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This article was written by Sally Crosswell

Sally Crosswell has a Bachelor of Laws (Hons), a Bachelor of Communication and a Master of International and Community Development. She also completed a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice at the College of Law. A former journalist, Sally has a keen interest in human rights law.

Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC)


The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) is an independent statutory body set up to prevent and expose public sector corruption and police misconduct in Victoria. Its functions and powers are set out in the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2011.

Corruption

The Act defines corrupt conduct as conduct:

  • of any person that adversely affects the honest performance of a public officer or public body;
  • of a public officer or public body that constitutes or involves dishonesty;
  • of a public officer or public body that constitutes or involves knowingly or recklessly breaching public trust;
  • that involves the misuse of information or material;
  • of a person intended to adversely affect the effective performance of a public officer or public body that results in the person or their relative obtaining:
    • a licence, permit, approval, authority or other entitlement;
    • an appointment to a statutory office or as a member of a board of any public body;
    • a financial benefit or property;
    • or any other direct or indirect monetary or proprietary gain that they would not have otherwise obtained;
  • that could constitute a conspiracy or an attempt to engage in corrupt conduct.

Public bodies include parliament, government departments, local governments, universities, prisons and courts.

Police misconduct

Conduct by a police officer, in terms of an IBAC complaint, means an act or decision or the failure or refusal to act or make a decision in carrying out police duties. It includes conduct which constitutes an offence punishable by imprisonment, conduct which is likely to bring the police force into disrepute or diminish public confidence in it, and disgraceful or improper conduct.

IBAC investigations

Complaints about alleged corrupt conduct or police misconduct can be made by members of the public, including prisoners, but IBAC can also investigate a matter on its own motion. IBAC must dismiss, investigate or refer any complaint made. It can refer matters to authorities such as the Ombudsman, WorkSafe, the Racing Integrity Commissioner, and the Commission for Children and Young People. It can also defer action if the matter is being investigated by a person or body and it more appropriate for that investigation to continue.

IBAC can investigate a person who was a public officer at the time of the conduct but is no longer a public officer, or a body that that was a public body at the time of the conduct even if that body is no longer a public body or no longer exists.

IBAC can also conduct co-ordinated investigations with a law enforcement agencies such as the Australian Federal Police, Environmental Protection Authority or the Information Commissioner. It can provide and receive information from the agency, and enter into a memorandum of understanding into how an investigation should be conducted.

IBAC’s investigative powers

The Act grants investigative powers to the IBAC not ordinarily available to police. Some of these powers are outlined below.

Witness summons

The IBAC can issue a witness summons which requires a person to attend a specified time and place on a specified date to produce documents or other things to the IBAC. Immediate attendance can be ordered if IBAC suspects a delay could result in evidence being lost or destroyed, an offence being committed, a person escaping, or serious prejudice to the investigation. A person who fails to comply with a witness summons faces a maximum penalty of a fine of 240 penalty units ($43,618) or imprisonment for 2 years, or both.

Direction to supply information

When investigating an allegation of possible misconduct or corruption involving police, the IBAC can direct any police officer to give any information, produce any document and answer any question relevant to the investigation. Non-compliance is deemed a disciplinary breach.

Entry, search and seizure of police premises

When investigating police, IBAC can grant power to an officer to enter any police premises at any time, and enter any vehicle, boat or plane there to search for documents or other things relevant to the investigation. The officer can inspect or copy any document or thing found. They can also seize any document or thing if they believe there is a risk it might be hidden or destroyed or it might lose its forensic value.

Firearms

When investigating police, IBAC can authorise its senior officers to carry firearms as well as “defensive equipment” such as capsicum spray, body armour, an extendable baton and handcuffs, to carry out their duties and to ensure their safety.

Examinations

IBAC can conduct examinations which are not bound by the rules of evidence. These examinations are not open to the public unless:

  • there are exceptional circumstances;
  • it is in the public interest;
  • a public examination can be held which does not cause unreasonable damage to a person’s reputation safety or wellbeing;
  • the examination is looking at serious or systemic corrupt conduct, or serious or systemic police misconduct.

It can direct people to be present or not present at part of the examination, and can also order a suppression order that prohibits or restricts the publication of any information or evidence given during a public examination.

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