The media has been flooded in recent weeks with people claiming their rights to Sovereign law. Sparked by the coronavirus, the movement has seen people refusing to wear masks, not complying with border check regulations, and blatantly disobeying of public health orders to try and outsmart authorities. So, what exactly is a ‘sovereign citizen’ and how does the law apply to this?
What is a Sovereign Citizen?
While the shortest and most simple answer is that a sovereign citizen is someone who believes they are above the law. The long answer is a bit more complicated. Think about a law you may not like which could be any law, at any level of government. It can be a big law, like paying income taxes, or a small one, like not wearing a mask in a shop. The self-described sovereign citizens see themselves as answerable only to their particular interpretations of the common law and as not subject to any government statutes or proceedings.
In a recent article by SBS news, Victoria’s Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton claimed officers are seeing an increasing trend of so-called ‘Sovereign Citizens’.
He said Police are confronting these people at “checkpoints baiting police” and “claiming they do not have to provide their name and address.”
“On at least three or four occasions in the past week, we’ve had to smash the windows of cars and pull them out of there so they could provide their details,” he said in a press conference earlier this month.
The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison also spoke about this issue telling sovereign citizens to “get real” and comply with the country’s health guidelines.
What is the law in Australia for Sovereign Citizens?
Sovereign citizens believe that the government of Australia is illegitimate, and all the laws passed by Parliament are unlawful because the government is, in their view, a corporation, and they are natural persons or living people. However, there is no legal basis for their claims.
If you are a resident in Australia, you must abide by Australian law. There’s no legal basis that you can opt-out of Australian law by declaring yourself to be a sovereign citizen. In 2015, the NSW police classed sovereign citizens as a potential terror threat, and in cases where these people claim their rights under clause 61 of the Magna Carta, it can be a risk that can possibly backfire on them.
In a famous case in 2018, Wayne Glew of Geraldton, Western Australia declared himself a sovereign citizen and argued he didn’t have to pay $30,000 in rates and legal fees to the council because of clause 61 of the Magna Carta. Unfortunately, the courts ruled against this, and Mr Geraldton had his property seized to cover costs to pay back ratepayers.
In cases where people are refusing to wear masks in retail stores, it won’t stack up legally. There are no human rights which give you the freedom just to do whatever you want. Stores such as Bunnings or the Apple store can legally set conditions of entry as long as they’re reasonable. Quoting random sections of the Australian Legal act or Magna Carta won’t help you legally.
The people in retail stores who are working there have their rights to health and safe working environment. These rights exist in law.
People are encouraged to educate themselves about the law, so they also have an understanding of how different laws work in relation to other laws in Australia.
No human right is absolute, except to a very limited number of exceptions like the right to be free of torture and wearing a face mask cannot be legally argued as torture.
For more information about your legal rights about being a sovereign citizen, human rights or health rights in Australia, call us for a consultation.