Move on Directions Factsheet

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Move on Directions

Civil Law Factsheets

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Police have general powers to give directions. Section 197 of LEPRA (Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002) empowers a police officer to give a direction to a person in a public place if the officer believes on reasonable grounds that the person’s behaviour or presence in the place:

  • is obstructing another person or persons or traffic, or
  • constitutes harassment or intimidation of another person or persons, or
  • is causing or likely to cause fear to another person or persons, so long as the relevant conduct would be such as to cause fear to a person of reasonable firmness, or
  • may be for the purpose of unlawfully supplying, or intending to unlawfully supply, or soliciting another person or persons to unlawfully supply, any prohibited drug, or
  • is for the purpose of obtaining, procuring or purchasing any prohibited drug that it would be unlawful for the person to possess.

Police officers can give different kinds of directions, but the direction must be reasonable for one of the following reasons:

  • reducing or eliminating the obstruction, harassment, intimidation or fear, or
  • stopping the supply, or soliciting to supply, of the prohibited drug, or
  • stopping the obtaining, procuring or purchasing of the prohibited drug.

One of the most powerful tools that Police have is the move-on direction.

Move-on directions for intoxicated and disorderly behaviour

Police can also issue a move-on direction if someone is intoxicated.  However, that is only if as a result of that intoxication the person is “disorderly” or police believe on reasonable grounds that a person is likely to cause injury to anyone else or damage to property or a risk to public safety (section 198, LEPRA).

If a police give a move-on direction for drunk and disorderly behaviour it must be reasonable for:

  • preventing injury or damage or
  • reducing or eliminating a risk to public safety, or
  • preventing the continuance of disorderly behaviour in a public place.

In these circumstances, police can direct a person to leave and not return to a public place for up to 6 hours.

Protest over black deaths in custody in Sydney

Move-on directions at protests

Police have limited powers to give directions at protests. In these situations, police can only issue a direction if:

  • the police officer believes it is necessary to deal with a serious risk to a person’s safety (section 200(3), LEPRA), or
  • to stop people obstructing traffic if the protest has not been formally authorised by the Commissioner of Police (section 200(4), LEPRA).

What do police have to do if they are going to issue a move-on direction?

When issuing a direction, a police officer must give a warning to the person subject to the direction that the person is required by law to comply with the direction (section 203(1), LEPRA). Police must also identify themselves and explain the reason for the direction.

In addition, if a police officer gives a move on direction because a person is drunk and disorderly in a public place, he or she must also give a warning that it is an offence to be intoxicated and disorderly in that or any other public place at any time within 6 hours after the direction is given.

How a lawyer can help you

If police do not conduct themselves in accordance with the legal protections and responsibilities enshrined in LEPRA this means they may have acted unlawfully.

If you think police have acted unlawfully in the exercise of their duties, then it is important to speak to a lawyer.

In some instances, the unlawful actions of police may give rise to a civil claim against police for assault, battery, false imprisonment or malicious prosecution.

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