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The trouble with IBAC

The trouble with IBAC

By Merys Williams

Opinions Police 


It’s time for independent investigation of police misconduct complaints. The Victorian parliament’s IBAC Committee report into external oversight of police corruption and misconduct is due by 30 June 2018. This is a crucial opportunity for advocates to convince parliament that Victoria needs a police complaints system that meets human rights standards. Currently, Victoria Police and IBAC both have the power to investigate complaints of police misconduct. However, IBAC refers more than 90 per cent of complaints received back to Victoria Police for investigation. As human beings, most of us feel inherently uncomfortable when any organisation, company, church or other body is responsible for investigating its own members. As lawyers, we are taught that the mere perception of a conflict of interest will undermine the public’s confidence in the integrity of the investigation. Victoria, the first Australian state to have a human rights charter, is the only Australian state to have its police complaints system reviewed by the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC). 1 It’s fair to say that we failed that review. One of the shortcomings identified by the UNHRC was that Victoria Police did not interview Corinna Horvath (the complainant) or the relevant civilian witnesses, when investigating Ms Horvath’s complaint lodged in 1996 over her alleged bashing by police during a raid. In 2016, an audit of Victoria Police’s handling of police misconduct complaints revealed that 34 per cent of witnesses were not contacted by investigating officers. Twenty years later, one of the police officers accused of assaulting Ms Horvath is facing criminal charges but the complaints system remains effectively unchanged.

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