Misused police search warrants have potential to cause harm

Good on Justice Ken Crispin for reading the riot act to ACT police and magistrates over their sloppy use of police search warrants in the ACT ("ACT court again criticises search warrant procedure", May 16, p3).

No one disputes that search warrants are an invaluable tool in fighting crime and that the police should have access to them.

But when misused or when mistakes are made, they have the potential to cause serious injustice to an innocent person by having their doors kicked in.

Having their personal space invaded can be a terrifying and humiliating experience.

That’s why the Parliament has set out a few simple guidelines to be followed.

All police need to do is show that there are reasonable grounds for their suspicions and enter the correct details into the warrant application. But apparently even this has been too much for ACT police to manage of late.

As former Justice Clarke of the US Supreme Court said, nothing can destroy a government more quickly than its failure to observe its own laws.

How can the police expect to convict people of breaking the law when they can’t even follow it themselves?

Anthony Williamson, Director, Civil Liberties Australia (ACT) (Canberra Times letter)

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