The Law Society has expressed concern following a request by the Police Commissioner to make it harder for people to take legal action against the police.

Law Society President, Linda Lee said claims that lawsuits ‘are merely a drain on police resources and money’ was disrespectful to those who mount successful abuse claims.

“The police must abide by, as well as work towards upholding the law. They are not beyond the rule of law and citizens must still have the right to challenge abuses of power.

“Most such claims rely on legal aid and Legal Services Commission figures do not show a trend of cases against the police that are wholly unsubstantive.

“These publicly available figures show as at July 2010, the Legal Services Commission had contracted for 1,931 new cases to advise on prospective Actions Against the Police (AAP).

“In the past financial year, 39% of such cases were recorded as having been resolved successfully for the client without litigation, by way of a compensation payment or a successful complaint.

“In many others, the solicitor will have correctly advised the client that there was no valid case to pursue, which saves the police from dealing with many frivolous claims.

“Only 13% of initial enquiries under legal aid about such possible actions resulted in the granting of a public funding certificate to pursue litigation. A robust merits test ensures unmeritorious cases are filtered out of the system. This system ensures that cases with less than 50% chances of success will not be supported.

“Civil actions are a means to keep the police accountable. There is no evidence that weak cases are being unreasonably pursued. The resolution of valid cases in favour of the complainant is an absolute prerequisite for the rule of law.”