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Chapter 3: Telephone tapping by the New South Wales Police

Chapter 3: Telephone tapping by the New South Wales Police

Published in:
Wayward governance : illegality and its control in the public sector / P N Grabosky
Canberra : Australian Institute of Criminology, 1989
ISBN 0 642 14605 5
(Australian studies in law, crime and justice series); pp. 47-65

Norman Allan, a policeman of the old school, served as the New South Wales Commissioner of Police from 1962 to 1972. In recognition of his services to the state, Her Majesty the Queen created him a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George.

In his first Annual Report after assuming office, Allan's successor, Fred J. Hanson, paid tribute to the former Commissioner and highlighted some of the notable advances that were achieved during the Allan decade. Amongst references to substantial increases in police personnel and to the increased mobility of police resulting from the provision of additional motor vehicles, there is reference to 'the developing use of scientific and technical aids in police work' (New South Wales 1973, p. 5). It seems unlikely that Commissioner Hanson was referring to the innovation for which Allan might best be remembered: the introduction of illegal telephone interceptions by New South Wales Police.

About midway through his decade as Commissioner, Allan summoned Sergeant D.R. Williams, a senior technician serving in the police communications branch, to his office in downtown Sydney. Expressing dissatisfaction with such traditional methods of criminal intelligence gathering as the use of paid informants, Allan directed his communications specialist to begin exploring techniques of electronic surveillance based on listening devices ('bugging') and the interception of telecommunications ('wiretapping').

Sergeant Williams returned some weeks later with a prototype device for intercepting telephone calls. The Commissioner was pleased, and agreed to the formation of a small group to work specifically in the area of surveillance technology.

Initially called the Electronics Section, the group was placed under the administrative control of the Communications Branch. For operational purposes, however, it came under the control of the Superintendent in Charge of the Criminal Investigation Branch. In 1980, the unit underwent a change of name to 'Technical Support Group'. Two years later, when it became part of the Bureau of Criminal Intelligence, it was given the even more cryptic name of 'Technical Survey Unit'. What the unit did in its various incarnations over sixteen years was engage in illegal wiretapping. By the time they ceased operations, personnel of the unit had undertaken over 200 separate interceptions. However useful the information gleaned from these wiretaps may have been, they were all quite illegal. The fact that the New South Wales Police were themselves engaged in systematic criminal conduct was known not only to the technical specialists themselves, but also to the vast majority, if not all, of the Criminal Investigations Branch, to a senior executive of the New South Wales Police Association, and to five successive commissioners of police.

The system for intercepting telecommunications was refined over the years to become a highly sophisticated operation. The wiretapping devices, small transmitters each about the size of a cigarette packet, were assembled by police technicians from materials available at retail outlets. Police officers, often disguised as Telecom technicians, installed the devices after normal working hours. The officers applied for and were paid overtime for their criminal efforts. They travelled in surplus Telecom vans purchased at auction from the Australian government, and bearing Commonwealth of Australia number plates. The vehicles were registered under false names, using the home addresses of officers in the Technical Support Unit. Official insignia were obtained from Telecom, ostensibly for the purpose of lawful undercover surveillance. The officers carried leather toolbags, specially made facsimiles of those used by Telecom technicians.

The actual interceptions were achieved in one of two ways. The most common involved installing the transmitting device to the appropriate connections in the Telecom wiring pillar on the footpath near the target telephone. Signals from the transmitter were received in a motor vehicle parked unobtrusively nearby. Additional police were stationed in vehicles at nearby vantage points in order to warn the officers installing the intercepts of any risk of detection. Initially recordings were made manually. As technology improved, the receiving device was commonly attached to a voice activated tape recorder. Further developments in technology enabled police to determine the number dialled from the telephone under surveillance.

The second method of interception, known as 'hardwiring' involved the direct wiring of the target telephone to a telephone service in nearby premises rented by the NSW Police. This method was preferred for surveillance over a longer term, or where there was greater risk of detection of the target by surveillance, by neighbourhood residents or by Telecom authorities.

Indeed, Telecom authorities became unwitting accomplices in the criminal enterprise. A list of telephone numbers dialled from the telephone under surveillance was forwarded to Telecom by police along with a request for details of the subscribers to those numbers. Telecom were told that the numbers in question were obtained in the normal course of investigations, not through illegal intercepts.

Mr Justice Stewart, himself a former police officer and not generally unsympathetic to the police and their mission, was stern in his condemnation:

By all current standards of justice and fairness it is clearly intolerable that persons may be brought to trial as a result of activity of police officers which is flagrantly in breach of the law. Alarming as it may be to acknowledge that convictions for undoubtedly serious offences by major criminals would not otherwise have been achieved without the use of the interception of telephone conversations, it is nevertheless unacceptable by community standards for persons to be apprehended as a result of unlawful conduct by police (Australia 1986a, p. 167).

Although a number of the illegal intercepts were effected for the purpose of investigating unsolved crimes, there appear to have been other more sinister motives. In the words of the Stewart Royal Commission:

The initial interception of the telephone conversations of Ryan was made because of conversations heard during the continued interception of the telephone conversations of Roy Bowers Cessna after his arrest on 14 March 1979. The Commission did not obtain a satisfactory explanation as to why the interception of Cessna's telephone conversations had continued and there is a basis for suspicion that the telephone interception might have been continued in order to ascertain details of Cessna's defence (Australia 1986a, p. 136).

The Stewart Royal Commission observed that the Technical Survey Unit was requested to install an interception device on the telephone service of a Sydney solicitor on 18 March 1979 (Australia 1986a, p. 147). Because of the clandestine nature of these illegal interceptions, there is no record of the reasons which underlay the wiretap request. Police may well have overheard conversations between lawyer and client; if so, they would have violated not only the law, but also one of the fundamental principles of British/Australian justice.

Other interceptions made during the search for escaped prisoner Raymond Denning continued subsequent to his recapture. Mr Justice Stewart was unable to obtain an explanation of these events. Another interception was continued some six weeks after a suspect was charged with an offence relating to drug trafficking.

Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Australia is a signatory, states 'no one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy'. More specifically, the interception of telephone communications, except in narrowly defined circumstances, is a violation of Australian law.

The Telecommunications (Interception) Act 1979 is both explicit and stern:

7(l) A person shall not -

  • intercept
  • authorise, suffer or permit another person to intercept; or
  • (c) do any act or thing that will enable him or another person to intercept a communication passing over a telecommunications system.

Penalty: $5,000 or imprisonment for 2 years.

7(4) A person shall not divulge or communicate to another person, or make use of a record, any information obtained by intercepting a communication passing over a telecommunications system ...

The ability to communicate in confidence is one of the basic criteria of a free society. Recognition of the value of privacy in communication is by no means limited to dreamers and romantic idealists. In the Words of the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police:

... I have maintained my stance that the preservation of one's right to an expectation of privacy when using the telecommunications system, is of primary importance and not to be lightly cast aside (Australia 1986b, p. 131).

An even more eloquent statement was made over a quarter of a century earlier by the then Attorney-General of Australia, Sir Garfield Barwick. In introducing legislation which deliberately excluded the power from police and customs authorities to intercept telephone communications he said:

Mr Speaker, eavesdropping is abhorrent to us as a people. Not one of us, I am sure, would fail to recoil from the thought that a citizen's privacy could lightly be invaded. Indeed, many citizens no doubt feel that far too many intrusions into our privacy are permitted to be made in these times with complete impunity. Many things which might fairly be regarded as personal and of no public consequence appear in print without the citizen's permission and without his encouragement, but in particular all of us, I think, dislike the feeling that we may be overheard and that what we wish to say may reach ears for which we did not intend the expression of our thought. Much of our normal life depends on the confidence we can repose in those to whom we lay bare our sentiments and opinions, with and through whom we wish to communicate (House of Representatives, Debates, vol. 27, 5 May 1960, p. 1423).

During subsequent debate on the same legislation, a Liberal Senator stated the position of the Menzies government:

This Government says that telephone tapping is abhorrent and is contrary to the character and will of the Australian people. We believe that the privacy of citizens should be guarded at all times (Senate, Debates, 18 May 1960, p. 1040).

The potential for abuse of electronic surveillance was clear to another Liberal backbencher:

To every fair-minded person in Australia, the idea of eavesdropping or listening in unknown to another's conversation is normally repugnant. The idea of using the forms of interception available over the telephone for purposes such as detection of subversion, crime or offences against our fiscal or tariff legislation is not really acceptable because of the possibility that the innocent remarks of some unfortunate telephone user might be dragged from their context and used against the person, or that advantage might be taken of information obtained by interceptions to the detriment of a person whose conversation was recorded (House of Representatives, Debates, vol. 27, 11 May 1960, p. 1613).

The illegal interceptions were not the work of a few 'rotten apples' or 'rogue police'. As was noted, initial impetus for the enterprise came from the Commissioner of Police himself. Not only were the interceptions condoned by five successive Commissioners, but they were common knowledge among experienced detectives and were known to at least one former president of the NSW Police Association.

It is perhaps instructive to contrast the New South Wales situation with that faced by the Victoria Police. Although they too might have benefited from the use of illegal methods in criminal investigation, the Chief Commissioner of the Victoria Police decreed explicitly that his officers were not to engage in illegal wiretapping (Australia 1986a, p. 177).

The cult of secrecy which surrounds policing in Australia explains in part how such a criminal enterprise can persist for so long. Admittedly, policing has traditionally involved an element of stealth. There are aspects of policing which depend for their efficacy on invisibility. But secrecy and mystification carry political advantages as well. Police use these tools to shield themselves from critical scrutiny. They employ them creatively to enhance both their resources and their autonomy.

Governments have shown traditional reluctance to probe too deeply into police affairs. Criticism of governments by police or police associations can be electorally disadvantageous if not fatal. The risk of being accused of political interference in police matters is too great in all but the most obvious crises. It is often convenient to regard abuses of power by police with a knowing blind eye. So it is that police ministers in New South Wales were content to let the police manage their own affairs.

As the criminal enterprise became institutionalised, an element of bureaucratic inertia may also have characterised the persistence of criminal conduct. In the words of one former commissioner:

Well, this had been a practice before I became Commissioner and so far as I was aware it was being conducted without any complaint as far as any person was concerned... I just let the practice continue... it did not occur to me to cut it out (quoted in Australia 1986a, p. 116).

The persistence of illegal wiretapping in Sydney was facilitated by the tolerance of other organisations which might otherwise have been in a position to disclose the criminal conduct.

First of these was Telecom Australia, or its predecessor, PMG. As early as 1968, a PMG employee discovered an interception device in a distribution pillar. The device was not removed, and no action was taken by PMG. Again in 1977 a device was found by Telecom employees in a distribution pillar in Sydney's eastern suburbs. Originally assumed to be a bomb, it was subsequently determined by Army Ordnance disposal specialists to have been an interception device. The instrument was then delivered to the Acting Chief Investigating Officer of Telecom, who was soon thereafter contacted by the NSW Police Technical Services Unit. The Telecom official advised the officers that the device was illegal, returned the hardware to them, and warned that it should not happen again. He took no further action.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP), the body responsible for enforcing the Telecommunications (Interception) Act 1979 also manifested considerable nonchalance in the face of apparent criminal conduct. In 1983, another interception device was found by Telecom employees at Bondi. A senior investigator at Telecom informed Superintendent Shepherd, officer in charge of the Bureau of Criminal Intelligence, of the discovery. Shepherd in turn advised that he could be of no assistance. Finding this response unsatisfactory, Telecom authorities referred the matter to the AFP in March 1984, nearly one year after the initial discovery. A report was prepared and forwarded to the Assistant Commissioner (Investigations) which suggested that the device operated at a frequency assigned to state police bureaus of crime intelligence.

Telecom was not advised of the outcome of AFP inquiries until February 1985, when the Assistant Commissioner who commanded the AFP's Eastern Region replied 'Inquiries completed 10 August 1984. No suspect identified, and no information available to assist inquiries further' (quoted in Australia 1986a, p. 233).

Another device found by Telecom workers in 1984 was referred to the AFP for investigation. An internal report mentioned that it was almost certain that the device 'was planted by or for a police Organisation (the New South Wales Police Force)' (Australia 1986a, p. 234). In reply to a query from Telecom, the Assistant Commissioner Commanding the Eastern Region of the AFP replied 'Inquiries completed 10 August 1984. No suspect identified, and no information available to assist inquiries further' (Australia 1986a, p. 234).

Even the Commissioner of the AFP, Sir Colin Woods, was aware that the NSW Police were systematically violating the laws of Australia. According to one of his deputy commissioners 'Sir Colin approved the receipt of tape recordings of conversations obtained but directed that AFP officers should not themselves carry out the intercepts' (Australia 1986a, p. 202).

Woods did not testify before the Stewart Royal Commission, but provided a sworn statement:

He decided not to launch an investigation into the illegal activity because he concluded that there would be little likelihood of identifying NSW officers involved and because the public interest was better served by adopting the course which had been recommended to him. He believed that the activity was beyond his capacity to influence or control and that worthwhile information could be gained from the interceptions (quoted in Australia 1986a,p.203).

It might also be argued that the criminal wiretaps, and much police crime in general, is implicitly encouraged by Australian courts. Illegally obtained evidence has been traditionally admissible in Australian courts at the discretion of the trial judge. Whilst those who obtain such evidence remain liable to criminal prosecution, seldom, if ever, does this occur. Meanwhile the fruits of these acts are often accepted.

Australian courts have traditionally taken a lenient attitude toward police illegality. Their failure to affirm the law more forcefully may thus be interpreted as a subtle if perhaps unintentional, invitation to police crime. With neither Telecom nor the Australian Federal Police inclined further to pursue the illegal wiretapping matters coming to their attention, the enterprise might have continued indefinitely. But some of those involved in the illegal interceptions or with access to tapes and transcripts thereof saw an opportunity at the very least to discredit political enemies through selective disclosure of materials. Selectivity was indeed the principle. Although police were aware by means of an illegal intercept that a senior NSW detective had warned a suspected drug dealer, Robert Trimbole, to leave Australia as he would otherwise soon be arrested, no action was taken, lest the existence of illegal intercept operations be disclosed. Trimbole left Australia seven days later.

In 1983, a small number of tape cassettes and 524 pages of ostensible transcriptions of telephone conversations were given to the press. From the publication of The Age articles in February 1984 which disclosed existence of illegal telephone intercepts, public attention focused not on the question of criminal activity by the NSW Police, but rather on allegations of improper conduct on the part of Mr Justice Murphy of the High Court of Australia.

At the beginning of February 1984, the Editor of The Age delivered copies of tapes and transcripts in his possession to Senator Gareth Evans, then Attorney-General of Australia. On 21 February 1984, Evans appointed the newly appointed Director of Public Prosecutions, Ian Temby Q.C., to be Special Prosecutor under the provisions of the Special Prosecutors Act 1982 (Cwlth).

A set of The Age materials was also delivered to the Attorney-General of New South Wales, who referred it to the state Solicitor-General for advice. She recommended that state police be requested to co-operate with Federal police in any subsequent investigations, and that state police be disciplined should it be established that they were involved in any unlawful telephone interceptions.

In September 1984 the Stewart Royal Commission of Inquiry into Drug Trafficking requested that the New South Wales police supply details of telephone interceptions conducted during the period January 1980 to June 1981, including the names of those personnel who may have been involved in the operations. A number of serving and retired officers were interviewed, all of whom denied any knowledge of the interception of telephone conversations.

With The Age disclosures, a cover-up of substantial proportions was arranged within the New South Wales Police. Fearing the eventual mobilisation of the Federal Police and the execution of a search warrant, officers of the Bureau of Criminal Intelligence and the Technical Survey Unit located and destroyed all tapes and transcripts in their possession, as well as the equipment used in the intercepts.

Following the appointment of the Special Prosecutor, Superintendent Shepherd decided that the Technical Survey Unit would cease its interceptions immediately.

In conjunction with the Special Prosecutor's investigations, the then Commissioner of Police, Mr Abbott, initiated an investigation by a Special Task Force comprised primarily of officers from the New South Wales Police Internal Affairs Branch. The officer in charge of the NSW police team was Executive Chief Superintendent J.M. Pry. Past and present members of the Technical Survey Unit met on a number of occasions to co-ordinate their response to future investigations. Prominent in this effort was Mr Shepherd, the Superintendent in Charge of the Bureau of Criminal Intelligence. According to the Stewart Royal Commission, on one occasion:

Shepherd addressed the meeting and suggested that the officers involved in such activity should deny any involvement when interviewed by the investigators of the Special Task Force. Those present agreed (Australia 1986a, p. 124).

Later in the year, some 50 past and present members of the Technical Survey Unit and the Bureau of Criminal Intelligence were told by Shepherd that they should deny involvement.

According to one BCI officer who was present, Shepherd used words to the effect that telephones were not intercepted, intercepts did not exist and no person in this room knows of the existence of any material. This meeting has not occurred (Australia 1986a, p. 125).

The wall of silence was maintained, at least initially. On 29 March 1984 Shepherd wrote to the Head of the Special Task Force:

I am not aware of any police officers or public service member in New South Wales or elsewhere in Australia who has been involved in the obtaining of illegal taped telephone conversations or in the preparation of transcriptions from illegally obtained tape recorded conversations (quoted in Australia 1986a, p. 335).

The Special Task Force failed to live up to the name of its Officer in Charge. A number of retired former members of the Bureau of Criminal Intelligence and Technical Survey Unit refused to be interviewed. Those who consented to interviews, and those currently serving police who were compelled to make statements, all denied any knowledge of telephone interceptions. The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions estimated that up to forty police officers gave false evidence to the Pry inquiry (Jinks 1987, p. 15).

Superintendent Pry's convoluted response to this state of affairs reflected something less than the zeal he might be expected to show in dealing with criminal suspects outside the police force. Pry recommended that:

in view of the insufficiency of conclusive evidence enabling a precise identification of the author of the transcriptions or creator of the tapes from which the transcripts were made or even to establish a reasonable presumption, quite apart from a conclusive presumption, of the person or persons responsible for the subject material, particularly in the absence of any admission by any person of being so involved in the making or obtaining of the tapes and/or transcriptions, no further action be taken in respect of any member of the New South Wales Police Force, or former member of the New South Wales Police Force (quoted in Australia 1986a, p. 255).

In late November 1984 a firm of solicitors acting for a number of currently serving and retired NSW police officers, advised the Stewart Royal Commission that co-operation would be forthcoming if they received formal assurances they would not be prosecuted or face internal disciplinary action. In an effort to induce police to overcome their reluctance to disclose any information about the illegal wiretapping program, Mr Justice Stewart recommended to the Attorney-General of Australia that potential witnesses be indemnified against prosecution.

At first, the Director of Public Prosecutions disagreed, and opposed granting of indemnities, but the federal government was under some pressure to authenticate those materials which made the basis for allegations of improper judicial conduct. The federal and New South Wales governments finally agreed to shield the individual officers from prosecution which could result from their evidence to the Royal Commission. The Commissioner of Police gave undertakings which contained immunities from internal disciplinary action as well. In March 1985, the Governor General of Australia issued letters patent to Justice Stewart to inquire specifically into the alleged telephone interceptions. Complementary letters patent were issued by the Governors of Victoria and New South Wales.

The Stewart Royal Commission produced a report in two volumes, the second of which remained confidential in order not to jeopardise the ongoing investigation of various criminal matters.

The report, at least the published volume of the report, is an unusual document. It provides a fascinating account of the history and methods of illegal telephone interceptions by NSW Police. On the one hand, it condemns the criminal conduct which it so carefully described:

Members of the NSW Police who were guilty of breaking the law over a period of years, refused to tell the truth about what they had done unless they were indemnified. Indeed not only did they refuse to co-operate with investigating authorities, but they deliberately and falsely denied knowledge of the illegal interceptions and covered up their illegal activities ...

Police officers are sworn, however, to uphold the law - not just laws of which they approve. There can be no justification for their having taken the law into their own hands (Australia 1986a, pp. 3378).

That said, the Report goes to considerable length to extol the virtue of telephone interception as a technique of criminal investigation. Indeed, Mr Justice Stewart found the fruits of the illegal operation so valuable, that he recommended they be turned over to the National Crime Authority, of which he happened to be Chairman, for further analysis and investigation. He went on to recommend that powers to intercept telecommunications be extended to state and territory police forces, as well as to the National Crime Authority.

Meanwhile, allegations arose suggesting that Mr Justice Stewart was so impressed with some of the NSW police officers who gave evidence to the Royal Commission that they were offered positions with the National Crime Authority. The Chairman of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the National Crime Authority 'recorded, on public policy grounds, the Committee's disquiet at the proposition of employing police who had received indemnities to give evidence before the Royal Commission' (Australia 1986b, p. 12).

The Stewart Report met with an enthusiastic reception from a number of quarters. The Attorney-General of Australia quickly introduced legislation to extend wiretap powers to state and territory police departments for all offences carrying prison terms of at least seven years. Although welcomed by state police associations generally, the idea was sufficiently controversial that the matter was referred to a Joint Select Committee of Federal Parliament. By the end of 1986, the Committee was inclined to authorise some interceptions for the purpose of state investigations, but only by agents of the federal government and under extremely strict conditions.

The Committee concluded that whilst state and territory police forces and the National Crime Authority might have a need for information gleaned through telecommunications interception, the potential for abuse would be minimised if the intercepts were made on behalf of these agencies by a telecommunications interception unit within the Australian Federal Police, working through Telecom.

Under the Committee's recommendations, a warrant, issued by a judge of the Federal Court of Australia, would be necessary before any interception could be made. Warrants would be limited to circumstances where other investigative techniques had either been exhausted, or deemed in the circumstances to have been inappropriate. In addition, warrants would only be issued on reasonable grounds for suspecting that the nominated telephone service was being used by a person suspected of committing or conspiring to commit a specified serious offence, and that the interception would materially assist in the investigation. The specified offences would be limited to murder, kidnapping and serious drug trafficking.

Applications for warrants would identify the officer seeking the warrant, and would specify the time for which an interception is sought. Under the Committee's proposal, accountability of interceptions would be enhanced by regular and independent judicial auditing. Severe penalties would be imposed on offenders engaged in illegal interception and unlawful disclosure of information obtained from legal interceptions. The possession, importation, manufacture, sale or advertising of interception devices would be made illegal.

It appeared that the criminal activities of Australian police were on the verge of being rewarded by the grant of increased powers. Whether this apparent success will tempt police to try their luck with other illegal methods remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, illegal telephone interceptions by persons unknown continue to be discovered by Telecom authorities. The Joint Select Committee reported that sixteen illegal interception devices had come to the attention of Telecom during the 1985-86 year. Seven of these were located in Queensland.

A complaint arising from the initial cover-up of the illegal interceptions was lodged with the New South Wales Ombudsman against Mr Shepherd, who had since become Assistant Commissioner in charge of internal affairs. Under New South Wales law, the Ombudsman was precluded from conducting investigations of police complaints in the first instance. Initial investigatory responsibility lay with the Commissioner of Police. In a letter to the Ombudsman dated 21 July 1986, defending Mr Shepherd's unswerving dedication and integrity, the Commissioner urged that the Ombudsman consent to discontinuing the investigation.

In August 1987, the New South Wales Director of Public Prosecutions advised the state Attorney-General that the legally admissible evidence did not disclose an offence under state law. He did herald, however, the possibility of federal criminal charges. The following month, the federal Director of Public Prosecutions, Ian Temby, Q.C. advised that because of the indemnities granted and other evidential difficulties, he would not lay criminal charges against Assistant Commissioner Shepherd, either in respect of the illegal telephone interceptions or the subsequent misleading remarks to Executive Chief Superintendent Pry. Mr Temby took pains to register his disapproval of the alleged misconduct:

I do not, however, consider that what was done by Mr Shepherd is in any way excusable. It is my strong view that disciplinary action should be taken against him if he in fact misled superior officers (Jinks 1987, p. 18).

The Commissioner of Police continued to seek the Ombudsman's consent to discontinue the investigation. He reaffirmed an intention stated in his July, 1986 letter:

if the force of circumstances were to cause the preferment of charges I would, in the spirit of the undertakings and in the exercise of my discretion, decline to impose any penalties, or at least to impose the most nominal of penalties (Jinks 1987, pp. 9-10).

It thus appeared that continued litigation with the Police Commissioner would have little useful effect.

In November 1987, the Acting Ombudsman consented, with some reluctance, to the discontinuance of the investigation. In a report to Parliament he observed:

Police officers who are the subject of Internal Affairs Branch investigations are required to answer questions truthfully. Specifically, Police Rule ll(F) casts the following duty on a member of the Police Force:

(f) he shall at all times exercise the strictest honesty and truthfulness, and in particular he shall not -

  • wilfully or negligently make any false, misleading or incorrect statement;
  • knowingly make or sign any false statement in any official document, record or book; or
  • without good and sufficient cause, destroy or mutilate any official document, record or book, or alter or erase any entry therein.

The Rule has the force of law and makes no distinction as to rank (Jinks 1987, pp. 23-4).

In a concluding paragraph, the Acting Ombudsman referred to Assistant Commissioner Shepherd's current responsibilities:

The Assistant Commissioner (Review) is responsible for the investigation of unethical conduct by police.

The officer who holds that position should be, and be seen to be, above reproach. If that is not the case ordinary police officers and members of the public might reasonably consider that there was a double standard. Further, the Assistant Commissioner (Review) should be expected to set a standard for officers of the Internal Affairs Branch and the Internal Security Unit. Those officers should not be left with the dangerous assumption that the end justifies the means (Jinks 1987, p. 27).

Elsewhere, other types of electronic surveillance continued, beyond the inclination of Australian governments to control. A Queensland solicitor claimed that an interview he had conducted with a client was recorded by police, transcribed, and presented to prosecuting authorities. In September 1986, a justice of the Supreme Court of Queensland described thd police conduct as 'reprehensible' (Australia 1986c, p. 165).


  • Australia 1986a, Royal Commission of Inquiry into Alleged Telephone Interceptions: Report - Volume One (Mr Justice D.G. Stewart), Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.
  • Australia 1986b, Parliament, Joint Committee on the National Crime Authority, Second Report, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.
  • Australia 1986c, Report of the Joint Select Committee on Telecommunications Interception, The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.
  • House of Representatives, Debates, vol. 27, 11 May 1960, p. 1423.
  • ibid, p. 1613.
  • Jinks, Brian 1987, Special Report to Parliament Under Section 31 of the Ombudsman Act and Under Section 32 of the Police Regulation (Allegations of Misconduct) Act 1978. Decision to consent to the discontinuation of an investigation of complaints concerning the conduct of Assistant Commissioner (Review) R.C. Shepherd of the New South Wales Police Force. New South Wales Ombudsman's Office, Sydney.
  • New South Wales 1973, Report of the Police Department for 1972, Government Printer, Sydney.
  • Senate, Debates, 18 May 1960, p. 1040.
Last updated
3 November 2017