Police

The following content draws upon, in part, the Joint Australian NGO Coalition's fact sheets prepared for the Universal Periodic Review.

Police oversight, regulation and accountability

There is a lack of regulation and accountability regarding the use of force (including lethal force) by police and deaths in custody (in particular, Aboriginal deaths in custody) in many Australian jurisdictions. There are inadequate means for independently investigating police conduct and a lack of access to effective remedies where police misconduct is proven to have occurred. There is evidence of targeting and harassment by police of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and of newly arrived migrants (particularly those from Africa).

Expansion of coercive powers

Legislation has been introduced and implemented across Australia as part of a commitment towards "tackling the growing incidences of drunkenness, disorderly behaviour and violence". Such legislation significantly extends the coercive powers available to police to search and apprehend individuals including, in some instances, without any need for suspicion on reasonable grounds regarding the commission of an offence. The legislation has had a disproportionate affect and impact on young, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, homeless and mentally ill individuals.

What the UN Human Rights Council recommended in the Universal Periodic Review and the Australian Government's response

In January 2011 Australia was reviewed by the UN Human Rights Council during the Universal Periodic Review (or UPR) (a process whereby the human rights performance of all UN member states is reviewed by other states). In June 2011 Australia will provide its response to the 145 recommendations made by the Human Rights Council.

The Government has accepted over 90 per cent of the recommendations and has committed to incorporating the recommendations it has accepted into the National Human Rights Action Plan.

The Human Rights Council made a number of relevant recommendations in relation to police.  Australia has responded to these recommendations as set out in the following table.

Recommendation

Stance

Explanation

Further improve the administration of justice and the rule of law including by setting up appropriate mechanisms to ensure adequate and independent investigation of police use of force, police misconduct and police related deaths (recommendation 86.89).

Accepted

A range of oversight mechanisms exists to ensure scrutiny of police use of force, misconduct or police-related deaths in Australia. This includes oversight by the federal Ombudsman. States and Territories have independent authorities that investigate claims made against police as well as any deaths in custody.

Address the factors that lead to the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders in prison populations (recommendation 86.93).

Accepted

The Australian Government will continue to address over-representation of Indigenous people in prison, including by funding Indigenous-specific Legal Services and diversion and recidivism programs.  States and Territories have a range of programs in place to address this issue.

Enhance communication between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders communities law enforcement officials, and enhance the training of those officials with respect to human rights and cultural awareness (recommendations 86.95 and 86.96).

Accepted

The Australian Federal Police and State and Territory police have a range of cultural awareness and human rights training in place. Additional human rights training will be delivered throughout the federal public sector including the AFP from 2011.

Effectively prohibit the use of excessive force by police, including the use of Tasers (recommendation 86.88).

Accepted-in-part

Australia does not intend to prohibit the use of Tasers but will continue to take effective legal measures to prohibit the use of excessive force by police.