POLICE will have the power to search or ban troublemakers in entertainment precincts, such as Hindley St or at major events, under laws which today passed State Parliament.
However, the changes have prompted concerns that the powers — such as expanded provisions allowing police to search people with metal detectors — are too far reaching and will impinge on civil liberties.
Under the law, state Attorney-General John Rau will now have the power to declare an area a ‘public precinct’ enabling police to use the same powers as they already do in a licencsed venue.
A precinct will be declared for a specified time — no longer than 12 hours in a 24-hour period — where there is a reasonable likelihood of people acting in a way that risks public order or safety.
“We know that the combination of alcohol, large groups of people and a number of licensed
venues can create a situation that has the potential to quickly escalate into violence,” Mr Rau said.
“It can also act as a magnet for thugs and drug dealers.
“A declaration means SA Police will have enhanced powers within a public precinct to manage
inappropriate behaviour, often intercepting trouble makers before they can harm others.”
Liberal MP Andrew McLachlan warned against the new laws in Parliament late last year.
“In essence, the Bill turns a declared area into a type of uber-licensed venue with the police acting as security guards,” he said.
“The powers in this Bill have the look of proclamations you would normally expect from a military junta.”
Those who contest a charge in court face a maximum fine of $1250, or they can accept an on-the-spot $500 fine.
The laws also allow police officers to remove a child under the age of 16 from a declared public precinct if the child is not under the supervision of a responsible adult, or if the child is “at risk’’ while within the precinct.
Events such as New Year’s celebrations in the city or at Glenelg, Gouger St’s Chinese New Year celebrations or music festivals would be prime candidates to be subject to a declaration under the new laws.
However, they cannot be used to prevent participation in any public advocacy, protest or industrial action.