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Govt Decision Enhances Independence Of PCA

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Justice
Media Statement

11 April 2001


Justice Minister Phil Goff has announced Government decisions designed to enhance the independence of the Police Complaints Authority.

The announcement follows the release today of the Review of the Police Complaints Authority by retired High Court judge Sir Rodney Gallen which Mr Goff commissioned last year.

"The major decision arising out of the Review is to provide the Authority with an enhanced investigative capacity of its own, independent of the Police.

"This will allow the most serious complaints against the Police to be investigated directly by the staff of the Authority itself, rather than the Authority reviewing Police investigations of their own members.

"This decision does not reflect dissatisfaction with the Authority's track record. During its 12 years in existence the PCA has done much to promote public confidence in police accountability.

"A study of complaints dealt with by the Authority shows that overwhelmingly investigations by the Police have been thorough and fair and supervision by the Authority effective.

"However, when serious complaints are made against the Police there is a problem of perception that the Police are seen to be investigating themselves, which raises doubt about impartiality of the findings.

"There is a strong public view that police investigation of complaints against themselves is neither independent or appropriate. It is critical that there is full public confidence that such investigations are independent.

"The Authority has the power independently to investigate serious complaints but lacks the resources to carry out investigations.

"Consequently the Authority will be resourced to enable its independent investigation of serious complaints.

"The obvious starting point will be section 13 of the PCA Act which relates to cases of death or serious bodily harm which appear to have been caused by the Police.

"The range of cases dealt with directly by the Authority will expand as it develops sufficient in-house investigative expertise.

"It is envisaged that the number of independent investigators needed would be around 6 with an estimated budgetary cost of around $1 million.

"There will be a name change to the 'Independent Police Complaints Authority' to recognise this new capacity.

"The Authority will also increase in membership from one to three. The Chair will be a current or former judge and will be supported by two other members. In line with current State Services Commission guidelines the appointment process will take into consideration 'the need for a balance of gender, ethnicity and community representation, while appointing on the merit principle.' This is preferred to Sir Rodney's more prescriptive recommendation.

"The Authority will remain a Justice Crown Entity rather than becoming an Officer of Parliament. The Authority is chaired by a Judge. It is funded via Vote Justice and is independent of the agency it is monitoring. It is appointed by the Governor General on the recommendation of the House of Representatives.

"There has never been any suggestion of Executive interference in the performance of its duties and therefore no change to the status quo is considered necessary," Mr Goff said.


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