Activist Rights

Failure to comply

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If a police officer or PSO asks you to do something and they are acting legally (i.e. without discrimination and for a proper purpose) and it is an offence to refuse, this refusal is called a ‘failure to comply’ with an order.

Some common examples where failure to comply is an offence are:

  • Fail to move on
  • Fail to give name and address

The police have to comply with very specific conditions in order for it to be an offence for you not comply with these requests.

If police do not have a power to enforce their request, you are not under a legal obligation to comply.

For example, if your are walking down the street and the police ask you where you are going and you refuse to reply, this is not a failure to comply. 

This is because, police don’t have the power to randomly stop you and demand to know where you are going.

A charge for failing to comply usually comes with other offences.

For example, if you are blocking a footpath and refuse to move on when the police order you to, you could be charged with:

  1. obstruction of a footpath, and
  2. failing to comply with a move on notice.

Move on powers

A police officer (or a PSO working in a designated place) can direct a person to “move on” from a public place (section 6(1) Summary Offences Act).

“Move on” means to leave the public place or part of the public place.

These “move on” powers cannot be used on people just because they are picketing a place of employment, demonstrating about a particular issue, or speaking, bearing a placard/banner/sign, or otherwise publicising their view about a particular issue (section 6(5) of the Summary Offences Act).

This means, police officers are not allowed to use move on powers against people protesting just because they are protesting.

Remember: Even if police can’t order you to “move on” they can still arrest you if you are committing an offence.

A direction by the police or PSO may be given orally, and it may direct you not to return to a specific public place for up to 24 hours. Breach of move on power direction can lead to a Court ordered fine of up to 5 penalty units.

Designated Areas

Under the Control of Weapons Act 1990 (Vic) police and PSOs have additional powers when inside a designated area search people, order to remove face coverings, and to order people to leave the area.

  • A police officer can order a person to leave a designated area if they reasonably believe that the person is going to engage in affray or violent disorder (see common charges). (section 10KA(2)).
    • It is an offence to refuse an order to leave a designated area. (section 10L(2), 5 penalty units).
  • A police officer can direct a person to remove a face covering if they reasonably believes the person is wearing the face covering to conceal their identity or to protect themselves from the effects of crowd-controlling substances (e.g. capsicum spray).
    • If the person refuses to remove the face covering the police office can order that person to leave the designated area. (section 10KA(1)).
  • In a designated area a police officer may stop and search a person for weapons, and anything that person possesses or controls, or a vehicle. They do not need a warrant to search within a designated area.
    • It is an offence to obstruct or hinder a police officer or a PSO carrying out a search. (section 10L).

Read more information about designated areas.

Failure to provide name and address

Police have power to require you to state your name and address if:

  1. They reasonably believe that you have committed or are about to commit an offence,
  2. They reasonably believe that you can help them with the investigation of an indictable offence,
  3. You are in control of a vehicle,
  4. You are in a licensed premise (e.g.: a bar or pub),
  5. You are at or near a police station and the police consider you are there for an illegitimate reason.

For points 1 and 2, a police offence must inform the person of the grounds for their belief in enough detail to enable the person to understand the nature of the offence or suspected offence.

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