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IBAC’s referral and oversight of Emma’s complaints about Victoria Police’s response to family violence by a police officer: special report

Unethical conduct Complaints Commissions of inquiry Police Family violence Victoria

This report highlights the experience of ‘Emma’ (not her real name), who was the victim of significant violence perpetrated by her then partner, who was at the time a serving member of Victoria Police.

The report relates to IBAC’s referral back to Victoria Police of Emma’s complaints arising from the family violence investigation. The central issue in Emma’s allegations, namely the unwillingness of police to act against their own in cases of family violence, was effectively overlooked by IBAC for two years.

The issues with IBAC’s handling of Emma’s case are so serious and long running, and the consequences so devastating, that it is worthy of consideration and public comment. The complaint to IBAC included an allegation that her family violence escape plan was leaked by Victoria Police.

Where there is a possibility that a matter referred to Victoria Police for investigation will be investigated by the colleagues of the perpetrator and of other officers being complained about, IBAC needs to ensure that its referral decision-making processes are as thorough and transparent as they can be. Important decisions need to be documented together with the underlying chain of reasoning and analysis.

When actual conflicts of interest are alleged within a referred investigation, IBAC also needs a clear process to consider withdrawing the referral.

The report makes four recommendations which aim to improve the effectiveness of IBAC’s processes for oversight of police. All recommendations have been accepted by IBAC, and the Victorian Inspectorate will work to help ensure they are implemented.

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