Friday, November 11, 2011

Brooker delivers

In January last year, the police arrested a group of protestors for protesting against the presence of an Israeli player at a tennis tournament. The reason for the arrests? The protestors were making noise, telling someone something they didn't want to hear, much to the rich and powerful tennis attendees' annoyance. At the time I pointed out that this was outrageous and ignored the Supreme Court's ruling in Brooker v. Police [PDF] that public order law was actually about public order. Now, the courts have agreed. The protestors have had their convictions quashed, with the judge ruling that

disruption to an individual's enjoyment of a sporting event is not the same thing as disruption of public order.
This is good news, and a victory for freedom of speech. At the same time, its also worth remembering that the police's actions robbed the protestors of their freedom of speech when it mattered, and that the acquittal does not remedy that. The police officers who committed this crime will face no consequences for doing so.

This has to change. As long as police enjoy impunity, they will continue to breach our rights, and the guarantees of the Bill of Rights Act mean nothing. If the police will not police their own, and discipline or sack officers who abuse their power and use false arrests to silence those they don't want to hear, then we need to look at revoking state immunity and making police individually liable for their abuses once more.