A nosey park plan to poke in your bags
Rangers may soon be allowed to search people’s bags, picnic baskets, eskies and even drinking bottles in some of Sydney’s most popular parks.
Civil libertarians are horrified by the proposed laws, which could give the park rangers more power than police to search citizens in the 360 hectares of land covered by Centennial Park, Moore Park, Queens Park and Fox Studios.
Unlike most police search powers, there is no requirement in the draft rules for rangers to suspect criminal activity before conducting a search and if park visitors refuse, they could be removed and fined $175 if they try to come back. The Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust has proposed the powers and released them for public discussion.
When asked why rangers might need such powers, spokeswoman Julie Hunte michael kors outlet online r Wardoff michael kors outlet online ered the example of searching suspected ticket scalpers. They would target “persons acting suspiciously in connect michael kors outlet online ion to any illegal activity”, she said, insisting that “they are not going to go up to an ordinary person and say, ‘What’s in your bag?”‘.
But the proposed regulation would give rangers the power to do just that. While most might not misuse the power, others could, particularly if unaccustomed to searching people, according to Cameron Murphy, president of the the NSW Council for Civil Liberties. He condemned the plan, and was adamant that “people’s bags should only be searched where there’s a reasonable suspicion that they’ve committed a criminal offence”.
“I think it’s an important poi michael kors outlet online nt people have the right to go about their business,” he said. “All it’s going to be is a fishing exercise . “Where do you stop? Today it’s searching bags, next it’s searching houses.”
Ms Hunter Ward said the trust would “absolutely respect” people’s civil liberties, and may change the provision after receiving public comments, which close on July 28.
“That’s why it is out for review,” she said.
Rangers working in City of Sydney parks, the Royal Botanic Gardens or the Domain have no power to search people’s bags, although a botanic gardens spokeswoman, Stevie King, said searches were conducted at some, usually private, events.
Retailers have long asked to inspect bags as customers leave, but according to guidelines endorsed by the NSW Department of Fair Trading, they risk assault charges if they look in bags without consent.
A spokeswoman for the Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust, Karen Grega, said bag searches were a condition of entry to both the SCG and Aussie Stadium.
“It’s quite simple, [if] people don’t want to show us their bags, they can’t come into the ground,” she said. “There’s very few issues any more. It’s not really something that’s terribly new.”