Greens Take Police To Court Over Sniffer Dog Plan

Police plan to deny entry to anyone targeted by sniffer dogs at Above and Beyond in Sydney, even if a search finds no drugs on them.

What you need to know
  • Greens MP David Shoebridge is taking NSW Police to court over sniffer dog plan at Above and Beyond festival
  • Police plan to deny entry to anyone targeted by sniffer dogs, even if no drugs are found
  • Sniffer dogs produce false positives as high as 80 percent of the time
  • The Sniff Off campaign raised $4,000 in 12 hours to fund legal injunction

A police plan to deny entry to people targeted by sniffer dogs at an upcoming music festival has landed them in court.

Earlier this week, NSW Police announced a sniffer dog-reliant approach to the upcoming Above and Beyond festival in Sydney, whereby anyone targeted by sniffer dogs will be denied entry, even if a search finds no drugs.

It's a plan that may not even be legal, as ten daily reported on Wednesday.  The reliance on the sniffer dogs has also come under criticism as figures show sniffer dogs produce false positives a high proportion of the time. A 2011 study found this figure to be as high as 80 percent, with 11,248 searches from a total of 14,102 finding no drugs.

Greens NSW MP David Shoebridge -- who yesterday called the move "a clear abuse of police power" -- has now announced that he's taking the police to court.

He'll be seeking an injunction in the Supreme Court on Friday.

"It is not a crime to have a drug dog falsely indicate you are carrying drugs, but right now people are facing the very real prospect of having their tickets torn up because of the failed drug program," he said on Thursday.

"We've got advice that there is a strong case to be made that the police do not have the power to do this and will be seeking an immediate injunction on Friday."

"Drug dogs get it wrong up to 75 percent of the time. This is nothing more than the NSW Police punishing young people for the abject failure of their drug dog program."

Criminal lawyers who spoke to ten daily said that it was not clear how the police's plan could be legal.

"This new position by the police is simply diluting the basic human rights that people have," said Kamal Hamka, principal solicitor at King & York lawyers.

"A large majority [of the criminal legal profession] that I've spoken to think that this is borderline illegal, and contradicts the provisions of the police legislation.

"You're going to have innocent people caught up in this, which is the really sad part about it."

Following the police announcement on Tuesday, a number of people planning to attend Above and Beyond festival on June 9 have contacted Mr Shoebridge's office, concerned police will "steal their tickets" despite doing nothing wrong.

"We'll be in court on Friday supporting festival goers to get an injunction against this authoritarian overreach of police powers," said Mr Shoebridge.

Sniff Off, his anti-police dog campaign that's in collaboration with the NSW Young Greens, began fundraising on Wednesday to pay for the court injunction.

Within hours, it has smashed its target of $900, and on Thursday morning had raised over $4,000.

The Sniff Off campaign is a collaboration between David Shoebridge's office and the NSW Young Greens.

"So happy to hear that something is being done about this, and that we have a voice," wrote one supporter, Asha Warmington. "Thank you! I look forward to supporting this movement for as long as necessary."

"Prevent this police tactic targeting innocents," said another, Shane Guest. "And actually having the potential to undo harm minimisation progress by pushing music back underground."

NSW Police did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.

Sniffer Dog Powers To Be Tested In Court