Friday, November 25, 2011

Australian police force loses one -- and it costs them

Supreme Court of Victoria rules person is entitled to do runner if not under arrest

A SUPREME Court judge ruled today that a person who is not under arrest is entitled to do a runner from police seeking to question them.

Justice Stephen Kaye said Sydney man Andrew Hamilton was under no obligation to stop and speak to police when they approached him after receiving a complaint over an unpaid restaurant bill.

The judge said that it was an ancient principle of the common law that no one has to stop and speak to police or answer their questions, and there was no legislation in Victoria that alters that right. "The respondent (Mr Hamilton) before being placed under arrest did not have any obligation to stop when requested to do so, or to answer questions asked of him," Justice Kaye said.

The judge dismissed an appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions and made a costs order in favour of Mr Hamilton.

Mr Hamilton had a charge of resisting police thrown out earlier this year after a magistrate found it was not illegal for him to bolt and that he had resisted nothing.

It was alleged he ran from a Taco Bill restaurant in March last year after an argument about an unpaid $136 bill.

Justice Kaye said that in the appeal against the magistrate's decision, the DPP argued that the Crimes Act imposes a duty on a person to state their name and address to an officer if it is believed on reasonable grounds they have committed an offence.

But the judge said it was conceded the police who tried to stop Mr Hamilton never got to the stage of asking for his name and address because he bolted.

"(The Crimes Act) does not contain any provision which expressly empowers police to detain a suspect, or take a suspect into custody, for the purposes of questioning the suspect," Justice Kaye said. "The conferring of such a power on a police officer would be a substantial, and indeed radical, detraction from the fundamental freedoms which have been guaranteed to the citizen by the common law for centuries."

The court heard that when approached by police in Collins St, Mr Hamilton, 24, ran and was chased on foot and in a squad car.

Ignoring police sirens and calls for him to stop, Mr Hamilton - who was later cleared of responsibility for the restaurant bill - was eventually arrested near Flinders St station.

Original report here. (Via Australian police news)

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