Levitt Robinson has acted for a prominent not-for-profit organisation in a last-minute effort to oppose the NSW Police Commissioner shutting down an anti-lockouts rally.
Anti-lockouts advocacy organisation Keep Sydney Open had planned to hold a rally in Kings Cross on the evening of Saturday 21 January 2017 to protest the NSW government’s “lockout laws”, a series of provisions of the Liquor Act 2007 and the Liquor Regulation 2008. Popular music group Flight Facilities were scheduled to appear at the rally.
At 5.30pm on Thursday 19 January 2017, the NSW Police Commissioner served Keep Sydney Open with an application under section 25(1) of the Summary Offences Act 1988, seeking a “prohibition order” in relation to the rally, which would mean that the police would have the power to direct participants in the rally to move on or be arrested.
Because of the late filing time and the urgency of the matter, the Police application was listed before Justice Lindsay in the NSW Supreme Court at 10am on Friday 20 January 2017. This left Keep Sydney Open with less than 17 hours overnight to put together a defence.
In the course of one evening, Levitt Robinson assembled Keep Sydney Open’s evidence and briefed prominent Senior Counsel, Mark Robinson SC, and two junior barristers, Tristan Bors and Damian Beaufils, to appear at the trial. Nevertheless, Justice Lindsay made the prohibition order as sought.
Matters weighed against Keep Sydney Open included a lack of a comprehensive traffic control plan and the fact that they did not have insurance cover, even though the legislation did not require either.
Levitt Robinson Senior Partner, Stewart Levitt said that the case highlights the deficiencies in the current regime under Part 4 of the Summary Offences Act 1988 (NSW).
“The legislative framework subordinates the freedom of speech and freedom of assembly to considerations which should be accorded lower priority”, Mr Levitt said.
“Previous cases show the Police Commissioner routinely springing last-minute court applications on would-be protest organisers.”
“It’s particularly worrying in this case, given that the Commissioner was able to shut down a protest against the lockout laws, which he has publicly stated that he supports, an inherent conflict of interest.”
Keep Sydney Open has remains defiant and has announced that it plans to hold an even bigger rally in February. It is also noted that the Queensland State Government recently shelved plans to enact similar lockout laws for Brisbane.
The judgment in NSW Commissioner of Police v Keep Sydney Open Ltd  NSWSC 5 is available at THIS LINK