Message from the Commissioner - March 2022

The Honourable Robert Redlich QCWelcome to the March edition of IBAC Insights and our first for 2022.

As I prefaced in our last edition, 2022 will be a significant year for IBAC with a number of investigations concluding and the associated reports to be published. The finalisation of several operations has been delayed because of ongoing litigation. The reports, when published, will each make recommendations as part of IBAC's prevention and education functions.

Since our last edition, there have been a number of substantial outcomes achieved, as well as commitments to upcoming activities that I would like to highlight for you.
 

Police oversight

IBAC's police oversight role is a significant part of our jurisdiction, and includes investigations, reviews of completed police investigations into police misconduct, recommendations for significant policy and practice change, and overseeing police compliance with a range of legislation.

An infographic was produced earlier this year highlighting the key actions IBAC took in 2021 to prevent misconduct at Victoria Police.  Of significance:

  • In May 2021, a Victoria Police officer was charged with recklessly causing injury after an investigation into allegations of misconduct, including excessive force, during the arrest of a vulnerable young man (Operation Langlo).
  • In June 2021, three Victoria Police officers charged with recklessly causing serious injury after an investigation into an incident where a man received a serious injury during his arrest (Operation Blackmore).
  • In August 2021, a former Victoria Police officer sentenced in August 2021 following an investigation into the assault of a 15-year-old boy (Operation Durack).

In addition, we held over 40 education and training sessions to Victoria Police officers and employees, engaging with various levels of police, including recruits, detectives and senior leadership, on the importance of integrity and preventing misconduct and corruption.

IBAC's strategic plan for 2021 – 2025 specifically identifies a targeted approach to police misconduct as one of four key streams of work. Our current annual plan further identifies three strategic focus areas relevant to our targeted approach to Victoria Police misconduct. Some of the strategic work we will be doing this financial year includes the production of a special report on corruption and misconduct risks associated with the Critical Incident Response Team, producing investigation summaries and case studies to inform the community and support investigation outcomes, undertaking targeted education and engagement with high-risk Victoria Police work areas, and conducting a regional-based public awareness campaign on IBAC's police oversight role.

To learn more about IBAC's police oversight role, I encourage you to listen to a new podcast with our Deputy Commissioner Kylie Kilgour which has been produced for this edition of IBAC Insights.
 

Witness wellbeing

IBAC's role is to thoroughly investigate allegations of corruption. Public hearings are an important part of IBAC's ability to meet this legislated purpose. IBAC is, however, very aware that public hearings may impact on an individual's wellbeing.

At the commencement of an investigation, we provide a range of witness supports including access to independent counselling services. These services remain available throughout the entire investigative process.

Unlike other jurisdictions in Australia, IBAC's legislation has protections that mean IBAC must consider that the running of public hearings is justified by the gravity of the conduct that is being exposed, is in the public interest and can be held without causing unreasonable damage to a persons’ reputation, safety or wellbeing.

In practice, this means ahead of any public hearing we must assess each of these legislative protections in relation to the overall investigation and in relation to each individual witness to ensure each threshold is met.

IBAC is also accountable for the conduct of its public examinations to the Victorian Inspectorate. This oversight includes an obligation for IBAC to notify the Victorian Inspectorate with reasons for deciding to hold a public examination.

As part of Victorian Parliament’s Integrity and Oversight Committee's (the Committee) annual review of integrity agency performance, this year, the Committee will also enquire into the management of the welfare of witnesses and others involved in investigations conducted by IBAC, Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner, Victorian Inspectorate, and the Victorian Ombudsman.

Given the significant powers that reside in each of Victoria's integrity agencies, the Victorian community rightly expects to understand and be assured that each agency performs its functions to the highest possible standard and with regard for the wellbeing and safety for all involved in our work.

At IBAC, we welcome the opportunity to inform the Committee, and the broader community, of the work we undertake in the management of witness wellbeing. Further still, we look forward to hearing from others on best practice principles and the approach they take in the management of witness wellbeing so that we can identify and implement improvement to our current practices.
 

Operation Ord

January saw a significant operational development with the final person sentenced following Operation Ord, IBAC's major investigation into allegations of corrupt conduct by senior officers of the Department of Education and Training (DET), in connection with the use of 'banker schools'.

Mr Robert Napoli, the brother of jailed former DET Director, Nino Napoli, was sentenced to a Community Corrections Order for a period of three years after entering a guilty plea of one charge of conspiracy to defraud. Mr Napoli is one of six people charged in 2017 with a range of criminal offences as a result of Operation Ord.
 

Improving accessibility

This edition of IBAC Insights features a piece on our Focus Communities Strategy. This is a multi-year program of work which aims to help IBAC engage with Victorian communities who are diverse or experience vulnerability or marginalisation, so that we can better understand their needs and priorities and improve awareness of our role in preventing and exposing public sector corruption and police misconduct.

You can also read about the improvements to our online complaints form, including a suite of changes to make it easier to understand and use. These changes were informed by testing and interviews with members of the general public and the public sector. We improved our complaint form to address what was found, along with feedback from other stakeholders, and launched the updated form earlier this year.
 

New Executive Director Prevention and Communication at IBAC

I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome IBAC's new Executive Director Prevention and Communication, Linda Timothy who started at IBAC in February. Linda is an experienced leader with significant experience across public policy, stakeholder engagement, marketing and communications as well as in the delivery of organisational and legislative reform. I am very pleased to have Linda as part of our team and look forward to working with her to deliver the critical prevention and communication initiatives.
 

The Honourable Robert Redlich AM, QC

IBAC Commissioner

Read more in IBAC Insights Issue 31.