Potential Class Action Lawsuit Following Sniffer Dog Operation

Five people were still denied entry to Above and Beyond in Sydney on the weekend, despite not carrying drugs.

What you need to know
  • Greens pursuing potential class action lawsuit over sniffer dog policy
  • Five people were denied entry to Above and Beyond in Sydney, despite not carrying drugs
  • Two were charged with supplying a prohibited drug after more than 100 MDMA capsules were seized

A potential class action lawsuit is brewing amongst people denied entry to music festivals after a sniffer dog "indication", despite not carrying any drugs.

At least five people were denied entry to the Above and Beyond event in Sydney on the weekend, with one person being given a six month suspension.

NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge says that Sniff Off -- the anti-drug dog campaign collaboration between his office and the Young Greens NSW -- is now pursuing a potential class action lawsuit against NSW Police.

"We're gathering people together and seeing if there's a viable class action, or a series of individual claims made against the police," he told ABC Radio on Tuesday.

"I doubt we'll get parliament to clarify the laws around sniffer dogs, so it looks like we're going to go down the court path."

It follows his comments last week that the Police's new approach was an "overreach" and a "clear abuse of police powers".

A drug dog "indication" generally means the dog sits down next to you but Sniff Off claims that anecdotally, this doesn't usually happen in the majority of cases, with a police officer simply making the decision to search you instead. Dogs give a false positive anywhere from two-thirds to three-quarters of the time.

NSW Police wouldn't clarify what a drug dog indication means.

The man who received a six-month suspension from Sydney Olympic Park was strip-searched, said Shoebridge.

"He was quite unhappy about being strip-searched, quite unhappy about being kicked out," said Shoebridge. "He let police know he was unhappy about that, so they threw in the additional punishment."

All five people refused entry, despite not being found to carry drugs, were given a ticket refund, police confirmed to ten daily.

Two men were charged with supplying a prohibited drug after more than 100 MDMA capsules were seized, with one facing court on Sunday.

A further four people were issued with future court attendance noticed for drug possession.

As well as the five people denied entry to Above and Beyond, Sniff Off are also talking to people reportedly denied entry to Sydney's Midnight Mafia event in May for the same reason.

At least seven people are needed for a class action lawsuit.

It comes after an injunction failed to get off the ground at the Supreme Court last Friday, with Justice Pembroke describing the bid as "misconceived".

"We had very strong advice from lawyers suggesting it was unlawful, but the court at that point said they weren't going to grant release because it was a hypothetical," said Shoebridge.

Critics of the controversial plan to rely on sniffer dogs even found a supporter in former Australian Border Force chief Roman Quaedvlieg.

"I spent 32 years in drug enforcement, from seizing street deals to detecting multi-tonne imports of pure meth, but I find this step extraordinary," he tweeted.

"Festival drugs are risky, granted, but a person can have minute drug traces from handling cash, infused into garment fabric etc."

When contacted for comment, NSW Police declined to comment further on the circumstances surrounding the five people denied entry.