Police integrity commission
This article answers commonly asked questions in relation to the investigative functions of the commission including:
- What type of matters do they investigate?
- What happens in the investigation?
- Do I have to attend the hearing?
- Is the hearing public or private?
- Do I have to answer questions?
- What will happen at the hearing?
- Do I have to incriminate myself?
- Do I need a lawyer?
- How do I make a complaint to the PIC?
The Police Integrity Commission has two main functions – to detect, investigate and prevent police misconduct and to look at serious police misconduct by NSW police officers, administrative officers of the NSW Police Force and officers of the NSW Crime Commission. The Police Integrity Commission is independent of the NSW Police Force.
What type of matters do they investigate?
The Police Integrity Commission investigates allegations of serious police misconduct. Previous investigations have focused on police misconduct in relation to bribery, corruption and criminal activity of police.
What happens in their investigations?
The Commission may conduct an investigation on their own initiative, based on a complaint by the police, an administrative officer or a Crime Commission officer, or based on a report made to it.
The Commission has many powers available to it during their investigation. They have the power to obtain information, documents or other things. If you are served with a notice requiring you to provide any of these you must do so. If you fail to, you face a penalty of a $2,200 fine and/or six months in jail. If what you provide is false or is misleading you also face a $2,200 fine and/or six months in jail.
You must provide the information, document or other things even if they are self-incriminating. If you object to producing them, they cannot be used against you in later matters. The exception to this is in proceedings relating to offences against the Police Integrity Commission Act such as misleading the Commission.
During the investigation, the Commission is also able to enter and inspect a public authority’s premises. This means they are able to enter a police station, look at documents such as police reports and make copies of them in the course of their investigation.
The Police Integrity Commission can also apply to the Supreme Court for an injunction. An injunction may be sought to limit the duties of a police officer. This would be used to ensure the alleged misconduct being investigated was stopped until the Commission has made a decision and appropriate orders.
All these powers can be used with or without a hearing being held by the Commission. Information gained through the investigation can be used to assist the hearing.
Do I have to attend the hearing?
If you are substantially and directly affected by any subject matter of the hearing, the Commission can authorise you to appear at the hearing. If it is your conduct being investigated at the hearing, the Commission can authorise you to appear at the hearing. You are also able to examine and cross examine the witnesses that appear with the leave of the Commission.
If you receive a summons from the Police Integrity Commission to be a witness, you must attend. If you don’t attend, a warrant for your arrest may be issued. Even on days you are not required as a witness, you still must attend the hearing unless excused. If you fail to attend you can be fined $2,200 and/or go to jail for two years.
Is the hearing private or public?
The hearing can be held in private, public or partly in public and partly in private. This decision is made by the Commission. The Commission considers the public interest amongst other things when deciding if the hearing should be private or public.
Do I have to answer questions?
During the hearing you are required to answer questions, and/or provide documents, or other things. If you fail to do so you may face a $2,200 fine and/or go to jail for two years.
If you fail to provide documents or other things without a reasonable excuse, there is only one possible defence – that they were not relevant to the investigation.
What will happen at the hearing?
As a witness, during the hearing you are required to take an oath or affirmation to tell the truth. You must answer all questions, and/or provide all documents required. If you fail to take an oath or affirmation, answer any questions or provide any documents, you may face a $2,200 fine and/or go to jail for two years.
You will be examined and cross examined by both the Commission and the person affected. When answering these questions you must tell the truth, even if the answer is self incriminating. If you lie or mislead the Commission, you may face a $22,000 fine and/or spend five years in jail.
Protection against self incrimination
As a witness summoned to attend a Commission hearing you are not excused from answering any questions or producing any document on the grounds that the evidence may incriminate or tend to incriminate you. So you must answer all questions put to you, or provide all documents required even if they are self incriminating.
When providing self incriminating evidence, you must object to it before providing it. Once you have objected you must still give that information to the Commission. The effect of the objection is that the information cannot be used against you in further criminal or civil proceedings. If you don’t object because you don’t know you can or you forget, the evidence can be used against you.
However, evidence you object to is admissible in proceedings for contempt under the Police Integrity Commission Act. It can also be used by the Commission in making orders to remove the police officer, reduce their rank, seniority, salary or orders as they see fit.
Do I need a lawyer?
Yes. As either the person being investigated or a witness appearing, you should have a lawyer present. The Commission is independent of the NSW Police Force, but they are not independent like a Magistrate or Judge. They are the ones investigating and are eager to uncover corruption and stop it. The Commissioner or Assistant Commissioner conducting the hearing will ask the witness questions. These questions can be probing questions, which you must answer. Without a lawyer present to protect you, you are likely not to object to offensive or misleading questions.
An experienced lawyer will know what questions are unfair and raise objections when needed. They will ensure your interests are protected as best they can be.
Non disclosure of evidence
At the end of the investigation or hearing the Commission will normally order that no information provided to the Commission is to be published. If you do publish this information, you face a maximum fine of $5,500 and/or one year in jail.
The Police Integrity Commission is not a Court. They do not make final decisions, but instead investigate and pass their findings on to Parliament. Their published recommendations to Parliament can then be used in considering if disciplinary action or prosecution by the State will occur.
How to make a complaint?
You can keep the complaint anonymous or provide your details so they can contact you regarding the result of their investigation. The Police Integrity Commission does not investigate all complaints made to them, but focuses on serious police misconduct in which there is a significant public interest involved. If the Police Integrity Commission decide not to investigate your complaint regarding serious police misconduct, they will suggest another course of action for you.
WHERE TO NEXT?
If you suspect that you may be under investigation, or if you have been charged with an offence, it is vital to get competent legal advice as early as possible. Our lawyers are highly specialised in criminal law and will be able to guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.