Section B | Consultation and scrutiny reporting
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The Ombudsman’s office maintains contact with the community in a variety of formal and informal ways. This aspect of our work is important in raising public awareness of the right to complain to the Ombudsman and building confidence in the role of the office in managing and investigating complaints about ACT Government agencies and ACT Policing.
During 2009–10 we:
- operated a stall at 'Contact Canberra' as part of the ACT Multicultural Festival
- conducted outreach activities during Orientation Week at the University of Canberra, the Canberra Institute of Technology and The Australian National University (ANU)
- promoted the role of the Ombudsman at the ACT Council of the Ageing Seniors Expo at the Kingston Bus Depot in March
- met with the trainee staff of the ACT BIMBERI Youth Justice Centre to explain our role and services
- presented a lecture to the Criminal Practice Class, Legal Workshop at ANU
- hosted a half-day ACT Agency Contact Officers Forum to promote best practice in complaint handling.
Legislative Assembly Committee inquiries and reports
The Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety considered the ACT Ombudsman’s Annual Report 2008–09 in its Report on Annual and Financial Reports 2008–2009, tabled in the Legislative Assembly on 13 October 2009. The Committee made no recommendations in relation to the ACT Ombudsman.
The role of the ACT Ombudsman is performed under the Ombudsman Act 1989 (ACT). The Ombudsman also has specific responsibilities under the Freedom of Information Act 1989 (ACT) and is authorised to deal with whistleblower complaints under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1994 (ACT).
Members of the AFP provide policing services for the ACT under an agreement between the Commonwealth and ACT Governments. Members of the AFP assigned to the AFP’s ACT region are engaged in community policing duties under the ACT Chief Police Officer, who is also an AFP Assistant Commissioner.
The AFP deals with complaints under Part V of the Australian Federal Police Act 1979 . Complaints received by either the AFP or the Ombudsman prior to 30 December 2006 are dealt with under the provisions of the Complaints (Australian Federal Police) Act 1981 (Cth). The last complaints under this legislation were finalised in 2009–10.
Responsibility for investigating complaints rests with the AFP. AFP line managers are required to deal with minor matters. More serious matters are notified to the Ombudsman’s office. The categorisation of complaints into minor or serious matters was agreed on by the AFP Commissioner and the Ombudsman and set out in a legislative instrument. Primary responsibility for resolving more serious matters remains with the AFP. The Ombudsman may investigate complaints about the AFP under the Ombudsman Act 1976 (Cth). In general, complainants are expected to raise their complaints with the AFP in the first instance before the office will consider investigating them.
In addition, the Commonwealth Ombudsman, also designated as the Law Enforcement Ombudsman under the Ombudsman Act (Cth), is required to review the handling of complaints and conduct issues in the AFP at least annually.
The ACT Crimes (Controlled Operations) Act 2008 allows ACT Policing to conduct controlled (covert) operations in the ACT and gives oversight to the Ombudsman. A controlled operation is a covert operation carried out by law enforcement officers under the ACT Crimes (Controlled Operations ) Act for the purpose of obtaining evidence that may lead to the prosecution of a person for a serious offence. The operation may result in law enforcement officers engaging in conduct that would constitute an offence unless authorised under this Act.
A Child Sex Offenders Register was established in the ACT as a requirement of the Crimes (Child Sex Offenders) Act 2005 (ACT) (the Act). One of the Ombudsman's functions under the ACT Ombudsman Act is to monitor compliance with Chapter 4 of the Act by the ACT Chief Police Officer and other people authorised by the Chief Police Officer to have access to the register.