Section B | Consultation and Scrutiny Reporting
Officers representing the ACT Ombudsman attended and hosted several community functions in 2012–13 as part of an ongoing commitment to networking and engaging with the community. Events included:
Homeless Connect — Canberra’s inaugural Homeless Connect day, August 2012
Legal Aid ACT Strategic Planning Consultation, November 2012
the launch of the CONTACT 2013 directory by the Citizens Advice Bureau, November 2012
the launch of the Free Law Directory at ACT Legal Aid, December 2012
Community Conversation: the Administration of Justice in the ACT, a forum we hosted, February 2013
the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Justice Agreement Implementation Group Meeting, March 2013
‘Has the model of a human rights prison worked in the ACT?’ — a forum organised by the Prisoners’ Advocacy group at the Australian National University, March 2013
a forum hosted by the ACT Human Rights Commissioner to discuss the human rights audit of the conditions of detention for women at the Alexander Maconochie Centre, June 2013.
Legislative Assembly Committee inquiries and reports
The Commonwealth Ombudsman has served as the Postal Industry Ombudsman (PIO) since 6 October 2006. The PIO was set up to offer an ombudsman service for the postal and courier industry, with the aim of recovering its costs from the industry it regulates.
An Australian Government business enterprise, Australia Post is subject to the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the PIO . Other private postal operators (PPOs) can voluntarily register with the PIO. In 2011–12, in addition to Australia Post, eight PPOs were registered under the PIO scheme.
The PIO can only investigate complaints made about a postal or similar service, and only if made within 12 months after the action that caused the complaint.
The PIO cannot investigate complaints about other aspects of a postal provider’s operations, such as retail services, employment matters or environmental issues. The exception is Australia Post, where the Commonwealth Ombudsman may investigate administrative actions of Australia Post that do not fall within the jurisdiction of the PIO.
Typical examples of matters that fall within the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s jurisdiction include complaints about Australia Post’s retail products and services, damage to property, processing of passport applications and bill payments.
Australia Post remains the main provider of postal services and 99% of complaints received are about Australia Post mail services. While the number of complaints received was a relatively small proportion of the number of daily transactions completed by Australia Post, the impact of a disrupted mail service upon an individual or business can be significant.
In 2011–12 we received a total of 4173 complaints about postal matters. Over 350 of those were outside the jurisdiction of the PIO. Postal matters accounted for 18% of the total number of complaints received by our office during the year. This is 1014 more postal complaints than we received in 2010–11, an increase of over 32%. This follows an increase of 19% the previous year. The following table shows the continuing growth in complaints received about the postal industry since the start of the PIO in 2006–07.
Of the total complaints received, 3816 or 92% were within the jurisdiction of the PIO. This proportion is consistent with previous years.
ACT Policing – inspections
The Ombudsman has inspection functions regarding ACT Policing’s use of covert and intrusive powers under the Crimes (Controlled Operations) Act 2008, Crimes (Surveillance Devices) Act 2010, Crimes (Assumed Identities) Act 2009 and Chapter 4, Crimes (Child Sex Offenders) Act 2005.
We appreciate ACT Policing’s cooperation with our staff and for providing all documents relevant to our inspections during 2012–13. The findings of each inspection and progress against previous findings are reported to ACT Policing. ACT Policing has been responsive to our inspection findings and has taken steps to improve its compliance with legislation.
The Crimes (Controlled Operations) Act 2008 (ACT) allows ACT Policing to conduct controlled (covert) operations in the ACT. The ACT Ombudsman is required to inspect the records of ACT Policing at least once every 12 months to determine its compliance with the Controlled Operations Act.
We conducted two inspections during 2012–13 which examined ACT Policing’s records associated with all authorities to conduct controlled operations that had either expired or were cancelled during the period 1 July 2011 to 31 December 2012.
The following criteria were applied to assess compliance:
Were applications for authorities properly made and authorities granted?
Were applications for amendments of authorities properly made and decided?
Were authorities properly cancelled?
Were the reported activities covered by the authorities?
Have the notification requirements been satisfied in the event of loss of or serious damage to property?
Were reports properly made and records properly kept by the agency?
At the first inspection, ACT Policing was assessed as compliant with the requirements of the Controlled Operations Act. However, we made one best practice suggestion regarding how ACT Policing may better demonstrate its compliance with provisions of the Controlled Operations Act. ACT Policing has responded to this suggestion by amending its templates.
The results of the second inspection conducted under the Controlled Operations Act have not been finalised and will be reported in the 2013–14 annual report.
The Crimes (Surveillance Devices) Act 2010 (ACT) establishes a framework for the use of surveillance devices by law enforcement officers in the ACT. The ACT Ombudsman may inspect the records of ACT Policing to determine the extent of its compliance with the Surveillance Devices Act.
We conducted two inspections during 2012–13 which examined ACT Policing’s records associated with its use of surveillance devices under all warrants and authorities that had either expired or were revoked during the period 1 July to 31 December 2012.
The following criteria were applied to assess compliance:
Were applications for warrants properly made?
Were warrants compliant with the Act?
Were surveillance devices used lawfully?
Were revocations of warrants properly made?
Were records properly kept and used by the agency?
Were reports properly made by the agency?
At the first inspection, ACT Policing was assessed as compliant with the Surveillance Devices Act except in two minor areas (one of which was self-disclosed by ACT Policing). We will monitor these issues at future inspections. We were also unable to determine compliance in relation to another four instances, as there were insufficient records on file. ACT Policing advised that in future the relevant records will be on file.
The results of the second inspection conducted under the Surveillance Devices Act have not been finalised and will be reported in the 2013–14 annual report.
The Crimes (Assumed Identities) Act 2009 (ACT) facilitates investigations and intelligence gathering in relation to criminal activity by providing for the lawful acquisition and use of assumed identities in the ACT. The ACT Ombudsman may inspect records of a law enforcement agency to determine the extent of its compliance with the Assumed Identities Act.
To date, no inspections have been conducted under the Assumed Identities Act as ACT Policing advised that it has not applied for any assumed identities under the Assumed Identities Act.
Child Sex Offenders Register
The ACT Child Sex Offenders Register is established by the Crimes (Child Sex Offenders) Act 2005 (ACT). The register must contain current information relating to the identity and whereabouts of people living in the ACT who have been convicted of sexual offences against children. The ACT Ombudsman is required to monitor ACT Policing’s compliance with Chapter 4 of the Child Sex Offenders Act.
In 2012–13 we finalised one inspection of ACT Policing’s maintenance of the register. No assessment was made in relation to two criteria, which could not be assessed or were not applicable in this inspection period. ACT Policing was assessed as compliant with the remaining criteria under Chapter 4 of the Child Sex Offenders Act, with the exception of minor administrative errors. Subsequent to the inspection, ACT Policing advised that it has corrected each of these errors and reviewed its work practices to reduce future occurrences.
The report of the results of this inspection was provided to the Minister for Police and Emergency Services and the ACT Chief Police Officer in November 2012.