by Chris Griffith
Published 21 April 1996 in The Sunday Mail
In her submission to the Queensland Police Service Review, former CJC part-time commissioner Dr Janet Irwin said the leniency of suspended sentences given to police officers in cases such as to the 'Pinkenba six' warranted an appeals process.
"I just think we're going back to the old days of police investigating police, and that is not good enough", she said. "The fact there were no criminal charges sustained doesn't mean their behaviour was acceptable."
Her call has been supported by Queensland Council for Civil Liberties vice president Terry O'Gorman, who said a similar proposal would form the "center point" of the council's submission to the review.
The Queensland Police Union yesterday rejected the proposal outright.
The current police review is headed Sir Max Bingham, who was CJC chairman when Dr Irwin was a commissioner in 1990-1993.
Earlier this month, Deputy Police Commissioner Bill Aldrich decided not to sack or demote the 'Pinkenba six' who in May 1994 drove three Aboriginal boys to Pinkenba and forced them to walk 14 km home without shoes after 4 am. A supervising officer also faced the disciplinary hearing.
Mr Aldrich suspended all sentences and placed the officers on 12-months probation.
The penalty is similar to one handed down in March 1992 when then Deputy Police Commissioner Jim O'Sullivan suspended a dismissal order against an officer who assaulted Adelaide teenager Michael Paynter while seeking assistance at Brisbane's Juvenile Aid Bureau.
This occurred despite the CJC directing Mr O'Sullivan's attention "to the option of dismissal as an appropriate sanction".
For a year, the public and CJC chairman Rob O'Regan QC were unaware of the outcome.
As a result, the police and the CJC now have an agreement which, according to CJC policy, allows former Supreme Court Judge Bill Carter QC to "independently audit the adequacy of disciplinary sanctions in the QPS that are referred to him by the Commission or the QPS".
But Dr Irwin said the CJC's ability to monitor disciplinary outcomes was not enough. The CJC needed the power to appeal internal police disciplinary outcomes if it believed they were too lenient or too harsh.
"If the police go against what the CJC recommends, what happens."
Mr O'Gorman said his submission would urge that the CJC have the same right to appeal police disciplinary rulings as the Attorney-General has in general court matters.
"Appeals against police disciplinary hearings should be to a Misconduct Tribunal," he said.
But Queensland Police Union president Garry Wilkinson described the idea as "typical double standards."
"That's like giving police the right to appeal against a not guilty verdict at a trial," he said.
"Internal police discipline is a matter for the service and those involved."
Mr Wilkinson said the union also would send a submission to Sir Max's inquiry.