Police bugging report shows serious illegal bugging, but whistleblowers still under attack

The NSW Ombudsman’s office has today released their long overdue $10 million report into illegal police bugging. The report has found repeated and systemic illegal bugging by NSW police officers and the Crime Commission. These failures must be addressed by Parliament.

Astoundingly no criminal charges are recommended for the illegal bugging, despite dozens of confirmed cases where the law had been seriously breached to obtain secret police surveillance.

However those officers who disclosed documents to seek justice for the illegal bugging, after more than a decade of seeking internal accountability, may face prosecution. It is deeply troubling that Deputy Commissioner Kaldas has seen his reputation damaged because he failed to tell the inquiry a confidential source for key documents.

Greens MP and Justice Spokesperson David Shoebridge said:

“What we see from the report is a system of secret police bugging and wiretaps that has operated largely outside the law.

“Targets were not properly identified, innocent people had their phones and conversations bugged and no one did anything about it.

“Despite literally dozens of serious legal breaches being identified none of the officers who engaged in this conduct are likely to face criminal prosecution.

“One of the primary reasons for the lack of accountability is the gross delay in delivering this report that was dealing with conduct that happened between 1999 and 2002.

“It is an act of political bastardry that sees the one officer, Nick Kaldas, who fought hardest to get to the truth about the illegal bugging, facing an adverse finding because he refused to give up a confidential source.

“The delivery of this report will cause more instability in the NSW Police force, with adverse findings being directed against current Deputy Commissioner Burn and a series of other serving officers.

“This ongoing division in the NSW Police might be justified if there was a serious likelihood of people being held criminally accountable for the illegal bugging, but that is not what this report is recommending.

“We’ve long been critical of the conduct of this investigation, and the closed door nature of the hearings that seemed little to do with respecting privacy and unreasonably focussed on the whistleblowers.
“There is no secret why the NSW government has tried to sweep this conduct under the carpet for so long. This report opens the state of NSW up to a wave of litigation from people who had their privacy illegally breached.

“The clearest recommendation to actually fix this mess is for a Public Interest Monitor to be appointed to review and test fresh surveillance applications. This needs to be legislated as soon as parliament returns in 2017,” Mr Shoebridge said.

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