: Review of police powers requiring removal of face coverings

Review of police powers requiring removal of face coverings

David Carter
New South Wales

The NSW Ombudsman is set to review powers granted to police requiring the removal of face coverings for the purposes of identification including helmets, masks, veils or niqabs.

Granted in response to the District Court’s overturning of a six-month jail term for a Sydney woman accused of falsely accusing a police officer of attempting to remove her burqa, these powers came into effect on 1 November 2011.

With the complainant having worn a burqa at the time she lodged the complaint, the District Court quashed the original conviction citing a lack of suitable evidence that the woman in question was in fact the person who had lodged the false complaint.

The powers extend beyond police powers and allow public officials to require removal of face coverings for identification purposes in juvenile and adult correctional establishments and courts whilst also requiring those who witness statutory declarations or affidavits to see the face of the person making the declaration. The Ombudsman is required to review the exercise of new powers conferred on police officers for their first twelve months of conferral.

The Ombudsman will report to the Minister by mid-2013.

DAVID CARTER is a PhD candidate in Law at the University of Technology Sydney.

(2012) 37(3) AltLJ 206
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