News & Views

MALS calls for ban of dangerous police weapons

Melbourne Activist Legal Support (MALS) has provided a submission to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture recommending a ban on the police use of explosive weapons such as stinger grenades and flash-bangs, a prohibition on the use of police horses as crowd control weapons and far stricter controls on the use of OC spray and kinetic projectile weapons.

The 10-page submission was in response to a call by the Special Rapporteur, Dr. Alice Jill Edwards, for input on the nature, scope and regulation of the production and trade of law enforcement equipment and weapons and the relationship with torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, to inform the Special Rapporteur’s annual interim report to be presented to the General Assembly at its 78th Session in October 2023.

MALS raised concerns regarding the effectiveness of Australia’s current law enforcement equipment and weapons regulatory regime.

In summary, MALS asserts that the current ‘Use of Force’ regulations contained in both legislation and in police internal policies do not adequately protect against the unlawful, misuse of weapons by Australian law enforcement, which in numerous cases, can constitute, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

The lack of adequate human rights protection and enforcement mechanisms, combined with the lack of adequate police misconduct accountability systems in any Australian state means that serious human rights abuses involving police weapons or equipment continue to occur. 

Based upon our observations and monitoring of public order policing in Victoria, Australia, MALS has made the following recommendations regarding the regulation of weapons and equipment: 

The Victorian Government: 

  1. Legislate to strictly prohibit the use of all types of explosive devices, such as stinger grenades and flash-bangs, by Victoria Police due to their documented ability to cause severe injuries (see Section 3).
  2. Legislate to prevent the use of OC aerosols against people involved in peaceful but non-compliant forms of protest activity, and ensure Victoria Police provides clear directives against its use in picket or protest scenarios and in crowded and confined spaces (see Section 4 ).
  3. Review the use of kinetic impact projectile (KIP) weapons, such as baton round launchers and pepper ball firearms, by police and legislate to strictly regulate their use. (see Section 5 ).
  4. Legislate to expressly prohibit any use of police horses in public order or crowd control scenarios (see section 6).
  5. Establish a new, independent, and adequately resourced body with the capability to investigate police misconduct and conduct wide-ranging police monitoring regimes, including transparent data on police activity, to identify systemic problems with police use of powers, weapons and equipment. (See:

The full submission details evidence from MALS Legal Observer Teams over recent years and references multiple reports and Statements of Concern. The submission also highlighted the recently filed group/class action against Victoria Police’s use of capsicum foam and excessive force against protesters at the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) in Melbourne in October 2019. (Jordan Brown v State of Victoria (S ECI 2022 03440)

A full copy of the MALS Submission is available here. (PDF)

Any loss of control of a horse, even briefly, can have potentially fatal consequences. …it only takes a second for a person to fall under the horse’s hooves or for the horse to rear or step or surge forward and seriously injure a person. …MALS has repeatedly called for any use of horses by Victoria Police to be immediately prohibited.

– MALS Submission to the Special Rapporteur – April 2023


Melbourne Activist Legal Support (MALS)

is an independent volunteer group of lawyers, human rights advocates, law students and para-legals. MALS trains and fields Legal Observer Teams at protest events, provides training and advice to activist groups on legal support structures, and develops and distributes legal resources for social movements. MALS works in conjunction with law firms, community legal centres, and a range of local, national, and international human rights agencies. We stand up for civil and political rights.

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