Sniffer NO – Abuse of Police Powers

By National Criminal Lawyers

A little over a month since Pill testing occurred at a Canberra music festival police followed through with their released statement that drug detection dogs will patrol the Above and Beyond Sydney music Festival and refuse entry not only to those found in possession of prohibited drug/s but also on anyone the dog makes an indication on.

Now it has come to light that this is not the first time this policy has been implemented. For example, up to 150 people were refused or ejected from the Midnight Mafia music festival back in May despite not being found to have any drugs on them. In fact according to a police report, 187 people from Midnight Mafia were searched and kicked out in May 2018, but only 35 of them were found to actually have drugs on them.

When quizzed by the Triple J Hack program about the 150 festival ejections, a NSW police spokesperson said                                 “If you are suspected of drugs or alcohol, you will be refused entry into the event”.

The move was criticized by the NSW Greens, civil libertarians and even a former Australian Border Force commissioner as an overreach.

Guilt by association


The purpose of Drug checking Police Sniffer Dogs at festivals is said by the police to be a harm reduction strategy. However, Figures from 2011 showed that 80 per cent of sniffer dog searches for drugs resulted in “false positives” in that year.

The “Sniff Off” campaign, backed by the Greens, said it had been contacted by ticket holders who were denied entry despite no drugs being found on them. “This is a serious abuse of police powers and we will see the NSW Police Force in court next week,” the group posted on Facebook.

Activist Tom Raue described the police behavior as “disappointing” after officers ordered his volunteers to stop handing out pamphlets about the drug dog program, citing a 2012 regulation governing the entire Sydney Olympic Park precinct.

More prevalently, given those figures the question remains why the police are denying someone entry to a festival for not being found with drugs. Moreover, why are police targeting “Young people who have spent upwards of $128 per ticket when they have no drugs in their possession?

The unfairness factor of kicking out anybody who has been identified by a sniffer dog to be in possession of a drug, especially in circumstances where they do not have a drug in their possession is not about protecting people, it is about profiling. Moreover, realistically it’s coming down to guilt by association.

This is a clear abuse of police power.

The fundamental problem with implementing these policies is that it infringes on a principals of “guilt by association”. Guilty by association is an attribution of guilt to individuals because of the people or organizations with which they associate, rather than because of any crime that they have committed.

Nowadays there is a growing and new bunch of police laws and powers which are reflecting a time in Australia when people were classed as rogues, incorrigibles and vagabonds. You don’t need to be a bikie for these new powers to reflects the trend that in Australia the police are trying to criminalise normal social contact and undermine freedom of association.



In NSW police have the power pursuant to section 148 of LEPRA to use a drug detection dog without a warrant persons at, as well as entering or leaving a concert venue such as a music festival.

When using drug detection dogs police must ensure that they take ‘all reasonable precautions’ to prevent the dog touching you and they must keep the dog under control.

If a police drug detection dog stops near you, this means that according to police, they believe, on reasonable grounds, that you or someone in your presence, be in possession of an illegal drug. If this happens police have the power to search you as they reasonably suspect that you may be in possession of prohibited drugs.



National Criminal Lawyers are aware of this type of policing and simply asks the question if there is no breach of law who will “police the police”?

Our principal Lawyer, Mr Michael Moussa , has been successful in hundreds of cases where police were forced to pay our clients costs for acting unreasonably. He has also been successful in civil claims against the police for unwarranted arrest and misfeasance.
Mr Moussa has also been successful in obtaining bail for large commercial quantity drug importation allegation

For more information on drug possession please visit

For more information on consorting please visit

If you have been charged with any drug related or are experiencing a guilt by association related  offence, our Team at National Criminal Lawyers are well versed and specialists in having these charges either withdrawn or achieving favorable outcomes. Please contact our office on 02 9893 1889 or visit for more information about your options

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