Weeks after the House of Assembly (HOA) passed a watered-down version of the highly controversial Police Act, Cabinet has now reviewed and approved a new draft Police (Amendment) Bill, 2023.
While details of the new draft Bill have not yet been revealed, a Cabinet post-meeting statement released late last week, noted that Cabinet decided the Bill will be introduced in the House for its first reading at the next convenient sitting.
The new Bill is now expected to be brought before the HOA in the Fifth Session of the House of Assembly after elections are held today and the next government is sworn into office.
Premier Dr Natalio Wheatley stated previously that the government would bring an amended bill after the previous bill faced intense public backlash over some of its more draconian provisions.
Among those provisions was that police should be granted immunity, if they used reasonable force in the execution of their duties once this was done under the authority of a warrant issued by a judge, magistrate, or Justice of the Peace. However, the term ‘reasonable force’ was never defined in the proposed Bill.
Sections 190 and 191 of the previous bill which was rejected by lawmakers, stated that a police officer may use force, if necessary, and “as is reasonable in the circumstances, in the prevention of crime, or in effecting or in assisting in the lawful arrest of offenders or suspected offenders or of persons unlawfully at large”.
Other issues which surrounded the rejection of the previous bill included a provision to collect DNA and other ‘intimate samples’ such as semen from criminal suspects without the use of a warrant as well as provisions for searches to be conducted on persons and at properties without the use of a warrant.
Governor John Rankin
, who holds responsibility over the police force in the territory, insisted at the time that the Bill had not been rushed to the HOA and said his aim had only been for the territory to have an updated Police Act.
He also suggested in the process that the existing legislation was deficient in the area of modern policing techniques, such as taking DNA samples.
That element of the bill was later addressed when lawmakers passed a revised version of the proposed legislation weeks ago.