What is ‘corrupt conduct’? The High Court is considering


The High Court of Australia in Canberra

The High Court is being asked to consider the definition of corrupt conduct. The case could have major implications for the investigation of public officials and allegations of corruption around Australia.

Today’s High Court consideration of the definition of corrupt conduct has implications for public officials in New South Wales and ultimately across the country.

The court is hearing an appeal from the Independent Commission Against Corruption against an earlier finding of the NSW Court of Appeal, stopping it enquiring into allegations surrounding the conduct of the state’s deputy senior crown prosecutor, Margaret Cunneen SC.

It’s alleged Cunneen and her son counselled her son’s friend, Sophia Tilley, to fake chest pains after a car accident and that Tilley did so to prevent police obtaining evidence of Tilley’s blood alcohol level. All three denied the allegations and sought injunctions to restrain ICAC from investigating the matter, successfully arguing before the Court of Appeal the alleged conduct did not meet the statutory definition of corrupt conduct.

The key question before the High Court is whether the alleged actions of the three caused the actual public official (the police officer) to act “adversely”.

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  • gavin_moodie

    Thanx very much for this. Do I understand correctly that the Court of Appeal held that to be investigated by Icac an act not only could adversely affect . . . , but that it had to actually adversely affect . . .? Quite apart from that being a strained reading of the text as quoted here, is the effect of the majority’s decision that whether an act may be investigated by Icac depends not only on the nature of the act but also on the behaviour of the public official?

    So to use as an example the case before the court, is the effect of the majority’s decision that Icac can not investigate an act if it didn’t affect a particularly inflexible officer but that the same act could be investigated by Icac if it affected a more flexible officer?

    If so, that doesn’t seem right to me. I would have thought that the affect of an act went to penalty rather than whether it was investigatable or proscribed.