Corruption and Integrity Update – December 2022

10 January 2023
Daniel Maroske, Partner, Brisbane

This month’s Corruption and Integrity update includes an overview of the final report from the Forensic DNA Commission of Inquiry; highlights the recent decision of the Attorney-General to abolish the Administrative Appeals Tribunal; details the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI) 2021-22 Vulnerabilities Brief; notes the recent decision of the High Court to grant leave to appeal in the Carne case; and details an update to the Coroners Act 2003 (Qld).

Forensic DNA Commission of Inquiry Final Report

On 13 December 2022, retired judge Walter Sofronoff KC provided the final report from the Commission of Inquiry into Forensic DNA Testing to the Queensland Premier, Minister for Health and Attorney-General.

The report, which makes 123 recommendations, concludes that the methods, systems and processes in place at the forensic DNA laboratory were not best practice. The report goes on to consider that the failings of the laboratory created a real and serious risk of miscarriage of justice in the criminal justice system in Queensland.

Broadly, the Commission of Inquiry considered the following areas and made recommendations accordingly:

  • Operations of the laboratory
  • Collection of biological material for forensic DNA testing
  • Testing thresholds
  • Technical issues at the laboratory
  • DNA evidence in the case of Shandee Blackburn
  • Laboratory culture
  • Engagement with stakeholders
  • Governance and future.

The government has accepted all recommendations and announced the establishment of a forensic agency within the Attorney-General’s portfolio. Further, additional funding will be provided to establish a framework to reform DNA and forensic services in Queensland. The Health Minister and the Attorney-General will provide an update on the implementation of the recommendations in early 2023.

Administrative Appeals Tribunal reform 

On 16 December 2022, the Federal government announced that the Administrative Appeals Tribunal would be abolished and replaced with a new federal administrative review body.

A taskforce has been established in the Attorney-General’s department to inform the establishment of the new body, and will be informed by an Expert Advisory Group chaired by former judge of the High Court, the Hon Patrick Keane AC KC.

The reform is intended to:

  • implement a transparent and merit-based appointments process;
  • provide additional capacity to resolve existing backlogs;
  • implement consistent funding and remuneration arrangements to enable the new system to respond flexibly to fluctuating case numbers;
  • implement a single, updated case management system; and
  • introduce additional procedural efficiencies.

All cases currently before the AAT will continue to be progressed, with any remaining cases to be transferred to the new body.

The Government intends to develop and introduce legislation in 2023.

ACLEI Vulnerabilities Brief 2021-22

The Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity has released its Vulnerabilities Brief for 2021-22. The brief provides an overview of the corruption vulnerabilities identified between July 2021 and June 2022 from finalised investigations under the Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner Act 2006 (LEIC Act) and related prosecutions.

The brief is an analysis of 26 corruption investigations conducted under the LEIC Act which were either finalised or prosecuted over the 2021/22 financial year. The brief provides an overview of emerging corruption vulnerabilities, issues and trends.

Misuse of information was one of the most prevalent matters brought to the ACLEI’s attention through its investigations. The ACLEI emphasised the importance of policies and procedures to support the operational security of sensitive or valuable information, including proactive, regular and targeted auditing of accesses to systems and databases to identify instances of access for illegitimate purposes.

Further, of the 26 matters investigated, nine involved a conflict of interest that was either not declared or ineffectively managed. Three instances of corrupt conduct were also observed by the ACLEI.

Although some of the staff identified during the reporting period worked in corporate functions, others worked in operational roles with access to systems, processes or credit cards that became the subject of abuse. Consequently, these investigations reinforce the importance of agencies undertaking consistent integrity education, training and due diligence across all agency staff.

The ACLEI also recognised that the personal circumstances of employees are a key driver of internal fraud risk. Examples of such adverse circumstances include financial pressures, relationship breakdowns or illness. The ACLEI encouraged agencies to consider their ‘early intervention systems’ which are evidence-led methods to analyse and identify corruption patterns and trends in order to recognise opportunities to interject and disrupt performance concerns.

Carne v Crime and Corruption Commission

In 2020, the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) prepared a report following an investigation into alleged corrupt conduct by the former Public Trustee, Mr Carne. No findings of corrupt conduct were made against Mr Carne.

The CCC provided the report to the Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Commission (PCCC) and requested that the report be given to the Speaker for tabling in the legislative assembly. Mr Carne commenced proceedings to prevent the release of the report on the basis that it was not a report for the purposes of s69(1) of the Crime and Corruption Act 2001 (Qld).

In the Trial Division, it was held that the report was subject to parliamentary privilege and the application was dismissed. On appeal, a majority held that the CCC acted outside of its functions and powers in preparing the report. As such, parliamentary privilege did not apply.

On 15 December 2022, the High Court of Australia granted the CCC special leave to appeal the Queensland Court of Appeal’s decision. When ultimately heard and a judgment issued, the High Court’s decision is likely to impact the CCC’s operations, including the publication of another high-profile report which has to date, not been made public.

Coroners Act 2003 – Update

Queensland’s Coroners Act 2003 was recently updated to align with the commencement of voluntary assisted dying legislation on 1 January 2023. The amendment to the Act provides that the death of a person who has self-administered, or been administered, a voluntary assisted dying substance under the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2021 is not a reportable death.

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Authored by: 

Angela Szczepanski, Director
Daniel Maroske, Director

This update does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest and it is not intended to be comprehensive. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.

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