Chapter 2 - Parliamentary Privilege: immunities and powers of the Senate

Detention of senators

While the immunity from arrest in a civil cause is of little significance, the Senate has insisted upon its right to be notified of the detention of a Senator in any cause.

In 1979 the Committee of Privileges considered a case in which a senator had been arrested and detained without any notification being given to the President. The committee reported that it was the right of the Senate to receive notification of the detention of any of its members, and recommended that the Senate pass a resolution asserting this right and setting out when notification is to be given (5th report, PP 273/1979). The Senate passed the recommended resolution on 26 February 1980 (J.1153). The resolution requires any court, pursuant to the order of which a senator is detained in custody, to notify the President of the fact and the cause of the senator’s detention.

In 1986 the committee considered a case in which a senator had been detained by police for a considerable period without being brought before a court. The committee recommended that the 1980 resolution be modified to impose an obligation upon police to notify the President of the fact and the cause of a senator’s arrest where the identity of the senator is known (10th report, PP 433/1986). The Senate passed the recommended resolution on 18 March 1987 (J.1693-4).

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