More needs to be done to prevent intimidation of lawyers
The President of the Law Society, Juliana Warner, welcomed comments made in Budget Estimates by the NSW Attorney General, that he is considering law reform to strengthen protections available to lawyers following the revelation that the Commissioner of Police had only issued warnings to officers found by the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission to have engaged in deliberate harassment of a solicitor.
“In their report on Operation Monza, the LECC found that three NSW Police Force officers from Strike Force Raptor were involved in the targeting of a practising solicitor in NSW, engaging in conduct which harassed and intimidated the solicitor,” Ms Warner said.
“In a modern criminal justice system, such behaviour is totally unacceptable.
“It demonstrates a complete disregard for the rule of law, and the professionalism and respect with which all parties must approach the administration of justice.
“The fact that the Commissioner’s response to that behaviour appears to have been nothing more than a reprimand raises serious concerns about the extent to which the Commissioner feels that police are above the law.
“At the very least, one would have expected a formal apology for the behaviour, and a commitment to better educate police officers to ensure that such behaviour never again occurs.”
Ms Warner said that police need to understand that:
- while we have an adversarial criminal justice system, the integrity of that system relies on the conduct of all parties remaining professional and respectful;
- legal practitioners have professional duties, rigorously regulated, and a solicitor’s duty to the court and the administration of justice is paramount, and prevails to the extent of inconsistency with any other duty; and
- as wielders of extraordinary powers over other citizens, the consequences of Police engaging in harassing and intimidatory behaviour are not only devastating for any individual involved, but for trust in the Police, and respect for our justice system and public institutions.
“The Commissioner’s response, to both the LECC Report and the Law Society’s letter to him, has been unsatisfactory given the severity of what has occurred.
“I will be speaking with the Attorney General further to offer the Law Society’s assistance in considering whether further law reform is required to spell out, in indelible terms, the limits of police powers in NSW, and the severe consequences when those limits are exceeded.”