Nicky Hager welcomes today’s Independent Police Conduct Authority report upholding a complaint by the Green Party.
The complaint was into the Police’s handling of an investigation into RawShark, one of Mr Hager’s confidential informants and the principal source for his book Dirty Politics. The report concluded that there were multiple breaches of the law by Police.
Nicky Hager is pleased to receive further vindication of the position he took when he sued Police in 2014, “Again, an independent investigation has found extensive evidence of many unlawful acts by Police,” he said. “I hope these findings will further strengthen the protection for journalists in the future.”
The High Court previously found that Police had breached the duty of candour when applying for a warrant to search Mr Hager’s home. The IPCA further found that the warrant application lacked reasonable grounds and was too broad. It also found that Police failed to give Mr Hager an adequate opportunity to claim privilege, then breached that privilege, seized too much and in a non-selective way, and unlawfully conducted investigations based on what was found. The IPCA also found similar breaches in relation to various efforts by Police to obtain Mr Hager’s information from third parties.
However, Mr Hager believes that the IPCA report is disappointing for what it does not say. So far, there have been no recommendations of any consequences for the many breaches of law by Police.
The report found that some breaches of the law were caused by faulty legal advice and faulty procedures. Felix Geiringer, a barrister acting for Mr Hager, explains why that is not a complete answer to the issues raised by the report, “Of the many breaches of law by Police identified in the report, really only one or two have anything to do with faulty legal advice or the procedures at the time,” he said. “Indeed, some breaches appear to be police officers acting against legal advice and breaching police procedure even as it stood back then.
“Even for those few issues where this excuse is relevant, it is not a final answer. Our understanding is that the faulty legal advice came from internal police advisors. In other words, police were advising themselves to break the law and then following that advice. That is something that needs to be followed up to ensure it does not happen again.”
Mr Hager was also hoping for more from the IPCA. “I am disappointed that the report has not looked into the behaviour of Police after I brought my claim,” he said. “That was something I asked them to look into.”
The report shows that Police now admit many unlawful acts. However, that was not always the case. “For a long time they denied them, including to the High Court under oath,” Mr Geiringer explains. “They also withheld documents that provided evidence of those breaches and made untrue statements about what was in those documents and why they were being withheld. That is very troubling and something I would expect to have been of concern to the IPCA.”
So, while Mr Hager welcomes the many damning findings against Police, he wants to know what is going to happen now and what, if any, consequences there will be.