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Domestic policing by the military

  • June 12th, 2009

Some friends are exercised by the Police use of an LAV armoured vehicle in the Molenaar siege, without the Prime Minister's authorisation under section 9 (5) of the Defence Act 1990. They're worried that a brief blog debate was scarcely echoed in MSM.

 They're doing the lawyerly thing, chasing process breaches. That is an admirable preoccupation for lawyers if the rule of law is to be upheld. But I think they're chasing rabbits when there are foxes about,

The real question is whether the changes to the law in 1990 were sensible. To me they were not. The PM's consent  requirement does not guard against the risks in routine military involvement in domestic policing. But it could delay sensible use of the threat of overwhelming force, by making it seem too big a deal politically.

In my opinion Geoffrey Palmer denuded our law when the Riot Act was repealed. Every state needs to have, and to be able to demonstrate that it has, both the capacity and the willingness to crush decisively direct armed challenges to its power to keep the peace.
The restrictions on deployment of military in support of civil authority are old. They were fuelled by Parliamentary fear that they would tempt the Crown to abuse prerogative powers. The military were pledged to serve the Crown and Executive without question, whereas the Police are pledged to be independent servants of the law (the Courts).
Fears of Crown perversion of the military to suppress the citizenry should be reduced now that the military have accepted emasculation by their own lawyers, with rules of engagement that expose officers and men to hindsight judgment on vague tests.
The temptation for the Crown to usurp Parliament is also much less strong, if only because Parliament is relatively toothless in competition with the Executive anyway, so why bother.
The question of Court control is more pertinent, but I see nothing sinister in principle in military assistance under Police command.
More compelling to me is to think of what will evolve if there was a serious restriction on the Police calling on the military for help in a Molenaar situation. Ordinary citizens will be most impatient with the idea that our hundreds of millions worth of armoured vehicles should sit idle while Police and civilians could needlessly die.  The public rightly will not tolerate the notion that the Police could be paralysed by a determined armed challenge.
The political and Police response would be inevitable – build a Police military level capability. How is that better than rare  Police  use of military people and equipment?


  • Dan
  • June 13th, 2009
  • 4:31 pm

Geoffrey Palmer did no end of silly things.
A number of public order offences were removed on the basis that they offended human rights.

It is a gross offence to common sense and civilisation in general that vile behaviour can continue while the police stand by with no powers to act.

Thanks geoffrey the country is so much worse for your lofty notions.

  • Bob
  • June 16th, 2009
  • 9:17 pm

I have wondered why the police can’t use military assistance. Perhaps some more mature members of the military could be given some police training. A core of military personnel could be ready to assist. The Napier case was little different from a group of soldiers getting insurgents out of a building. A few army vehicles could seal off streets when boy racers are active. It doesn’t mean they have to run around armed. Perhaps arming with baseball bats would be quite sufficient.

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