorderly or offensive manner in a declared precinct”.

The new Police powers will operate in the above section of the city overnight on Fridays and Saturdays. Source: State Government

While the Government has chosen to declare the area overnight on Fridays and Saturdays, it says it can can impose the powers on the area at any specified time “where there is a reasonable likelihood of conduct occurring that would pose a risk to public order and safety”.

Attorney-General John Rau said the move was designed to make sure “everyone going into the city can enjoy a night out safely”.

He said the timing of the declaration was based on a risk assessment by SA Police and would be put in place for 12 months before being reviewed.

“If you are out and about having dinner or a drink with friends and family, you should not have to put up with any person or people who are highly intoxicated, or have their anti-social behaviour impact adversely on your own good night out,” he said.

“Police can now act swiftly and quickly to remove troublemakers from the area, which in most occasions will defuse situations before they escalate.

“Everyone has the right to live in a safe and vibrant city, and we want people to have fun when they are visiting some of our great restaurants and bars without worrying they will be abused on the street or worse, face physical abuse.

“It’s quite simple – if you don’t like the idea of being searched by police, or asked to move on, don’t be a menace on the streets.”

SA Police deputy commissioner Linda Williams said Police would be able to take a “pre-emptive approach” within the designated precinct which would become “a safe space for families and law abiding members of the community, but it will not be a welcoming space for drunken idiots and criminals”.

“SAPOL welcomes this legislation as it allows police to effectively manage inappropriate behaviour in real time without the need to be unduly tied up with arrest documentation or administrative burdens,” she said.

“We expect this to help police manage unruly and disorderly behaviour without adding an additional burden to the judicial system.”

However, the Greens and others have warned that the move will have unintended consequences.

Greens MLC Mark Parnell said “sweeping new police powers are to be introduced across a large swathe of Adelaide, which will directly impact on law-abiding citizens who are doing nothing more than enjoying a night out with friends”.

“All the evidence is that these new laws will impact most on young people and Aboriginal people,” he told InDaily.

“These new laws are setting up conflicts that are likely to exacerbate relations and attitudes to the police amongst targeted groups. Heavy-handed policing of young people who are doing nothing wrong, but simply hanging out together in public places, could even result in an increase in minor offending including offensive language and even assaults on police.

“The unfairness of being hassled or harassed for simply being there is not lost on young people. If you add alcohol to the mix, you can create tensions where none existed before.”

He said “time will tell whether the police use these powers sparingly as a last resort, or whether they become a routine part of a night out in Adelaide”.

The Law Society and youth advocates opposed the legislation when it was introduced to parliament, with their submissions to the Government echoing Parnell’s concerns.

The Law Society said at the time that the legislation created a “real risk that young people will be restricted in their rights to access public spaces and to congregate and socialise in peer groups”.

Rau said some traders had opposed the measures because they were more interested in their own interests, rather than the public interest.

InDaily is seeking an updated response from the Law Society.

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