New PEP law for Freo

The McGowan Government has today introduced the Liquor Control Amendment (Protected Entertainment Precincts) Bill 2022 in Parliament.

In a media release issued today by Racing and Gaming Minister Tony Buti, the Minister said the Bill aims to enhance safety in Western Australia’s popular entertainment precincts by banning perpetrators of violent or threatening behaviour.

Under the proposed law, Protected Entertainment Precincts (PEP) would be established in Fremantle, as well as in Northbridge-Perth, Scarborough, Hillarys and Mandurah in which ‘violent offenders and perpetrators of antisocial behaviour’ would be banned.

Credit ABC

The Explanatory Memorandum accompanying the Bill, outlines the operation of the proposed PEP law in these terms –

The Liquor Control Amendment (Protected Entertainment Precincts) Bill 2022 seeks to amend the Liquor Control Act 1988 to address incidents of antisocial, and other inappropriate behaviour, and violence in areas where there is a concentration of licensed premises and make it safer for Western Australians to enjoy these entertainment precincts night out. It provides for the establishment of Protected Entertainment Precincts and for people who behave in an unlawful, antisocial, offensive or threatening behaviour way, or are convicted of specified serious offences, which occurred in the precinct, to be excluded from the precinct.

* The Bill establishes Protected Entertainment Precincts which will be prescribed in Regulations. In determining whether a precinct is required, the Minister for Racing and Gaming needs to be satisfied that the precinct is an area that contains a concentration of licensed premises and needs to consult the Commissioner of Police, the relevant Local Government Authority and any other person considered relevant.

* The Bill creates two categories of exclusion orders:
– a short term exclusion order issued by police, on approval of a senior officer of the rank of Inspector or above, which will exclude a person from all precincts for up to six (6) months.
– an extended exclusion order issued by the Director of Liquor Licensing on the application by the Commissioner of Police, or delegate which will exclude a person from all precincts for up to five years (two years for a juvenile).

* Persons convicted of committing a specified serious offence in a Protected Entertainment Precinct, will be subject to a mandatory exclusion period of 5 years. The serious offences will be specified inthe Act.

* People subject to an exclusion order or mandatory exclusion will be permitted to enter a precinct for specified reasons such as if they reside or work in a precinct, go to school or university in the precinct and for various other reasons if it is considered necessary in the circumstances

* Individuals subject to short-term exclusion orders (which apply for one month or more) will be able to seek a review by the Commissioner of Police and or the Liquor Commission and individuals subject to an extended exclusion order will be able to seek a review by the Director of Liquor Licensing and or the Liquor Commission. A review of this kind could result in a variation or revocation of the exclusion order.

The power of a police officer to issue a short term exclusion order is of particular interest, as it would be the sort of order made to move people on on a busy Friday or Saturday night in Freo. The power is hedged around with all sorts of judgement calls. Training police officers in the proper exercise of the power given will be critical to ensure a consistent application of the standards that must be met before an order is made.

The order when made, must specify the term for which it is made but not longer than 6 months.

And it can only be made –
* if the person has behaved in an unlawful, anti-social, violent, disorderly, offensive, indecent or threatening way (whether or not the behaviour arose from, or was related to, the use of liquor); and
* the location where the behaviour occurred was, at the time the behaviour occurred, a public place; and
* was, at the time the behaviour occurred, in a protected entertainment precinct; and is
* at the time the order is made is in a protected entertainment precinct, and
* there is a risk that, unless the order is made, the person will behave in a way that causes violence or public disorder in a protected entertainment precinct; or has an adverse effect on the safety or welfare of persons in a protected entertainment precinct.

Minister Buti says that since the proposed legislation was announced last month, the Government has consulted with local governments and briefed stakeholders on the legislation. The Minister says indicative boundaries were created for the five precincts following advice, and further refinement will take place with local governments to finalise the precinct boundaries.

The acronym ’PEP’ is in honour of Giuseppe “Pep” Raco, the victim of an unprovoked one-punch attack in Northbridge in July 2020.

The McGowan Government started developing the Bill following a campaign from the Raco family to strengthen laws around violent offences in entertainment precincts.

In justifying the proposed law, Minister Buti said –

Ultimately the Western Australian public deserve to be able to enjoy these precincts with the knowledge that convicted criminals, violent thugs, rapists and drink spikers are not allowed back in.

“This legislation targets violent and anti-social behaviour while still ensuring that people who are doing the right thing are free to enjoy themselves.

While many Freo will be sympathetic to the proposed laws’ objectives, it remains to be seen just how easy implementing and policing the new control system will be on the streets of Freo. Police will need careful training to ensure they exercise judgement sensibly. And the Director will hold far reaching powers to ban the civil liberty of free movement of people the Police want to ban for longer periods.

One expects that inevitably there will be legal challenges in the Courts to the making of both short term and extended exclusion orders from time to time.

Already concerns have been expressed about how necessary such a law is and the inevitable effect it will have on civil liberties. In that regard it is interesting to note that the new law would oblige the State Ombudsman to keep the operation of the new PEP law under scrutiny, and mandate the Ombudsman to report to Parliament on the operation of the law after 3 years operation.

These oversight provisions won’t mollify the Bill’s critics, but at least they recognise that this is a law that goes into new territory in curtailing the civil liberties of citizens and needs to be closely monitored.

By Michael Barker, Editor, Fremantle Shipping News


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