The Supreme Court has ruled that the Australian Federal Police can refuse to register complaints of non-judicial, judicial council forms of harassment, discrimination and stalking, despite having the power to do so.
The court’s decision comes after months of legal wrangling.
In the wake of a series of high-profile cases in the past year, the Federal Government has attempted to move away from its legal framework for domestic violence, which requires that victims and their advocates have access to evidence.
The Supreme Courts decision will have implications for other courts, as well, including the Federal Court.
The Federal Court found in 2016 that the police had no obligation to register harassment or intimidation forms, even though they were in breach of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s code of conduct for the Australian federal police.
It said the code should be interpreted to mean police officers could refuse to provide information or to investigate complaints without prior notification to victims and advocates.
“As an independent judiciary, the court has no jurisdiction to decide what form a person has given to an officer and in what circumstances he or she may not be liable for the consequences of that action,” Justice Ian Stewart said in the decision.
“The duty of the police to respond to a complaint in accordance with its code of practice should be subject to the same rules as those governing the enforcement of criminal and civil law.”
The court held that police could refuse an application from a complainant to lodge a complaint if they believed the complaint would result in “significant detriment” to the complainant.
It found that, for example, if a complaint was filed by a man who was being harassed by a woman, police could not refuse to make an investigation if the complainant did not want them to.
In some cases, the courts have upheld police refusal to register forms of intimidation.
In another case, a woman who accused an alleged offender of stalking her in 2014 sued the police over her complaint.
The court ruled that police did not have a duty to register the form because it was a matter for the court.
The woman’s case is one of several cases in which the police have been accused of being abusive and discriminatory.
Last year, a man was jailed for four months after police refused to investigate a complaint of assault, harassment and stalking.
In 2016, the woman was jailed in Sydney’s west for seven years after a woman said she was raped by a member of the NSW police force.
In June, police refused an application by the man’s ex-girlfriend, who had filed a complaint against the officer, for a court order to be made in the case.
She also said she feared police would refuse to investigate the complaint if she did not give evidence.
The man was charged with four counts of unlawful assault, two of harassment and one of stalking.
In 2016, a Sydney woman, who was also charged with unlawful assault and harassment, claimed she had been sexually assaulted by a police officer in 2014.
She also said her attacker was the man she had alleged assaulted her in 2013.
The police were also charged in 2016 with harassment and unlawful assault for failing to investigate her complaints of police harassment and violence.
The Supreme Court ruling comes amid criticism of the use of domestic violence complaints to settle scores and disputes.
In 2017, former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said the use by police of domestic abuse complaints was “a disgrace”, saying they “create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation”.
“I think it’s a great problem that exists,” he told ABC Radio.
“There’s a lot of violence, a lot and a lot, but it’s the fact that the complaints are made by people who are being attacked and that they are being threatened with violence.”
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