Annoyance law struck down

The Federal Court yesterday upheld a challenge by two students against special WYD laws that allowed police to detain people for "annoying" behaviour.

The ABC reports that No To Pope Coalition members Amber Pike and Rachel Evans took the New South Wales Government to the Federal Court, arguing the laws were unconstitutional because they would make their peaceful protest illegal.

The Full Bench of the Federal Court ruled the definition of 'annoyance' was too broad and the scope of the laws was uncertain.

It found that in giving the World Youth Day Coordination Authority the power to set the regulations, the Government would not have intended to infringe on freedom of speech.

The court said the law was intended to encourage policing and public safety but could be misused to infringe on people's rights.

However, the court dismissed the second part of the university students' challenge, upholding the section of the regulations that said prescribed items could not be distributed.

It said banning the unauthorised sale of certain items, including stickers, badges and T-shirts, was not unconstitutional and did not stop free political communication.

The judges said the No To Pope Coalition would not be prohibited from handing out condoms and leaflets under the laws.

However, New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma says the Government will not be appealing against the court's decision. He says police still have adequate powers.

"Two words have been struck out, the words 'and annoyance'," he said.

"'Inconvenience' is still there and they can still achieve the same objective, and that is to ensure that people who do want to make a point in a protest can do so without disrupting the pilgrims or the events.

World Youth Day coordinator Bishop Anthony Fisher is not expecting many protests.

He says he expects people to be "swept along" in the wave of goodness from the pilgrims.

"But such protests as there are, I am very hopeful will be peaceful, respectful and there won't be any need for police interventions or big laws," he said.


Court backs WYD activists' right to annoy (ABC News, 15/7/08)

Australian court strikes down law against annoying participants in Roman Catholic festival (International Herald Tribune, 15/7/08)


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