"In most societies there is a conflict between individual privacy, civil liberties and the need to provide adequate protection for the community". Change is omnipresent, and over time the balance between individual privacy, civil liberties and the need to provide adequate protection for the community may be shifted one way or the other – no delicate balance seems to exist because there is not one which can please an ever-evolving community. Therefore there is a constant battle over the order of importance and moral correctness of each of these items.
Law enforcement is one area that attempts to strike a balance. Every step of the way, the police must respect their code to ensure that civil liberties are not imposed upon (to a certain extent) and to ensure that the essential rights of a prisoner are not ignored. They also must provide adequate protection for the community – but with widespread corruption still evident throughout NSW, that's certainly more easier said than done. Perhaps this is because they are horrendously underpaid for what they do; only the government is to blame for that.
Law enforcement is not limited to police, however, courts themselves may impose fines and the like to protect the community – as seen with the Sydney hotelier receiving a $20,000 fine after the death of a patron who consumed excessive amounts of alcohol. Individual privacy, in respect to law enforcement, has been decreasing over time. It is a commonly known fact that Australia spies extensively on its own population, with tapping phone-conversations and data transfers commonplace – showing that protection of the community seems to be more important, at the expense of our individual privacy.
Civil liberties are protected to an extent by the code which police must follow, which ensures that civil liberties are not diminished through such processes as police discretion – which considerably reduces the strain on police resources, through diverting attention away from petty crime. The need to provide adequate protection for the community is basically what the police force is intended for, but as we have seen over the past few years, corruption is extremely widespread throughout the NSW police force and protection of paedophiles and drug dealers has been the cause of much reform.
Perhaps now the police force may be more useful in enforcing the law. There are different levels of crime that may be committed and different extents to which one may be convicted. There are three main elements to most offences: actus reus, or guilty act; mens rea, or guilty mind; that the mens rea and actus reus occur at the same time. The actus reus may be summed up as the failure to act or the actual physical element of the crime, while the mens rea may be seen as the intent. Sometimes both of these are required for a conviction to take place.
It is this form of criminal justice that is in place to protect the community and ensure that criminals go to jail while people who just make mistakes (to a certain extent) are not unintentionally sent to jail. An interesting example in relation to this may be seen in which three people (Belinda Lowe, Dean Watters, Said Morgan) have been acquitted of cold-blooded murder, as the jury believed the murders were either just or, in the case of Dean Watters, the murderer was not in control of himself. This is despite the fact that murder is a crime which they committed, one punishable by a maximum of 25 years in jail.
This demonstrates a clear-cut change in society, coming to accept vigilantes within its ranks. These acquittals are a result of the defence in each case 'striking a chord' with the jury. There are many forms of defences that may be used in defending from a criminal offence and in these cases it seems that provocation and self-defence were the primary arguments utilised. In respect to civil liberties and individual privacy, it is possible to make evidence inadmissible if it is proved that it was obtained incorrectly – for example, without a warrant. This is one way of ensuring that police obey their code and do not impose too much on society.
The current conflict seems to be leaning more in favour of civil liberties and protection for the community, with individual privacy becoming a lesser issue. This is a combination of both community values, represented by the jury, and an imposition on our privacy by the governments of our time. Perhaps this will change when individual privacy becomes more of an issue in public discussion governments are forced to protect those rights of their citizens rather than introducing acts such as the Listening Devices act in order to spy on their own people. Only time will tell.