Misconduct in a Public Office
At the centre of the news this week a senior police officer was reportedly stood down amid misconduct allegations being investigated by the Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC).
The CCC has not named the officer involved but the media have understood it to be a prominent WA detective, and a key player in the rescue of 4 year old Cleo Smith who was abducted from her parents' tent in the Blowholes camping ground in October last year.
It is not clear what the misconduct allegations relate to, and while investigations are underway the CCC and Western Australian Police have not issued further information at this time.
What does the Corruption and Crime Commission do?
The CCC is Western Australia's leading anti-corruption body. It was established in 2004 to improve the integrity of the Western Australian public sector, all agencies and departments within the Government, including the WA Police Force.
The CCC has three main functions – along with investigating matters of misconduct within the public sector, the CCC has a role in helping public sector agencies to identify and deal with misconduct, assess misconduct risks, and also help to put in place strategies to prevent risk.
The CCC and organised crime
The CCC also has a role in assisting the Western Australian Police to investigate organised crime. While the CCC cannot investigate organised crime itself, it does have the ability to grant WA Police extraordinary powers in certain circumstances pertaining to organisations. The power includes providing permission for the use of an ‘assumed identity’ by a police officer.
Misconduct in a public office
In terms of its role in investigating matters involving misconduct, the Corruption and Crime Commission has extensive powers which include the ability to compel witnesses to appear at private hearings, and it has enhanced powers of search and arrest. It can hold private and public hearings, use of telecommunications intercepts and surveillance devices.
The Corruption, Crime and Misconduct Act 2003 (“the CCM Act”) gives the CCC and the Public Sector Commission (PSC) responsibility for preventing and dealing effectively and appropriately with misconduct in the Western Australian public sector. The PSC deals with minor matters of misconduct, whereas the CCC deals with significant matters.
The Act contains a range of offences related to the operations of the CCC. For example, a person who willfully hinders the CCC’s operations faces a maximum penalty of imprisonment for 3 years and a fine of $60,000.
Misconduct is defined as occurring when a public officer:
- acts corruptly or corruptly fails to act in the course of their duties; or
- corruptly takes advantage of their position for the benefit or detriment of any person; or
- commits an offence which carries a penalty of 2 or more years imprisonment.
Some examples of misconduct might include: fraud offences, abuse of public office; blackmail; bribery, deliberately releasing confidential information; perverting the course of justice; an offence relating to an electoral donation; forgery.
Public officers include State Government employees, police, politicians and university staff.
The CCC is overseen by a Parliamentary Inspector who can audit the operations of the CCC and also investigate any allegation against Commission officers with the power of a Royal Commissioner as well as a Joint Standing Committee which consists of Members of Parliament from both houses and both the main parties of the Parliament.
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PLEASE NOTE: The material in this blog post is for informational use only and should not be construed as legal advice. For answers to your questions regarding this or other topics, please contact a professional legal representative.