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Victorian police could get new powers to search festival-goers

They'd be able to stop and search anyone without reason

  • 19 June 2017

Victorian police could get new powers to stop and search festival-goers without reason under changes being considered with the state government.

Under existing law in the Australian state, of which Melbourne is the capital, police need "reasonable suspicion" that someone has committed an offence or is about to do so in order to search them.

But under the proposed changes, police would be able to stop and search anyone attending music festivals across the state, which is home to Rainbow Serpent, Pitch, Babylon, Let Them Eat Cake and more.

The Sunday Herald Sun reports a mass GHB-related overdose of more than 20 people at the psytrance-heavy Electric Parade event in Melbourne in February "helped spur the action."

Music festivals where there is "intelligence of drug problems" would be made designated events under the Major Sporting Events Act to enable police to use greater powers, the paper reports.

Victorian Police Minister Lisa Neville took the opportunity to slam the harm minimisation measure of pill testing, telling the Sunday Herald Sun: “As a parent, I wouldn’t want someone telling my son that this drug is safe when it can’t be guaranteed. I’d like to prevent drugs from being purchased altogether in those situations."

Harm minimisation and rights awareness group High Alert posted: "We're now at the point of straight-up taking people's legal rights away from them. I doubt this policy was informed by evidence or any health, social, drug & alcohol expert. When excessive force is used to attempt to squash a problem, unintended, and potentially worse, consequences are seen."

One expert, emergency medical specialist and harm minimisation advocate Dr David Caldicott has offered his opinion on Twitter, though, posting: "Doubling down on dumb. I'm calling it - this will increase overdoses at music festivals."

If implemented and enforced, the laws will be another significant step back for harm minimisation in Victoria, which has been widely considered more progressive than its northern neighbour New South Wales, of which Sydney is the capital.

Already this year, Victoria Police have begun targeting nightclub precincts with sniffer dogs, something that is common in Sydney but had not been common in Melbourne.

Scott Carbines is Mixmag's Australian Digital Content Editor, follow him on Twitter

[Image: Duncographic]

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