Victorian Police Minister proposed laws to ban masks at protests

Liberty Victoria

The Victorian Police Minister has foreshadowed laws to ban masks at protests. There have been reports that such laws may be of two kinds:

  1. Laws making it an offence to wear masks at protests and demonstrations;[1] and
  2. Laws that would result heavier prison sentences for those who have committed disorder offences while wearing masks.[2]

The response is unsurprising in light of recent violent clashes between masked protesters at rallies. However, in Victoria police officers already have sufficient powers to unmask and arrest disorderly protesters.

Further, to introduce mandatory or prescriptive sentencing models would cause injustice.

We were all shocked by images of violence from recent rallies – but the test for this government is whether it will respond in a responsible and measured manner without treating all protesters as potential criminals.

Simply banning all masks at protests would be a broad brush “one size fits all” approach that undermines our civil liberties when the case has not been made as to why such laws are necessary and proportionate. To the same end, to introduce a mandatory or prescriptive sentencing model for those who commit disorder offences while wearing masks would cause injustice and represent a further erosion of judicial discretion in sentencing. Any bill that proposes such measures should be opposed.

Read Liberty Victoria's full comment in pdf below. 


[1] ABC News, “Coburg clashes: Police Minister calls for face masks to be banned”, 30 May 2016, internet reference,

[2] Peter Mickelburough, “Thug protesters to face up to 14 years jail under tough new laws to stop protest battlegrounds”, Herald-Sun, 25 June 2016, internet reference,

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