The NSW Crime Commission is a body established under the Crime Commission Act 2012 (the Act) to investigate serious crimes and provide admissible evidence to the relevant Commonwealth, State or Territory authorities.
The first principal function of the Crime Commission is to investigate matters relating to a ‘relevant criminal activity’ or ‘serious crime concern’. A ‘relevant offence’ in this context means an offence that is punishable for life or for a term of 3 or more years. This means the Crime Commission is concerned with investigating the most serious crimes.
The Act provides the Commission with extensive powers. Under Section 17 search warrants may be issued:
In this context ‘things of a relevant kind’ means:
The Commission may also seize anything under a search warrant if it considers retention of the item reasonably necessary for the purposes of an investigation to which the item is relevant and for as long as is considered reasonably necessary.
Significantly, the Commission is not bound by the rules or practice of evidence and ‘can inform itself on any matter in such manner as it considers appropriate’. This is an extraordinarily broad power which distinguishes the Commission from standard criminal procedure.
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George Sten & Co Criminal Lawyers have extensive experience in defending persons being investigated by the NSW Crime Commission or charged with a criminal offence. If you think you are being investigated or have been charged with an offence, call George Sten & Co Criminal Lawyers as soon as possible to speak with an expert criminal defence lawyer.
In NSW and Australia generally, the law provides you are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The onus is on the police or prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person is guilty of an offence before that person can be found guilty and convicted. Unless the prosecution can admit evidence in accordance with the rules of evidence which proves a person’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, that person is innocent.
This means if you are accused or charged with an offence, as a general rule you can remain silent and do not have to prove your innocence if the evidence is not sufficient to prove guilt.
The Evidence Act 1995 provides that in a criminal proceeding, an inference unfavourable to a party must not be drawn from evidence that the party or another person failed or refused:
-put or made to the party or other person by an investigating official
The Commission’s powers
Under the Crime Commission Act however, the Commission is not bound by the rules or practice of evidence. Under s 25 of the Act, a person appearing as a witness at a hearing before the Commission must not, without reasonable excuse (or except as provided by section 39 or 40):
-refuse or fail to answer a question that the person is required to answer by the executive officer presiding at the hearing.
The maximum penalty for failing to abide by s 25 is $2,200.00 or 2 years imprisonment.
This may give rise to the situation where the police have insufficient evidence and power to prove a persons guilt for an offence, however following interrogation of the person in the Crime Commission, are then able to prosecute- a result not possible within their normal and necessary powers and responsibilities.
In regards to what the Commission may examine a witness on, it has very broad powers. Under s 26, any person authorized by the Commission including any Australian legal practitioner representing a person at the hearing, may as far as the Commission thinks appropriate:
This is an extraordinarily broad power. The Commission under this provision may examine a witness to any extent it considers necessary for the relevant investigation and gives the Commission and police the ability to potentially easily obtain new evidence to be used in a later prosecution.
The NSW Crime Commission is afforded exceptional powers to compel persons to appear before it and answer any questions it considers relevant which may well then be used by the police in a prosecution. This is inconsistent with standard police powers and criminal procedure and may be highly prejudicial against a person’s fundamental rights.
To refuse to appear before the Commission or to refuse to answer any questions may result in a heavy fine or imprisonment. Appearing before the Commission and answering questions asked may result in new charges being laid and being convicted of an offence. For these reasons it is essential to speak with an expert criminal defence lawyer if you think you may be investigated for an offence or have been charged.
For more information call George Sten & Co Criminal Lawers. We are available 24 hours a day on 0412423569 or (02) 9261 8640. We have extensive experience in defending persons charged with serious criminal offences and can ensure your rights are properly protected.