Chaser frontman Craig Reucassel and two of the show’s cameramen were primed for action ahead of yesterday’s Coalition campaign launch in Queensland. However, they were foiled by police who detained them for the duration of the launch.

According to Reucassel, six or seven Queensland Police officers confronted the three men who were then taken (in two paddy vans) to Brisbane’s South Bank Police Station. “They were very polite”, says Reucassel, “not like the old days”. The men were then held without charge until the Coalition launch was over. Reucassel tells Crikey he was put up in an interrogation room, while the camera crew was held elsewhere.  

Under what legislation were they actually detained? “Anti-lame-joke legislation”? ventures Reucassel.

Nope, the PPRA, a Queensland Police spokeswoman told Crikey today. Which section? They couldn’t say. In-depth research suggests section 50 of the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000, which has a little bit of a Sir Joh feel to it:

50 Dealing with breach of the peace

(1) This section applies if a police officer reasonably suspects–

(a) a breach of the peace is happening or has happened; or

(b) there is an imminent likelihood of a breach of the peace; or

(c) there is a threatened breach of the peace.

(2) It is lawful for a police officer to take the steps the police officer considers reasonably necessary to prevent the breach of the peace happening or continuing, or the conduct that is the breach of the peace again happening, even though the conduct prevented might otherwise be lawful.

Examples for subsection (2)–

1 The police officer may detain a person until the need for the detention no longer exists.

2 A person who pushes in to the front of a queue may be directed to go to the end of the queue.

3 Property that may be used in or for breaching the peace may be seized to prevent the breach.

(3) It is lawful for a police officer–

(a) to receive into custody from a person the police officer reasonably believes has witnessed a breach of the peace, a person who has been lawfully detained under the Criminal Code, section 260; and

(b) to detain the person in custody for a reasonable time.

The Chaser’s style of “breaching the peace” is unlikely one anticipated by the legislation, which is more routinely applied to the drunk and disorderly — a “reasonable time” for detention could be defined, for example, as the time it takes for someone to sober up.

And detention does seem a little selective; it was not how the Police chose to handle the 100 or so protesters who were heckling John Howard as he arrived.

Were the Police briefed to nab Chaser members if they saw them? Mere speculation, and a suggestion that the Queensland Police media unit was unwilling to comment on. In fact, details were thin on the ground this morning, and no word on what standards would apply for tomorrow’s ALP launch, also in Brisbane: “We’re not talking about the preparation and planning”, said a police spokeswoman.

They would say however that yesterday, “there were cordons in place” and the Chasers were approached because they “looked suspicious, wearing a fake wig and moustache.” The ”men” — Queensland Police did not wish to confirm their identity because charges weren’t laid — were “searched, spoken to by detectives and released.”

Crikey understands that The Chaser is not always the peace breacher. A couple of the crew had a heckler during their panel talk at the recent Brisbane Writers’ Festival. He was swiftly removed.

Peter Fray

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