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Identifying and contesting unjustified, disproportionate or unreasonable uses of power

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Event description

This is our fourth session of a new community of practice group for lawyers working in police accountability. We're hoping this will be a space to build expertise, skills and community to improve our litigation and systemic advocacy in this space.

*This event will be accessible via Zoom. The link will be sent out a day before the session.

Topic: Identifying and contesting unjustified, disproportionate or unreasonable uses of power.

VLA’s newly expanded summary crime not guilty plea guideline targets key areas of systemic injustice, including police abuse of power and charges unfairly laid against marginalised client groups.

The guideline is as follows:

Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) may make a grant of legal assistance to a person who has been charged with a criminal offence to be heard in the Magistrates’ Court if:

  • the person pleads not guilty
  • the person has a reasonable prospect of acquittal on one or more charges and one or more of the following applies: ·
    • a conviction is likely to result in a term of immediate imprisonment, or
    • the person is an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person, or
    • the person is a woman and/or a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer or other sexually or gender diverse (LGBTIQ+) person charged with family violence offence(s) as a result of being misidentified as the predominant aggressor of family violence by police, or
    • an unjustified, disproportionate or unreasonable use of power by a person in a special position of authority (such as a police officer) led to the charge(s) being laid.

The session will provide guidance on how to identify suitable matters and meet the elements of the guideline in relation to when there has been an unjustified, disproportionate or unreasonable use of power by a person in a special position of authority. This includes where the person is not facing a risk of immediate imprisonment and when there is a reasonable prospect of an acquittal on one or more charges.

Mahnoor and Gabe’s presentation will cover scenarios (unlawful stop and search, police acting outside the lawful execution of duty and the unlawful execution of a safe custody warrant) where the guideline is likely to apply and offers practical tips on how to strategically progress matters in the summary jurisdiction, including in taking instructions, seeking disclosure and putting issues on the record during summary case conference and in court appearances. 

Mahnoor Sikandar

Mahnoor has worked as a solicitor advocate in criminal law for VLA and the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) and is currently in the Criminal law policy team at VLA. Mahnoor has been involved in the development of the guideline change and will use this session to discuss how we can best identify and progress matters which meet the elements of the guideline in our everyday court work.

Gabe Chipkin

Gabriel Chipkin is a barrister who practices in criminal, regulatory and administrative law, as well as torts against public authorities (including police). Prior to coming to the Bar he was a Public Defender at VLA Chambers and a Senior Lawyer (Trial Advocate) at NAAJA.


The format of the CPD will be a presentation from Mahnoor and Gabe, followed by a Q+A. We'll then open the floor to casework questions relating to any issues involving abuse of power.


The community of practice is open to:

  • Defence lawyers,
  • Community lawyers, and
  • Lawyers doing police torts work.

Other workers and lawyers are welcome to attend upon request. Please note the sessions are not open to lawyers doing a substantial portion of prosecutorial work or currently prosecuting matters, lawyers who are employed of or briefed by the Victorian Government Solicitors Office or the Australian Government Solicitor to intervene in criminal proceedings, or lawyers who defend the Victorian or Commonwealth Government against police torts. Please have a look at the Terms of Reference if you'd like more information about the group.


Please note:

  • access to the building is via a ramp or stairs;
  • the event room can be accessed via the lift on the main floor; and
  • the building has accessible toilets and automatic doors.

Please let us know if you have any other accessibility requirements.


Please contact Ella at the Police Accountability Project with any inquiries at

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