Criminal Law as Police Power: Serious Crime, Unsafe Protest and Risks to Public Safety


This article considers the deepening of police power in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, criminal law. It analyses the combined effects of four recent criminal law regimes that not only give the NSW Police Force more powers, but also reflect the significant role of institutional police power and the pre-emptive logic of criminal law. We examine: the introduction of serious crime prevention orders; the introduction of public safety orders; investigative detention powers in relation to terrorist acts; and confiscation, forfeiture and search powers, and trespass offences that target protests. Drawing on the work of ‘police power’ theorists, we argue that these new regimes illustrate the centrality of police power to the criminal law rather than a deviation from a putative, ‘normal’ criminal law.

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Published: 2018-09-01
Pages:75 to 90
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How to Cite
Sentas, V. and Grewcock, M. (2018) “Criminal Law as Police Power: Serious Crime, Unsafe Protest and Risks to Public Safety”, International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 7(3), pp. 75-90. doi: 10.5204/ijcjsd.v7i3.554.

Author Biographies

Faculty of Law, UNSW Sydney

Dr Vicki Sentas is Senior Lectuter, Faculty of Law, UNSW Sydney. 

Michael Grewcock is a senior lecturer in the Law School, University of NSW. His research interests are in State Crime, Criminology, Criminal Law, Forced Migration and Border Policing, and Penology. He is author of Border Crimes: Australia's War on Illicit Migrants (2009) Institute of Criminology Press, Sydney, and is widely recognised as one of Australia's leading experts of border control and migration. He is a member of the Editorial Board of State Crime and the Editorial Advisory Group of the Howard Journal of Crime and Justice.