Sylvester & Browne Lawyers obtain another Section 10 Dismissal
This week we are proud to report that we successfully achieved a section 10(1)(b) dismissal and conditional discharge (under the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999) for a client charged with Supply and Possession of Ecstacy. In our view, the sentence was entirely appropriate, especially considering the young age of the client, his future prospects and lack of antecedents. As acknowledged by the investigating Police, upon arrest the client admitted his wrongdoing, accepted full responsability for his actions and assisted Police with their inquiries. The client was certainly aware that his actions had been foolhardy and had the potential to land him in gaol for a considerable period of time. Thankfully, he is now free to continue his studies and hopefully someday secure his dream job.
Notwithstanding that our client pleaded guilty to the offences, the case also raised some interesting issues in relation to Police arrests and their associated powers under the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002. (LEPRA)
Whilst many in government and society generally appear to be committed towards providing Police officers with the powers necessary to investigate, arrest and place offenders before the courts, we as citizens must strive to ensure that the powers given to Police to achieve these goals are not misused or 'bent' via noble-cause policing. This case in particular served to highlight the fact that Police sometimes use their powers to search (eg. under s. 21 of LEPRA) and arrest persons (under s.99 of LEPRA) in an improper manner. For example, a Police officer must not attempt to search a citizen (without warrant) unless the officer suspects "on reasonable grounds" that the person has something in his possession or under his control that has been stolen or otherwise unlawfully obtained OR anything used or intended to be used in connection with the commission of a relevant offence OR a dangerous article in a public place OR a prohibited plant or drug. The mere fact that it is 4am in the morning and the approaching Police are outnumbered is NOT sufficient to stop search and detain or arrest a group of male persons walking in the vicinity of a shopping centre. The Police must suspect on reasonable grounds that one of the above circumstances is applicable before they deprive people of their liberty. This is a cornerstone of what we as members of society expect from the law and those who enforce it. Stopping, searching and detaining youths simply because the Police are outnumbered is both illegal and unjustified. If we acquiesce to the erosion of our civil liberties in this fashion, it is a just a matter of time before this type of Police behaviour becomes commonplace and accepted. I'm not saying for a minute that Police should be put into situations that may be unsafe. However, Police officers must work within the constraints of their powers as outlined in the statutes, otherwise the freedoms that we enjoy as a society will disappear.