Australia: New South Wales ends right to silence


Police establish an investigation after a fire engulfed a nursing home for the elderly, killing at least three and seriously injuring eight, near Sydney on November 18, 2011. Hundreds of firefighters, police and paramedics raced to the Quakers Hill Nursing Home when an automatic fire alarm went off.


Torsten Blackwood

People in Australia's New South Wales will no longer have the right to silence when being questioned by police.

The Shooters and Fishers Party voted with the government today to end the state's "right to silence" laws in an effort to combat gang violence, the Australian Associated Press reported.

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The government is now expected to push the laws through the lower house.

The legislative changes allow judges and juries to take a negative view of people who exercise their right to remain silent, according to Sky News.

They were proposed by the government last August following a series of drive-by shootings in west Sydney.

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Shooters and Fishers MPs backflipped on their decision to vote against the laws, leading some to wonder if a deal had been struck with the government -- a claim government officials denied, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Critics of the laws call them a fundamental attack on people's civil rights.

But New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said they would "level the playing field."

"This is about making sure that people can't concoct an excuse when they get to court on the first occasion and try and catch us out by not having disclosed that previously," he told AAP. "I don't think it trashes civil liberties."