Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Court dumps WYD 'annoy' law

Two Sydney activists have won a Federal Court challenge to special World Youth Day laws which carry $5500 fines for annoying or inconveniencing pilgrims.

NoToPope Coalition members Rachel Evans and Amber Pike took the NSW government to court over the police powers granted for the month of July seeking a declaration that they were unconstitutional.

Justices Catherine Branson, Robert French and Margaret Stone today ruled the specific clause relating to annoying and inconveniencing pilgrims went beyond the intention of state parliament.

In 2006, the parliament passed the World Youth Day Act which allowed the World Youth Day Authority to pass the annoyance clause in 2008.

In dismissing the other points of the coalition's claim, Justice French found that parts of the act banning the sale of certain items including stickers, badges and T-shirts did not infringe upon the right to free political communication.

However, the judge said the annoyance clause was invalid because it could not have been the intention of parliament to make such vague and extensive limits to free speech.


100k pilgrims expected at WYD opening mass
More than 100,000 pilgrims are expected to attend the first major event of World Youth Day in Sydney today, the opening mass. Pilgrims from countries including Spain and Canada gathered at St Mary's Cathedral next to Sydney's Hyde Park overnight to watch the clock strike midnight and mark the start of World Youth Day activities.

Youth Day laws 'crept up on us'
The state's community legal centres are calling for an inquiry into the expansion of police powers in New South Wales ahead of World Youth Day. The Combined Community Legal Centres Group has investigated the way new powers have been given to police by the State Government, especially for last year's APEC summit in Sydney.

Youth Day laws 'undermine basic rights'
The New South Wales Bar Association says new regulations for World Youth Day undermine basic rights and are an affront to freedom of speech. Under the new regulations, people who refuse to stop engaging in conduct that causes annoyance or inconvenience to pilgrims can be arrested and fined up to $5,500.

Tough police powers outlive APEC
CONTROVERSIAL powers granted to NSW police during last year's APEC summit are likely to be made permanent - or at least available to police for any special event - under a proposal to be taken to state cabinet. The powers made it possible to exclude people from certain zones during the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in September. Police were given extraordinary rights to search people.

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