Police Integrity Commission NSWJustice Stephen Rothman

Police versus Police in the NSW Supreme Court

The New South Wales Police Integrity Commission is trying to hold public hearings into corruption by the NSW Crime Commission. The NSW Crime Commission and two of its officers, Jonathan Spark and John Giorgiutti, have taken legal action in the NSW Supreme Court to stop the public hearings taking place. (Click here to read more)

The bottom line is that the NSW Crime Commission has been doing deals with alleged criminals in relation to proceeds of crime, by which the criminals agree to pay a certain amount of money and then they are allowed to keep the rest. In one case a senior officer at the crime commission has been doing favorable deals with their partner who is a lawyer representing a number of alleged criminals.

The question obviously is, is there corruption going on at the NSW Crime Commission? The answer is yes unless the NSW Crime Commission is somehow immune from the corruption that plagues the rest of society.

In some cases the alleged criminals have not even been charged with anything. But the upside for the criminal is that by doing the deal with the NSW Crime Commission the money they get to keep can never be touched even by the courts. If you make money from a crime for example selling drugs and then buy a house, car and boat etc, the house, car and boat can be confiscated as they were bought with the proceeds of a crime. What the NSW Crime Commission has been doing is saying to the alleged criminals pay us a certain amount and you can keep the rest. The net effect is that the NSW Crime Commission has helped the criminals wash the money. In an article on this exact situation in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 12th February 2011 it says:    

“The case of Joe, and his dealings with the commission, is just one example of how the agency may have inadvertently ”cleaned” criminal assets and dudded taxpayers via a secret and questionable assets confiscation process.” (Click here to read the full story)

The New South Wales Police Integrity Commission was set up in 1996 after the Wood Royal Commission into corruption in the NSW State Police. As it says on their website:

“The Police Integrity Commission was established in 1996 by the NSW Parliament on the recommendation of the Royal Commission into the NSW Police Service. It is separate from and completely independent of the NSW Police Force.

Its principal functions are to detect, investigate and prevent police misconduct, and as far as practicable, it is required by law to turn its attention to serious police misconduct by NSW police officers.

The PIC’s functions also include the detection, investigation and prevention of misconduct by administrative officers of the NSW Police Force and officers of the NSW Crime Commission.” (Click here to read more)

It is worth having a quick look at the Wood Royal Commission which ran between 1995 and 1997 in NSW. On Wikipedia it says:

“The Royal Commission into the New South Wales Police Service (Wood Royal Commission) was held in the State of New South Wales, Australia between 1995 and 1997. The Royal Commissioner was Justice James Roland Wood. The terms of reference were to look into systemic and entrenched corruption within the New South Wales Police; towards the end of the Royal Commission it also investigated alleged paedophile activities within the police service.

Then Police Commissioner Tony Lauer stated that corruption in the New South Wales Police was not systemic or entrenched, however the Royal Commission uncovered hundreds of instances of bribery, money laundering, drug trafficking, and falsifying of evidence by police. Of particular note was the detective division of the Kings Cross patrol, of which almost all the senior ranks, including the chief detective, were involved in serious and organised corrupt activities, including taking regular bribes from major drug traffickers.

Commissioner Lauer resigned as the level of corruption within the service became clear, and his own position became untenable. Peter James Ryan was recruited from the United Kingdom, as it was felt that the senior ranks of the NSW Police Service were far too compromised by previous corruption or personal ties to corrupt officers. Far and wide ranging reforms were engaged in as a result of the findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission, including the establishment of a permanent Police Integrity Commission.”

In the current case before the courts the counsel representing the Crime Commission and the two officers have been running some totally disgraceful arguments and tried what can only be regarded as dirty tricks. In an article in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 15th April 2011 by Kate McClymont is says:

Justice Stephen Rothman said suggesting something wasn’t misconduct just because it had long been done was like saying police ”verballing” was acceptable.

At the heart of the battle is what the crime commission says is a long-standing practice of its officers making deals with criminals when confiscating their assets.

But Justice Rothman questioned this argument.

”Just because it was a long-standing practice of the NSW police doesn’t mean it wasn’t corrupt,” he said yesterday. ”If that was the case we wouldn’t have had the Wood royal commission [into police corruption].”

Paul Roberts, SC, representing the crime commission officers Jonathan Spark and John Giorgiutti, said yesterday it was common practice for the commission and solicitors for defendants to come to an agreement

Mr Roberts said there was no misconduct because it was long-standing practice for a registrar of the court, rather than a judge, to approve agreements the parties had reached.

”That is precisely what the PIC is worried about,” Justice Rothman said yesterday. The judge said the proposition that because it had been a long-standing practice meant there was no misconduct was almost a ”Nuremberg defence – they were only following orders”.

As part of its case against the PIC, the crime commission tried to seize the mobile phones, SIM cards and telephone records of two Herald journalists who this year raised concerns about the deals the commission was doing with criminals. It has since dropped those subpoenas. (Click here to read the full article

There is another case that is currently before the courts and involves, Mark Standen, a former senior officer at the crime commission and Crime Commissioner Phillip Bradley’s right hand man. In a show on the ABC’s Four Corners program called “Stretching the Law” by the reporter Debbie Whitmont it says in the transcript:

DEBBIE WHITMONT: “The Australian arrests netted one of New South Wales’ most senior police. The New South Wales Crime Commissioner’s right hand man, Mark Standen – whose job was to expose drug dealers – was charged with conspiracy to import enough pseudoephedrine to make $120-million worth of the drug ice.”

DEBBIE WHITMONT: After 20 years in the top job, Crime Commissioner Bradley’s first ever press conference had him fending off calls for a Royal Commission.

PHILLIP BRADLEY, NEW SOUTH WALES CRIME COMMISSION (at press conference): This is an isolated incidence of one person engaging in crime. I don’t think that justifies a Royal Commission.

DEBBIE WHITMONT: But the arrest of its lead investigator has cast a deep shadow over the New South Wales Crime Commission.

PHILLIP BOULTEN SC, NEW SOUTH WALES CRIMINAL DEFENCE LAWYERS ASSOCIATION: I don’t think anyone should assume that everybody who’s been connected with the Crime Commission has always acted honestly.

DEBBIE WHITMONT (to Phillip Boulten SC): Is there any way we can tell?

PHILLIP BOULTEN SC, NEW SOUTH WALES CRIMINAL DEFENCE LAWYERS ASSOCIATION: There’s absolutely no way of checking. It’s difficult to check anything to do with the Crime Commission.

IAN MCCLINTOCK SC: We give it the extraordinary powers. We allow it to conduct secret hearings. We deprive people of the normal right to silence. That has a potentially high cost to the community and it deserves a review process.

DEBBIE WHITMONT: Tonight, “Four Corners” goes inside one of Australia’s most powerful police commissions. Has the New South Wales Crime Commission been too secret and too unaccountable? And has it been stretching the law too far?

(Click here to read the full transcript) (Click here to watch the program)

For a run down on the NSW Crime Commission it is well worth reading this article by Bernard Keane on Crikey titled “NSW crime commission: the law beyond the law”.

It starts off: “Senior NSW police believe the intense culture of secrecy at the State Crime Commission and its lack of accountability may mean accused drug importer and Crime Commission assistant director Mark Standen can deal his way to a lighter sentence, should he be convicted, or avoid some charges altogether.” (Click here to read the full article).

This is something that will likely play out in the courts for a long time to come. And something that I will keep a close eye on. Now we just sit back and wait for Justice Rothman’s decision.

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