New laws to increase party safety

MANY locals have had to front up to Gympie Magistrates Court on a Monday for behaving like drunken louts on the weekend.

But from this Saturday, they will be spared the embarrassment and instead receive on-the-spot fines for bad behaviour - a move expected to lessen the burden on an already-stretched court system.

New legislation being rolled out state-wide this week gives police the power to issue tickets for public nuisance, public urination and associated offences.

This follows a successful 12-month trial in South Brisbane and Townsville police districts during 2009, recommended by the Crime and Misconduct Commission.

A CMC study found 60 per cent of summary offences dealt with in the Magistrates Court were offences of public nuisance and that 97 per cent of defendants either pleaded guilty or were found guilty after they failed to appear in court.

Public urination and disorderly offences accounted for the majority of tickets, together accounting for two-thirds of all those issued.

Police Minister Neil Roberts said the review of the public nuisance offence identified ticketing as a viable option for dealing with public nuisance behaviour.

“Griffith University evaluated the trial and concluded infringement notices were a cost-effective means of dealing with public nuisance offences,” he said.

“It was found that during the trial period 46 per cent of all persons ticketed had no previous criminal history - consistent with the CMC report findings that policing of public nuisance offending is focused on managing party people in response to public concerns.”

Mr Roberts said police may use their discretion before handing out fines and people unhappy with their treatment would be able to challenge them in court.

“The ability for police to issue infringement notices will be in addition to current actions available to police, including diversion, cautions, issue of move-on-directions, issue of notices to appear and arrest and charge,” he said.

“(On-the-spot fines) will reduce the necessity for offenders to be taken into police custody for relatively minor offences, enabling police to spend less time on paperwork for public nuisance offenders and be available to perform operational duties.”

Mr Roberts said that in implementing state-wide public nuisance ticketing, the Queensland Police Service would maximise the use of alternatives to enforcement action, where appropriate, to ensure ticketing did not unreasonably impact on vulnerable social groups.

He said an evaluation would be conducted in 12 months through an Operational Performance Review on Public Order Offending.

The Police Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 also amends the Prostitution Act 1999 to provide for the automatic suspension and cancellation of a licensee’s licence for not paying annual fees.

It also strengthens the Prostitution Licensing Authority’s disciplinary inquiries, allowing criminal history checks of persons employed or seeking employment as a staff member of the PLA.

Finally the Bill amends the Police Service Administration Act 1999 to enable electronic assessment of criminal history records for employment screening purposes.

“This legislation balances the rights of individuals and the rights of the community to a safe and fair society by enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of the QPS,” Mr Roberts said.

Gympie Times

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