John is a 15-year-old Aboriginal young person from Western Sydney. He has very unstable housing, and is very transient. John has an inconsistent relationship with family members with a pattern of needing to leave home after family breakdown. John has had some levels of involvement with FACS. John’s offending history largely comprises of drug use and possession. His lawyer suspects he may be on an STMP but is not sure if the high levels of unwarranted use of powers are because he is known to police across several LACs. John has had a continuous and large volume of police contact since he was a small child due to incidents where the police have been called to the family home. From about the age of 12 police contact with John shifted from regarding him as a vulnerable child requiring protection to being a person of interest, targeted as an offender. His lawyer explains he is subjected to frequent harassment and unlawful searches.
John’s experience of police encounters are all in public spaces. In one recent incident, John was searched three times within one and half hours without reasonable cause. In the first encounter, he was seen by police at a shopping centre, asked questions and then searched. Shortly after, he was searched again by different officers at a train station. Police confiscated his ticket bought as concession without proof of concession. Police said to John “Where are you going” He replied “to [redacted] suburb” and police responded - “Not any more”. John was then issued with move on directions to leave the train station and directed not to return for two hours. John reports being frequently subject to move on directions across two LACs.
John has been participating in the Youth Koori Court for his drug offences, where he is engaged in skills training programs, and counselling for drug and alcohol issues. John’s progress is however being hindered by police contact particularly through the use of frequent move on directions. His lawyer’s view is that this excessive police harassment is ‘impacting on his well-being’ and undermining efforts to complete his Youth Koori Court program:
“He describes it as being really frustrating when he’s participating in the Koori Court process where he’s making lots of undertakings to do really positive things for himself but that’s being hindered by the police contact where he’s actually not doing anything just sitting at the train station and told to leave for no particular reason. That’s really undermining his attempts to participate in the Koori Court process. Also I think it really wears him down. He’s experiencing pretty severe homelessness at the moment....so [policing] impacts on his wellbeing as well.
All these programs require him to be out and about to see social workers and require travelling some distances. But every time he does, he encounters police officers who embarrass him. For example, when he was at the shopping centre and the police said: “Have you got receipts for all your purchases” and went through all of his things, and he had receipts for everything. That was in front of the main entry to the shopping centre and he hadn’t done anything wrong. Then for that to occur again shortly after at the train station, that type of thing really upsets him.
He’s a young person who’s at risk and very very vulnerable yet is being targeted in a way which criminalises those issues. So, his homelessness, the fact that he is always at the station or walking around, he’s just there as an easy target when he has all these avenues which if they (the police) had a different response, may not actually...I think that one of the key things is that the police having contact with him doesn’t prevent any crimes. It usually just disadvantages him.”