The consorting law report on the operation of Part 3A, Division 7 of the Crimes Act 1900 - April 2016

ISBN 978-1-925061-80-2
Category Reports and submissions
Publication Date 20 June 2016

Summary

The Acting Ombudsman, Professor John McMillan, has reviewed the operation of the NSW consorting law over a three year period from its commencement in April 2012. The Attorney General tabled the Ombudsman’s report in Parliament on Friday 17 June 2016.

The new consorting law makes it a criminal offence for a person to continue to associate or communicate with at least two people who have previously been convicted of an indictable offence, after receiving an official police warning. The consorting law aims to prevent crime by disrupting or deterring associations that may lead to the building or continuation of criminal networks.

The breadth of the new consorting law means that the main constraint on its application is the exercise of discretion by police officers. Police have significant discretion in deciding who they will warn, who will be warned about, and whether to bring charges. There is no legal requirement for the associations targeted by police for consorting to have any link to planning or undertaking criminal activity.

The Ombudsman’s report outlines use of the consorting law in relation to members of criminal gangs, but also in relation to people experiencing homelessness, children and young people and people with no criminal record. In some areas the proportion of use in relation to Aboriginal people was very high.

The Ombudsman’s report recommends the adoption of a statutory and policy framework to ensure police apply the consorting law in a way that is focused on serious crime, closely linked to crime prevention, and is not used in relation to minor offending.

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