Because of this risk, I am writing this article in order to give advice on the best way to respond should your property or business be targeted by activists.
Firstly, as police officers, regardless of our personal views or opinions, we are required to act impartially in the enforcement of the law and in ensuring people can exercise their rights. This being said, should activists attend your property or commence activities from the road near your property, my first, and most important piece of advice is to call the police immediately and before you engage with them.
The approach to dealing with these instances depends on whether they enter your property or if they conduct activities from the road.
As with any person who enters your property, you have the right to deny entry or revoke a person’s right to be there. Essentially, when you ask someone to leave your property, if they fail to do so, they can be charged with the offence of trespassing. My advice, if you find yourself in this position, is to ask them to leave politely and if they do not leave, ask them a second time and add that the police have been called. Feel free record the demand to leave on your phone and to film them on your property.
If they fail to leave, I recommend disengaging from them and to wait for our arrival. Unfortunately, and as seen in the news footage last week, activists can be very good at provoking a reaction from people and when they do react, it paints the farmer in a bad light. When these interactions occur, you can be assured they are recording it.
Once police arrive, they will be told to leave in accordance with your previous demand, if they do not leave, they will be arrested and removed from the property as we would do with any trespasser, regardless of who they are or why they are there.
If activists park on the road to film your operations or property, once again, the first thing to do is to call the police. Any person has the right to be on a road or public property. The filming of someone or something can be a very grey area legally depending on where and what is being recorded or whether it is being done overtly or covertly. However, it is recommended that if they are on the road and have not entered your property, you do not engage them in any way, let the police deal with them.
While they may be on the road and have every right, as we all do, to be there, there are circumstances where the police can order a person to move from a location and if they fail to do so, they can be subject to arrest and charges. The circumstances in these instances would be where we have a reasonable belief that a breach of the peace may occur. As can be seen in the footage on the news, a breach of the peace certainly occurred and the police would be able to intervene positively.
I must reiterate though, the importance of minimising your interaction with activists should they attend your property, as an over-reaction on your behalf could easily result in you being charged by police.
As I mentioned, the likelihood of activists targeting properties or operations in our area is low and hopefully we will not have to deal with this kind of incident. However, should it occur, call police first and let us deal with it.
If you have any questions in relation to this topic or if you would like to sit down with me and discuss this further, please contact me on the email address email@example.com or call the Dumbleyung Police Station on 9863 4143.
Article by Sergeant Alby Van Den Berg