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Cross-border police plan to stop crims escaping justice

By Ivy Jensen

ECHUCA police say a cross-border partnership with NSW will stop criminals using the Murray River as an escape plan.

Echuca's Senior Sergeant Mick Carroll said police faced confusing cross-border challenges when it came to criminal activity.

“We frequently have crimes in our area and find that the suspect is living across the border,” he said.

“This results in police having difficulty in bringing these cases to a conclusion and the victims get no closure on the matter or it takes quite a long time to get some finalisation to matters for victims.”

Sgt Carroll said laws relating to family violence intervention orders changed a couple of years ago.

“Those orders issued in any state are enforceable in all states, which works very well,” he said.

“If something similar could be legislated so police in border towns can operate on both sides of the river, it would be of great benefit to our communities.”

Senior Constable Bren Lodi of Campaspe Highway Patrol promotes the creation of a cross-border police partnership that will help stop offenders using the river and border to escape justice. Photo: Cath Grey

Member for Murray Plains Peter Walsh said there was a simple solution, based on the Cross Border Justice Scheme partnership between Western Australia, the Northern Territory and South Australia.

“It is a legal agreement that removes state and territory borders in the outback cross-border region to improve law enforcement and justice in the area,” Mr Walsh said.

“We could do the same the length of the Murray — and go just one shire deep on each side of the river.

“If we follow the blueprint of the scheme that now covers that cross-border corner in the three western states/territories, it would mean offenders cannot escape justice by simply skipping over the border.

“It would mean police, judges, fine enforcement agencies, community corrections officers and prisons can deal with offences that may have occurred in the other state.

“And that must surely help provide a safer environment for residents in the cross-border justice region — and give communities the confidence to report crimes.”

Mr Walsh said there had been a lot of discussion around the idea, but those talks hadn't progressed.

“This now needs to be ‘re-prosecuted’ to see how we handle these issues because for many major towns along the Murray their crime rates are outstripping state averages — and that’s a disturbing trend,” he said.

“The Cross Border Justice Act 2009 is evidence cross-border policing issues can be resolved if state governments are convinced a genuine need exists — and in our case it does.”

Mr Walsh said The Nationals’ proposal would only involve nine shires in Victoria — out of the state’s 79 — and 10 of 129 in NSW.

While Sgt Carroll said it was a great initiative, a NSW Police spokesperson said there was no legislative issue that negated pursuits or the arrest of offenders.

“Normal practice would be once a pursuit is started in NSW which ultimately proceeds, for example, to Victoria — then the Victorian Police would take over and arrest the offenders,” the spokesperson said.

“At present, Victoria Police can arrest an offender for a criminal offence if an arrest warrant for that person is in existence from NSW and vice-versa.

“Once the offender is in custody, the relevant jurisdiction must apply through the relevant court to extradite the person back to their state to face the charges.”

The spokesperson said NSW had legislation relating to recognised law enforcement officers (RLEO), where interstate police were sworn in as special constables, allowing them to work within NSW.

“Bordering police districts have education packages that are given to RLEO applications as part of the overall education process,” he said.

“In terms of the AVO process, there is a scheme under which another state or territory's equivalent of an apprehended violence order can be registered in NSW and then is enforceable in NSW, just as if it was an apprehended violence order made in NSW. A similar process works in reverse.

“Regular formal and informal discussions are held between the different jurisdictions to ensure any issues that do arise are addressed and resolved.

“Significantly, NSW Police has an excellent working relationship with our cross-border partners. This cross-jurisdictional relationship ensures the safety of our communities on both sides of the border and will continue to be a priority for police.”

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