Covid-19 has taken the World by storm. Overnight Victoria and South Australia declared a state of emergency and this morning so did Western Australia.
In WA, Public Health Emergency powers are set out in the Emergency Management Act 2005 and Part 12 of the Health Act 2016. More particularly, under section 174(5) the Chief Health Officer is to maintain a list of authorised officers with powers to:
• Enter property to control or eradicate a public health risk, such as disease vectors or harmful substances.
• Collaborate with police, direct the movement of persons, animals and vehicles around a designated emergency area.
• Enter premises to search for, open and seize anything deemed to be a public health risk, such as foodstuffs, pesticides or dangerous chemicals.
• Assist in the implementation of quarantine measures.
Another aspect of the Covid-19 outbreak is the potential effects on the criminal justice system. It was announced today that jury trials to start today would commence tomorrow. If the courts were to close then an accused’s basic legal rights could be compromised. For example, upon arrest a detained person has the right to be promptly brought before a court.
This could easily be done via video link from a police station. But what happens if police stations are forced to close with police officers facing self-imposed isolation? Other legal consequences will become apparent as Covid-19 and authorities and the private sector try to find ways to respond.