On Tuesday evening, the NSW Police Force warned patrons of the upcoming Above & Beyond music festival that they will be enforcing a strict anti-drug policy that includes denying entry to those indicated to have drugs in their possession by sniffer dogs, even if they have nothing on them.
That’s right, if you have nothing in your possession and a sniffer dog decides to sit down next to you, you’ll be banned from the festival. Given the fact that sniffer dogs get it wrong most of the time, and have made false positives as high as 87 per cent in some cases, this is a huge worry.
Despite the ACT making the groundbreaking decision to allow Australia’s first ever pill-testing trial at a music festival for the Canberra leg of Groovin the Moo back in April (a move supported by you on one of our Wavelength episodes), NSW has decided to go in the complete opposite direction and take a ‘guilty until proven innocent’ approach (and getting punished regardless of the outcome).
The story has since been picked up by multiple media outlets and music blogs, questioning whether the move is even legal—a case so strong that The Greens are taking the NSW Police to court over it.
The Sniff Off initiative, created by Greens MP David Shoebridge and the NSW Young Greens, is seeking an immediate injunction against the NSW Police in the Supreme Court this Friday. The NSW leg of Above & Beyond will be held this Saturday at Sydney Olympic Park, with barely 24 hours to spare. Although the original goal was to raise $900 to cover legal costs, the initiative has already received over $5,000 in donations.
“It’s hard to see how this kind of action by police could be legal, seeing how it involves punishment in the absence of any offence,” Mr Shoebridge said.
“They’re effectively saying they’re going to make it a crime to be a young person in a public place in NSW. It’s a gross affront to civil liberties.”
NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Peter Thurtell said, “This is not about disrupting a particular individual’s night, but if they are trying to take drugs or have them in their possession then we will disrupt it”. He also discussed the possibility of rolling out the strategy to additional music events.
Promoters for Above & Beyond have promised full refunds for anyone denied entry to the event by the police.
What are your thoughts: do you think that the police should be able to do this, or do you believe that this infringes on your personal rights?
Photo credit: Joshua Coleman/Unsplash