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Commission of Inquiry

The Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct was established in 2004 to consider how the Police had handled allegations of sexual offending by several serving and former officers.

Though its focus was on the role of Police, the Commission of Inquiry also considered the Police Complaints Authority’s role and its relationship with Police.

The Commission of Inquiry made 12 recommendations that specifically related to the Authority. Of those, five related to legislation and seven to operations.

Operational recommendations

The operational recommendations related to:

  • Awareness – the Commission of Inquiry recommended that the Authority raise awareness of its work through development of a communications strategy and publicising of the Authority’s brochure and website;
  • Handling of complaints – the Commission of Inquiry recommended that the Authority facilitate reception of oral complaints, ensure more regular communication with complainants, seek feedback from complainants to gauge satisfaction; take steps to address its backlog of complaints; and exercise discretion to accept historic complaints dating back prior to its establishment in 1989.

Legislative recommendations

The Commission of Inquiry made the following recommendations for legislative change:

  • that Police must notify the Authority of complaints within five working days
  • that the Authority be required to inform the Minister of Police and the Attorney General if the Commissioner does not take appropriate action in response to the Authority’s recommendations
  • that the Ministry of Justice should review the secrecy provisions in the Act and make recommendations to ensure that the Act encourages a reasonable level of communication with complainants on the progress of complaints and does not inappropriately prevent the Police Complaints Authority from investigating complaints that may result in criminal or disciplinary proceedings against a member of the Police
  • that a three-person Authority be established with a majority of members from outside the legal profession (or, if that is not possible with a three-person Authority, consideration be given to appointing a five-person Authority)
  • that those appointed to the Authority reflect community diversity and strengthen the community’s perception of the Police Complaints Authority’s independence.

The government of the day committed itself, with wide Parliamentary support, to the implementation of the Commission of Inquiry’s recommendations.

Initial legislative changes came into effect in November 2007. The Authority has made significant operational changes aimed at fulfilling its mandate to act as a genuinely independent investigative body.

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