In a recent ruling, a Supreme Court Justice was highly critical of Cairns’s police officers for conducting an unlawful vehicle search and emphasised that our society is not a police state.

Senior Constable AG stopped Neale Graham Casemore in Edmonton in June 2022, purportedly due to someone linked to the vehicle being unlicensed. However, it was revealed that the officer had previously observed the vehicle parked at a residence where drugs had been found in 2017 and 2020.

During the subsequent search of the vehicle, illicit substances, cash, and paraphernalia were discovered. However, Justice Henry concluded that Senior Constable AG lacked the reasonable suspicion required for a lawful search under section 31(1) of the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000 (Qld).

The Crown submitted six facts as grounds for a reasonable suspicion, of which Justice Henry stated were “vague”:

  1. the time of night (1am);
  2. the nervous state of Mr Casemore;
  3. that the vehicle’s registered owner had “previous drug intelligence and occurrences”;
  4. that Mr Casemore had “previous drug intelligence and occurrences”;
  5. that the vehicle had been seen parked at a home where dangerous drugs had been located in the past; and
  6. that the driver of another vehicle which had left the property had been charged with drug trafficking.

Justice Henry highlighted the absence of concrete evidence and questioned the validity of the suspicion, suggesting it was more of a gamble based on past occurrences rather than genuine grounds.

Justice Henry noted that the late-night hour and Casemore’s nervousness were insufficient grounds for suspicion, given plausible alternative explanations. He also pointed out the absence of drug testing for Casemore, further undermining the validity of the suspicion.

While acknowledging the seriousness of drug-related offenses, Justice Henry expressed concern over the frequency of unlawful searches. He stressed the importance of law enforcement agencies adhering to legal standards to protect citizens’ rights, even in the pursuit of justice. Ultimately, he ordered the exclusion of the unlawfully obtained evidence to deter future breaches of privacy and uphold legal integrity.

This ruling provides for the delicate balance between law enforcement’s duty to uphold the law and the protection of individual rights and freedoms. Upholding legal standards is crucial to maintaining public trust and confidence in the legal system. Justice Henry’s decision serves as a reminder that law enforcement agencies must operate within the confines of the law, even in pursuit of justice, to safeguard civil liberties.

Our team are experts in criminal and traffic law. Our role is to sit down with you and work out the strategy that will get you the best possible result. If you have any questions about this article or any other topic of law, please call our team of experts on 1300 066 669.