Updated: Apr 1, 2022
By: Rachel Harris
From: Smith's Hill High School, Australia
The Lindt cafe siege, in which 18 people were held hostage for 17 hours, was Sydney’s first significant terrorist activity and resulted in the deaths of both the gunman and two civilians. It affected society significantly, but how did it affect the law? Well, after the siege, legal changes were implemented in order to respond to the rise of terrorist activities in society, and have achieved varying degrees of effectiveness. Legal responses, including legislative reform, have been very effective in the prevention of similar situations, allowing Australian society some peace of mind regarding similar terrorist events.
Several legal responses to the Lindt cafe siege have occurred as a result of the siege, including the Coronial Inquest by the State Coroner of NSW. The coronial inquest undertaken by NSW State Coroner Michael Barnes into the deaths arising from the Lindt Cafe siege examined the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Tori Johnson, Katrina Dawson, and Man Haron Monis during the siege, with the aim of uncovering the causes of the deaths. The Coroner delivered his findings in 2017, making over 600 recommendations, with one of his most significant findings being that police waited too long to enter the cafe in their attempt to rescue hostages and, subsequently, found that this was inevitably partially responsible for the deaths of the hostages. As a consequence of the findings, the Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Police Powers and Parole) Act 2017, amongst other legislation, was put into place.
The coronial inquest into this case led to several legislative changes which have been highly effective in responding to terrorist threats in Australia. As recommended, the Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Police Powers and Parole) Act 2017, the Terrorism (Extraordinary Powers) Amendment Act 2018, and the Terrorism (High-Risk Offenders) Act 2017 (NSW) were passed to combat the effects that these terrorist events have on individual rights. These legislative changes aim to give police the legal protection they to be able to use lethal force against terrorists to prevent harm to civilians and to decrease the ease with which high-risk offenders can be granted bail, and have been highly effective in doing so; police now have the ability and confidence in their authority to take the action that they find necessary to prevent harm to individuals involved in similar hostage situations.
The legal responses to the Lindt cafe siege have been effective in preventing similar future events, and increasing awareness of the consequences of terrorist acts on communities and individuals. The legislative changes that have been enacted have been very effective in their aim to prevent similar hostage situations in the future and to protect the rights of both individuals and communities. These changes have been effective in enacting legislative change and supporting communities and individuals through access to resources, proving how responsive the law can be when it needs to be.
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