IN THE wake of the arrest of the NSW Crime Commission’s Mark Standen, the president of the Law Society of NSW renewed his calls for an independent watchdog to oversee the commission.
Hugh Macken said there is unanimity across legal circles that independent supervision of the NSW Crime Commission is required, and that it’s needed as a matter of urgency: “Currently the NSW Crime Commission is only overseen by a management committee,” he said.
“Yes, the minister for police is on that management committee — but essentially the work of the committee is done by the NSW Crime Commission.”
Macken also noted the conflict of interest that might occur with the state government referring the alleged corruption matter to an existing body like the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).
He said that an appropriate model could be to appoint an inspector general to oversee the commission — one that is similar to how the Police Integrity Commission and ASIO are monitored. “Additionally there ought to be a general parliamentary committee with oversight,” he said.
Given the publicity facing Standen’s arrest, Macken said that oversight of the NSW Crime Commission was essential for retaining confidence in the commission. “Public confidence will only be maintained if the public is confident there are procedures in place for overseeing the management, operations and integrity of the NSW Crime Commission.”
“There are no police investigatory authorities that do not have some form of oversight, except for the NSW Crime Commission,” he said. “But there’s only one in NSW that’s not subject to any outside oversight. This needs to change.”
The call comes after efforts by the Law Society to get an update on a Question Without Notice regarding the Crime Commission put to Government on 23November 2006. At the time, the then Minister for Police said, “oversight arrangements for the NSW Crime Commission are presently being considered by the Government.”