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Wednesday, 18 March 1987
Page: 919


Senator JESSOP(6.37) —I would like briefly to support the motion moved by Senator Childs to add to resolutions of the Senate of February 1980 an obligation upon police to notify the President of the Senate whenever a senator is arrested. As Chairman of the Committee of Privileges in 1980 I explained when I moved those motions in the Senate that the Committee had deliberately not sought to impose an obligation on police, but had concentrated upon requiring the courts to notify the President whenever a senator is remanded in custody. The basis of this recommendation was that, under common law, a person usually does not remain long in the hands of the police before appearing in court.

The most recent case of Senator Georges, however, involved him being detained for over 24 hours by the police, who refused to grant police bail because he refused to be fingerprinted. As soon as he appeared before a magistrate, bail was granted. Implicit in the magistrate's decision was a finding that the police acted wrongly in insisting on fingerprints as a condition of bail. Notwithstanding bail being granted, Senator Georges was held for a further period. It is clear that, if persons are going to be held for considerable periods by the police before they appear before a court, police ought to notify the President whenever a senator is arrested.

The Committee has also raised the wider question of whether senators and members should have some limited immunity from arrest in less serious criminal matters to prevent the processes of State criminal laws being used to remove a senator or member from the Parliament-that is, removed in a temporary sense. This would require very careful consideration and legislation would have to be drawn up to put it into effect. In the meantime, the resolution recommended by the Committee will ensure that the Senate becomes aware of the arrest of any of its members so that it can consider the circumstances in which a senator is detained by the police. I commend the motion to the Senate.