20 March 2015


The Adelaide Advertiser reports that South Australian Attorney-General John Rau is moving ahead with legislation criminalising a refusal of a police request for an on-the-spot fingerprint scan. The penalty will be up to three months’ prison or a fine of up to $1250.

Rau indicates that scanning will not be random and that strict criteria must be met before any scan is conducted.

Under current SA law the state's police currently only use mobile fingerprint scanners once a person has been arrested. The proposed legislation would authorise on the spot scanning, underpinned by criminalisation, of any person on the basis that police have to have "reasonable cause" to suspect that the person has committed, is committing or is about to commit an offence or may be able to assist in the investigation of an offence.

Rau is reported as justifying the legislation on the basis that in field trials police were 'able to make arrests instantly', something that
demonstrated that legislative reform is necessary to enable police to use the scanners in wider circumstances, where a person does not have to give consent and police can scan for prints without the need to arrest.
Given the A-G's recurrent disregard of civil liberties and surrender to hyperbole we might wonder whether he'll shortly embrace bureaucratic convenience on a more extensive scale, with comprehensive collection of (and access to) everyone's fingerprints and DNA.