Summary Offensive – Know Your Rights: Victoria’s new ‘move on’ laws

Information for activists on the amendments to the Summary Offences Act 1966 (Vic)

Police have always had powers to deal with protesters and picketers in different situations. Earlier this year, the Victorian Government gave police officers and Protective Services Officers (’PSOs’) some new powers for protest situations by expanding existing ‘move on’ powers. You may have heard this referred to as the ’Anti-Protest Laws’ or the ’Summary Offences Bill’. Whilst the new move on powers are undemocratic and can affect protesters and picketers, protesting in Victoria is not illegal. Laws that affect protesters must be balanced against our democratic, civil and political rights, and any inappropriate use of laws against protesters can be scrutinised by the courts.

What are the changes?

From 28 May 2014, police and PSOs have additional powers to direct you to ’move on’ from a public place for up to 24 hours. A direction to move on can be given verbally or in writing, to individuals or groups, and a police officer can require you to give them your name and address.

From 1 September 2014, police can also apply to the Magistrates’ Court to exclude you from a public place for up to 12 months if you repeatedly breach a ‘move on’ order.

Move on directions

Police and PSOs can direct you to move on if they suspect on reasonable grounds:

  • you are breaching or are likely to breach the peace;
  • you are endangering or are likely to endanger the safety of others;
  • your behaviour is likely to injure someone, damage property or risk public safety;
  • you have committed an offence within the last 12 hours at the same public place;
  • you are causing others to reasonably fear violence;
  • you are obstructing or likely to obstruct persons or traffic; or
  • you are supplying or buying drugs; or
  • you are impeding or attempting to impede another person from entering or leaving a premises.

What about protections for protesters?

Police and PSOs are not allowed to direct you to move on for breaching the peace or obstructing people or traffic just because you are:

  • picketing a place of employment;
  • demonstrating or protesting about a particular issue; or
  • speaking or holding a banner, placard or sign or otherwise publicising your view about a particular issue.

This law provides some protection for protestors. However, you may still be directed to move on for a different reason, such as ’impeding or attempting to impede another person from entering or leaving a premises’.

What are my options if I’m issued with a ’move on’ direction?

Comply

  • You will be required to leave the public place for up to 24 hours.
  • You may be required to give your name and address to a police officer.*

Don’t Comply

  • You may be arrested by a police officer or PSO.
  • You may be fined up to $295 on the spot or $783 in Court.
  • You may be required to give your name and address to a police officer.*

*You can be fined if you do not comply with a police officer’s request to provide your name and address.

Exclusion Orders

From 1 September 2014, police officers can apply to the Magistrates’ Court for an ’exclusion order’ against persons who do not comply with three directions to move on within six months, or five directions within twelve months. The court has a discretion as to whether or not to make an exclusion order. If the court makes an exclusion order against you, you will be prevented from entering a specified area for up to twelve months. If you do not comply with an exclusion order, you could receive a jail sentence of up to two years. Only move on directions that are given after 31 August 2014 can be counted towards an exclusion order application.

What does this mean for political protest?

The new move on laws target protesters and picketers, but you still have the right to protest. Police officers and PSOs can only direct you to move on for the reasons explained on this brochure. You cannot be directed to move on just because you are protesting. If you want to avoid being fined or arrested under the move on laws, you should study the above list so that you can make an informed decision about how you choose to protest. Alternatively, you can avoid arrest or a fine by simply complying with a direction to move on.

If you wish to challenge these laws, you may choose to engage in civil disobedience. This above information is designed to provide you with an overview of the new move on laws and your rights to help you make an informed decision.

If you are arrested, you must provide your name and address if requested, and you should ask “am I under arrest?” and “what am I under arrest for?” You do not have to participate in any further conversations with police or PSOs, and you should demand to speak to a lawyer.

What else can I do?

  • Write to your local MP expressing your opinion about these anti-democratic laws.
  • Write to your local paper and explain the effect these laws have on you and your community.
  • Print this information and leave copies at your workplace, union or university campus. Put copies up on toilet walls or other places where they are likely to be read.
  • Keep standing up for your rights!

For more information about activist rights and the law, visit activistrights.org.au

last updated September 2014

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