Parliamentary ICAC inquiry targets SA police’s ‘non-compliance’

The state’s top police officer is on a collision course with the parliamentary inquiry, which has submitted several recommendations for fundamental changes in the way police and ICAC investigations are conducted.

Police Commissioner Grant Stevens has been blasted for responding to a select committee investigating “harm, harm or adverse consequences resulting from the ICAC investigation”, a report presented in parliament late yesterday claimed he and other SAPOL witnesses “disappointed the committee’s mandate to conduct this “inquiry” by refusing to cooperate.

The investigation – headed by SA Best MLC Frank Pangalo, whose recent ICAC reforms were controversially driven through parliament – ​​makes a number of further recommendations, including “compensation, legal costs and other expenses” funded by taxpayers, which Failed ICAC subjects should be paid. Investigation and Prosecution.

“The Committee is also of the view that compensation may be considered by the Independent Inspectorate for other persons and their families who have suffered adverse consequences of the unsuccessful ICAC investigation and prosecution since its inception in 2012,” the report said. “

This includes the family of former Chief of Police Superintendent Doug Barr, who took his own life in 2019 while awaiting the findings of a draft “mismanagement or misconduct” investigation for more than three months.

“Ultimately, no formal findings of mismanagement were drawn against Chief Superintendent Barr,” the committee’s report said.

His widow Debbie revealed this year that their family’s home was raided by police and property confiscated while her husband was in hospital on the day of the suicide attempt, which he could not recover from.

The committee recommended that “the circumstances surrounding the discovery and seizure of items from the Bar family home should be investigated by the Office of Public Integrity”.

The Barr case “centered around a complaint to OPI alleging corrupt practices by a number of senior police officers as part of the SAPOL recruitment project, which aimed to recruit 313 sworn police officers in 2016”, Although the DPP “did not recommend prosecuting corruption charges”.

“Further investigation was conducted in 2018 to determine whether the same facts met the criteria for misconduct and maladministration,” the report said, with Barr “one of 27 witnesses examined by the ICAC”. .

The committee’s report criticized Commissioner Stevens after appearing before Parliament in September, saying it was “concerned” over a written reply he had provided on the notice to questions whether – and when – he should be subject to a Barr investigation. knew about.

Stevens told the investigation: “SAPOL received a written report from ICAC in December 2020 regarding the ‘Recruit 313’ program, which included information related to Chief Superintendent Barr.”

“Although the same day before [ICAC Commissioner Bruce] The lander gave evidence and produced a letter dated 15 August 2018 [advising] Commissioner Stevens said the corruption investigation regarding Chief Superintendent Barr had been concluded, but that he was investigating widespread mismanagement and misconduct in relation to the Recruitment 313 program,” the committee’s report said.

“It is incomprehensible to the Committee why the Commissioner of Police would refrain from explicitly answering this question, and further concerns that the Committee’s mandate to conduct this investigation has been disappointed by many of SAPOL’s witnesses.” it was done.”

The report said that Stevens and other SAPOL witnesses refused to answer questions on other matters – in Stevens’ case from Francis Nelson QC – on legal advice – that the questions were “out of scope” of the investigation.

Other SAPOL witnesses declined to appear, citing health problems.

Stevens himself, in his testimony to the investigation in September, rebuked the committee, saying it was “ironically” that it himself had caused reputational damage.

The committee’s report highlights the “non-compliance” of the police, stating that “the decision by the witnesses not to provide evidence to the committee has hindered the committee and its full resolution on all issues within its terms of reference”. have the ability to think differently”.

It has asked the Upper House of Parliament to submit a report “to consider its view that the action or inaction of any witness was unsatisfactory with reference to the Committee discharging the functions assigned to it by the Legislative Council”.

It also recommended the preparation of a “Publication Protocol and Exemption Protocol for the ICAC”, stating that those against whom cases are not pending should be detailed in a public statement by the ICAC.

The report recommended that the review of specific cases more generally, and the use of general search in connection with the review of “the establishment of a judicial inquiry to an interstate retired judicial officer or similar and adjunct counsel for handling police complaints and compliance.” to be examined”. Warrant and approval procedures for covert operations.

The report also urged a ban on joint operations between the ICAC and SAPOL where police officers are the subject of those investigations, and “recommends the Parliament on the suitability of SAPOL for its own members in misconduct, maladministration and disciplinary cases.” check”.

Public statements by the Commissioner regarding media coverage and investigation of ICAC cases were also highlighted as causes of reputational damage and mental distress.

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