Special reports

Operation Gloucester

An investigation into improper evidentiary and disclosure practices in relation to the Victoria Police investigation of the murders of Sergeant Gary Silk and Senior Constable Rodney Miller.

The administration of justice requires that a statement made by a witness to police investigators is an accurate and full record of the witness's account and that the statement, if relevant, is disclosed in a criminal prosecution. A failure to comply with either of these requirements is likely to jeopardise that legal process. Without someone coming forward to say that these requirements have not been followed, non-compliance or related improper practices are unlikely to be detected.

Operation Gloucester identified a variety of improper practices by police officers with respect to witness statements which did not comply with proper evidentiary and disclosure practices. A number of these practices were used by some officers connected to the Lorimer Taskforce investigation and prosecution of Bandali Debs and Jason Roberts for the murders of Sergeant Gary Silk and Senior Constable Rodney Miller.

This report identifies improper practices which were consistently used by some officers within the Lorimer Taskforce and Homicide and Armed Robbery Squads. As none of these improper practices have ever been recorded or expressly identified by Victoria Police as practices that need to be corrected and which must not be followed, there is an appreciable risk that these practices, or variations of them, remain current. Indeed, most of these practices by their nature are hidden but the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) has detected current examples of a number of these practices. IBAC has made recommendations to address the risk of the occurrence of any of these practices in the future and to protect the integrity of investigations and the administration of justice.

  • IBAC publishes responses to our investigations to inform the community about actions agencies advise they are taking and to assist Victoria Police and the public sector to strengthen policies, systems and practices to prevent corruption and misconduct.

    In Operation Gloucester, IBAC made three recommendations with Recommendation 1 requiring Victoria Police to report to IBAC on its progress in actioning this recommendation by 30 April 2021. Recommendation 1 was as follows: 

    Victoria Police reviews and amends the Victoria Police Manual (VPM) and its training to ensure police officers fully understand and comply with their obligations regarding evidence gathering and disclosure practices in investigations of criminal conduct, with a focus on statements and record keeping. The VPM and training should include the elements of proper practices in the making, taking and disclosure of a witness statement, and contemporaneous notes. These are highlighted in Figure 1 in section 1.2 of the report. Additionally, Victoria Police’s review should consider: 

    • the guidance and direction provided in other jurisdictions with a view to identifying other good practices
    • officers’ obligations regarding evidence and disclosure under the Criminal Procedure Act 2009
    • how to most effectively communicate to all officers, including those who do not receive regular formal training, the obligations in recording evidence and the obligations of disclosure
    • the role of supervising and senior officers in ensuring officers understand and comply with their evidentiary and disclosure obligations, and how this may be improved to address the concerns identified by Operation Gloucester
    • how to achieve understanding by officers that non-compliance with the rules of evidence and the obligations of accurately recording and disclosing relevant evidence may affect the administration of justice and constitute misconduct or corruption.

    IBAC recommended Victoria Police provide a progress report to IBAC on this review in nine months and full report on the outcome of this review within 18 months. 

    In July 2021, Victoria Police provided IBAC with a progress report outlining the action it had taken to date in response to Recommendation 1. Victoria Police's response is outlined below.  

  • Victoria Police responded to the release of the Operation Gloucester report strongly and swiftly, with the establishment of a steering committee, chaired by the Assistant Commissioner of Professional Standards Command (PSC), to oversee the implementation of the recommendations. The Chief Commissioner composed an initial email, sent to the whole organisation, acknowledging the report, indicating that work is being undertaken to address policy and training and resetting the expectations on statement taking and disclosure and emphasising that a failure to act in accordance with the expectations is likely to result in misconduct or corruption allegations. A follow up email was sent to the organisation by the head of Professional Standards Command, Assistant Commissioner Walsh, reinforcing that improper practices must cease.

    Further activities to acquit Recommendation 1 are as follows:

    • Victoria Police has drafted a Chief Commissioner's Instruction relating to requirements for statement taking. This instruction is currently being reviewed by The Police Association of Victoria, and then it is proposed the document will be forwarded to IBAC for review before publication
    • An updated Body Worn Camera policy document has been published within the Victoria Police Manual on 10/12/2020.

    Consideration of how the broader policy review will be conducted is currently underway, with discussions occurring internally to understand the extent to which this aspect of the recommendation will be acquitted through parallel review/reform being conducted as part of Victoria Police acquitting recommendations arising from the Royal Commission into the management of Police Informants, particularly in relation to disclosure.

    Victoria Police, through Taskforce Reset, is assessing the extent to which the Operation Gloucester policy review work overlaps with the Royal Commission findings and we expect this aspect of the recommendation (to review/amend the VPM re evidence gathering and disclosure practices) will at least be partially, if not fully, acquitted through this committee. Any outstanding work not covered by the Royal Commission work will be progressed under the banner of acquitting Recommendation 1 from Operation Gloucester. This will include consideration around other jurisdictions to identify other good practices.

    With respect to the training element of Recommendation 1, Victoria Police has updated existing, or developed new, training as identified in Table 1 in the special report. The improvements to training are explained in the second column of this table. The online Disclosure Organisational Uplift training is compulsory for every Police Officer and Protective Services Officer within the organisation, but available for completion by all employees.