More eyes on public corruption cases as watchdog hearings stay online

By Jackson Graham

October 28, 2021

victoria-police-badge
A senior Victoria Police officer misused his position to access confidential information. (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

Online corruption hearings in Victoria are being seen by their biggest audience ever, in a sign of a positive shift for government transparency during the pandemic. 

According to the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission’s annual report tabled in parliament on Thursday, it’s now reaching 30,000 viewers online after holding 31 days of streamed public hearings last financial year. 

Before COVID-19, hearings could be open to the public but attendees had to be physically present or receive a transcript afterwards. IBAC introduced online hearings in 2020. 

Commissioner Robert Redlich said the change and its acceptance by the public were positive. 

“This shift enabled us to reach more people and strengthened our ability to raise awareness of public sector corruption and misconduct, and ways to prevent it,” Redlich said. 

The commission delivered 115 corruption prevention initiatives and made 33 formal recommendations for public sector agencies in 2020-21, the report shows, and completed a five-year high of 92 reviews. 

Redlich said IBAC was continuing to explore legislative reform that would help the commission perform its role. 

This week the commission highlighted corruption and police misconduct risks from inappropriate social media use following online commentary by former Victoria Police head of ethical standards Brett Guerin.

He quit his role in 2018 over the IBAC investigation which considered racist YouTube comments and inappropriate remarks about former police chief commissioner Christine Nixon and former police union boss Paul Mullett. 

Guerin at the time led the professional standards command responsible for enhancing and promoting a culture of high ethical standards in Victoria Police. 

The investigation found the conduct was offensive and inappropriate but did not meet the standard required to file charges. 

Redlich said the operation demonstrated the significant detrimental impacts police misconduct can have on a person and their career, as well as on the community’s confidence in police. 

“Guerin’s career with Victoria Police ended prematurely and compromised both his and the organisation’s reputation,” Redlich said. 

The commission recommended sweeping changes to Victoria Police’s social media policies and recruitment, which Victoria Police has revised or is reviewing. 

But the commission pointed out that as of mid-2021, it had received 120 allegations related to police use of social media since 2018. 

Unauthorised information disclosure, including through social media, remains a serious and enduring misconduct risk for Victoria Police,” Redlich said. 

A recent prominent case resulted in charges being brought against several officers for their roles in distributing police information relating to a person in custody. 

“It is important that Victoria Police remains ever vigilant to these risks and continues to promote to its employees the importance of ethical conduct and maintaining the confidentiality of police information both on and off duty,” Redlich said.


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