On 9 July 2021, New South Wales Police deployed over 100 extra police officers in the Liverpool, Fairfield and Canterbury-Bankstown local government areas (LGAs). The operation, which has since copped major backlash from local community leaders have claimed the presence of Police in these areas represents a long-standing issue of being over policed in the western Sydney area. Of particular note is the presence of mounted horse units which were expected to patrol main shopping areas in the region, particularly around Liverpool, Fairfield and Bankstown.


Anyone who lives in Greater Sydney knows that the abovementioned local government areas encompass a population of over 1 million people who hail from migrant backgrounds. Notably, the areas are home to members of the middle eastern community. Community leaders have called the increased police presence in Western Sydney to be a symptom of an alleged systemic problem of the community being over-policed.

Lebanese Muslim Association president Samir Dandan said the police had not cracked down as hard on other Sydney areas in the past and the “disproportionate” response would be harmful to the community and its relationship with members of the New South Wales Police.

Mr. Dandan further stated:

“We would have appreciated a much more balanced response and something that is more in line with their response to communities elsewhere who had similar clusters.”

Of course, the remarks are made in comparison to the Police response in Bondi and other affluent areas in Greater Sydney which did not have to endure a heavy-handed police presence despite approximate levels of exposure to COVID-19.


In response to the backlash, NSW Assistant Police Commissioner Tony Cooke denied the claims and stated that the police operation in the Local Government Areas are proportionate to the threat posed by community transmission of the virus. He further maintained that Police presence in Bondi was strong and visible police presence was enacted similarly to the suburbs in Western Sydney.


In New South Wales, police are contained within the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 (NSW) (‘LEPRA’). Under LEPRA, police have the power to undertake lawful actions in the course of carrying out their duties.

The most commonly identified powers include, but are not limited to:

  • Section 10: The power to arrest or detain;
  • Section 19: The power to request your identity;
  • Section 21: The power to search, seize and detain without a warrant;
  • Section 31: The power to conduct strip searches;
  • Section 36: The power to search vehicles without a warrant;
  • Section 87: The power to enter and search dwellings (such as your home) without a warrant; and
  • Section 138F: The power to require a person to provide a breath analysis for the presence of alcohol.

Individuals who are suspected of a criminal offence are entitled to law–given rights and protections which are derived from the principles referred to in our introductory paragraph. The “presumption of innocence” is an ancient common law right which affords every person the benefit of being innocent until proven guilty. Despite the increased focus by the New South Wales Police Force in Western Sydney, residents should always remember that their rights under the law are not eroded due to dangers posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is for this reason that LEPRA contains provisions which limit and (in some cases) criminalise actions by police where there is a misuse of power.


Although the restrictions, particular those imposed on the Local Government Areas concerned are onerous, it is important that you follow the rules which have been legislated under the Public Health Act 2010 (NSW).

it is important to acknowledge that failure to comply with a Public Health Order is an offence by virtue of section 10 of the Public Health Act 2010 (NSW). Breach of any of the rules could lead to penalties punishable by a maximum penalty of $11,000.00 and/or imprisonment of 6 months.


Should you find yourself in breach, or suspected of a breach pursuant to the Public Health Order, police may be empowered under Section 11 of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 (NSW) to request that you disclose your identity. This may be applicable if the police officer requires your identity in order to give you a lawful direction to leave a specified place or area. It is important to note that failure to provide proof of identification without a reasonable excuse is an offence under section 12 Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 (NSW).


If you may have been issued with an infringement notice for failing to comply with the current Public Health Order, National Criminal Lawyers® can be retained to appear on your behalf and fight any charges laid against you.

It is vital that you retain specialist criminal defence lawyers to protect your interests and legal rights. If you or anyone you know has been charged with a criminal offence, contact our office immediately! At National Criminal Lawyers® our team of expert criminal defence lawyers will be able to help you understand the process and explore the possible defences.

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