Sniffer Dog Operation To Go Ahead As Greens Court Injunction Fails

"The ball is in the NSW Police's court now."

What you need to know
  • A court injunction by the Greens to stop police reliance on sniffer dogs this weekend failed to get off the ground in the Supreme Court
  • Police have told people attending Above and Beyond to "leave your drugs at home"
  • They'll be refusing entry to anyone indicated by dogs at the festival, even if they're found to not be carrying drugs
  • Sniffer dogs are notoriously unreliable, getting it wrong as high as 80% of the time

A controversial sniffer dog operation will still go ahead at the Above and Beyond music event this weekend after a Greens-led bid for an injunction failed to get off the ground in the Supreme Court.

The Sniff Off campaign -- an initiative between Greens NSW MP David Shoebridge and the NSW Young Greens -- had sought to stop police undergoing a 'blanket refusal' policy amid concerns it would unfairly target innocent people.

However, Justice Pembroke described the proceeding as "misconceived" and that, as summons had not been filed, he would not grant leave to file it in court.

"We wanted to do the right thing by festival goers and keep them safe rather than wait for problems to occur," Shoebridge told ten daily.

"But the court wouldn't rule on a hypothetical. The ball is in the NSW Police's court now."

He said the police are "on notice for this weekend", and believes it's likely they may be back in court next week.

The issue lies with concerns sniffer dogs produce false positives as high as 80 percent of the time. Police have said they plan to deny entry to anyone targeted by dogs, even if they're found not to be carrying drugs.

"If the NSW Police were serious about keeping young people safe they would be arguing for pill testing and amnesty bins, not trying to exclude people who have committed no offence," said Shoebridge.

Above and Beyond organisers have confirmed that anyone unjustly denied entry to the event will be fully refunded, but criminal justice lawyers expressed doubt the move was even legal.

"I believe it's an abuse of power and police are seeking to diminish fundamental legal rights of the community," said Kamal Hamka, principal solicitor at King & York lawyers.

Sniff Off campaigners will be on the ground at Above and Beyond this weekend to provide materials, information and support, and anyone who has a negative experience with police dogs is urged to contact them as they "prepare for round two."

But Shoebridge is worried that the Sydney Olympic Park Authority, which manages the grounds where Above and Beyond is taking place, will evict Sniff Off volunteers as he says they've done in the past.

Speaking outside the Supreme Court today, ticket holder Tom Raue said that he still intends on going to Above and Beyond, but will be working with Sniff Off if anything goes wrong.

"I'm worried that I want to go to this event, and I can be kicked out even if I'm found with no drugs, and I'm a bit worried about that," said plaintiff Tom Raue outside court today.

"Some of those searches are just a pat down search, they go through your bag, that's not as bad as it can get. Some of them a strip searches, where you get completely naked, they'll ask you to hold up parts of your body so they can look inside, [and] shine a flashlight in your cavities."

"I'll be attending the event and I hope I don't have my rights infringed, but if I do I know where to go," he said.

"We know that the drug dog program in New South Wales is a debacle," Greens NSW MP Jenny Leong outside court.

"We know that sniffer dogs get it wrong in up to 75 percent of cases. It is clear that this is an overreach by NSW Police.

"The idea that the police believe that an indication of a sniffer dog sitting down next to a festival goer is enough for them to be able to rip up the ticket of that innocent festival goer, if they have done nothing wrong, and have no drugs on them.

"It's completely unacceptable."

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller has declined to comment on the matter.