The Queensland Parliament has passed a suite of laws that bring sweeping reforms to support community safety.
The laws include changes that will enhance the ability of police to investigate serious crimes by enabling them to access evidence kept on digital devices, such as mobile phones.
In addition, the reforms will, among other things, support efforts to minimise the number of firearms in the community and also provide greater efficiencies for our world class Queensland Police Service.
The new laws will also deliver a raft of efficiencies that will free up police to spend more time on the frontline of law enforcement and crime prevention.
For example, the Bill amends the Oaths Act by enabling senior police officers to witness affidavits of other police officers in relation to:
- Affidavits to prove the service of documents
- Affidavits used in bail proceedings under the Bail Act and the Youth Justice Act; and
- Sworn applications made in compliance with section 801 of the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act where an issuing authority had granted the authority on an unsworn application due to urgent circumstances or an officer’s remote location.
Enabling senior police officers to witness the affidavit removes the necessity for police officers to locate a JP and will lead to significant time savings for police officers.
While this amendment alone has the potential to return over 20,000 hours of additional officer time annually to the frontline, Queenslanders can also be assured that appropriate checks and balances and safeguards are in place to ensure the integrity of this reform.
This is just one of a number of efficiencies contained within the Bill.
Another significant reform contained in the new legislation is the expansion of the circumstances where a magistrate or Supreme Court judge may issue a digital access order, which requires a person to provide a password or encryption code to enable police to access to information stored on, or accessible from, a digital device such as a mobile phone.
This would now apply, for example, to circumstances involving up-skirting and revenge porn, and builds on changes to Criminal Code introduced by the Palaszczuk Government in 2018, that made revenge porn a criminal offence in Queensland.
Under the new laws, police will now be able to seek digital access orders in circumstances where they suspect offences against the Criminal Code, including: Distributing intimate images; Observations or recordings in breach of privacy; and Distributing prohibited visual recordings. For example, if police locate a person using a mobile phone to take unauthorised pictures of another person in a communal change room and lawfully seize the mobile phone at that location they will be able to apply for a digital access order to gather evidence of the offending behaviour.
The Weapons Act has now been amended to streamline the operation of the permanent firearms amnesty.
The Police Minister said the government had listened closely to police officers and to representatives of licensed firearms dealers across the State who took the view that previous arrangements for dealing with firearms anonymously surrendered to participating dealers were more administratively onerous than they need to be.
“In previous amnesties, most firearms have been surrendered to dealers.
“Consequently, the broad participation of firearms dealers in the new permanent amnesty is considered critical to its success and the government is certainly grateful for the co-operation and participation shown to date by firearms dealers,” Minister Ryan said.