Last updated 29 August 2016
The Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000 (Qld) (PPR Act) enables a police officer to give people directions to ‘move on’ in certain circumstances. A move on direction may be given where a person’s behaviour or presence:
- is reasonably suspected to be causing anxiety, interfering with trade or disrupting the peace
- is reasonably suspected to be disorderly, indecent, offensive or threatening
- raises the suspicion that the person is soliciting for prostitution (ss 44–48 PPR Act).
Directions can be given in relation to public places and prescribed places (not otherwise public places), both of which are defined in sch 6 PPR Act. Prescribed places include shops, childcare centres, schools, licensed premises, railway stations, automatic teller machines and any other areas as prescribed by regulation (e.g. the Strand at Townsville). Where a person is suspected of soliciting for prostitution, the prescribed place has a broader definition and means any place to which the public has access.
Directions given by police officers must be reasonable in the circumstances and can include a direction to leave the area in a specified direction to a certain distance and for a period of up to 24 hours. The legislation provides an example where a person is blocking the entrance to a shop, and it would be reasonable to direct them to move away from the entrance, but it may be unreasonable to direct them to move 100 metres away. Directions must also be specific enough for the offender to be capable of interpretation. For example, a direction to leave the Fortitude Valley (Brisbane) area may be too imprecise and unreasonable in the circumstances.
A direction given in relation to a public place (as opposed to a prescribed place) can only be given if the person remains in that same public place where the behaviour or presence occurred.
The officer must provide the people directed to move on with reasons for giving the direction.
A direction that interferes with the right of peaceful assembly may only be given if necessary in the interests of public safety, public order or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. The right of peaceful assembly is broadly defined and includes family gatherings.
Failure to comply with a move on direction may lead to arrest. Further, contravening a direction without a reasonable excuse is an offence, and an individual found guilty of the offence is liable for a maximum penalty of $4000. It may be a reasonable excuse that the officer failed to provide reasons for the direction, or the direction was not reasonable in the circumstances.
Concern has been expressed that these powers encroach upon a citizen’s right to move about freely in the community. During debate in parliament, assurances were given that these powers would be used sparingly and that their use would be monitored. Yet there is anecdotal evidence that suggests that the powers have, in some instances, been overly used by police, particularly against young or Indigenous people.
The capacity for the power to be misused is accentuated by the absence of any mechanism to challenge an unlawful direction other than to disobey, be charged with an offence (of contravening a direction) and raise the unlawfulness of the direction as a defence in court. This is particularly concerning given that the power has now been extended to public places.
Every move on direction given by police officers must be recorded in a register. At any time within three years after a move on direction has been given, the person to whom the direction was given to is entitled to inspect the register and obtain a copy of the information recorded about the direction. The information that must be recorded in the register includes:
- when the direction was given
- the location of the person when given the direction
- the name of the person given the direction, if known
- the reason given for the direction.
It is unclear whether the register of move on directions is maintained in accordance with the requirements of the PPR Act.