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You are here: Home News and media CMC media releases CMC escalates readiness to assist police solve violent crimes involving the most vulnerable — 08.02.2013
You are here: Home News and media CMC media releases CMC escalates readiness to assist police solve violent crimes involving the most vulnerable — 08.02.2013
You are here: Home News and media CMC media releases CMC escalates readiness to assist police solve violent crimes involving the most vulnerable — 08.02.2013

CMC escalates readiness to assist police solve violent crimes involving the most vulnerable — 08.02.2013

The Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) and the Queensland Police Service (QPS) have been given the green light to fast-track investigations into violent crimes involving ‘vulnerable victims’ – children, the elderly and people with a physical/mental impairment.

The move follows the introduction of a new major crime ‘general referral’ that enables rapid response to requests for assistance from law enforcement agencies for use of the CMC’s special investigative powers (coercive hearings) in suspected homicide, manslaughter, grievous bodily harm and torture cases.

In a recent submission to the Crime Reference Committee – a statutory body that includes community representatives – CMC Assistant Commissioner, Crime, Kathleen Florian underlined shared concerns that vulnerable people are susceptible to becoming victims of violence because of their impaired capacity to speak out to protect themselves and remove themselves from danger.

The submission specifically defines vulnerable victims to include children aged under 16, elderly people aged over 70 and those in a position of particular vulnerability because of a physical disability or mental impairment.

According to QPS statistics, close to a quarter (21 per cent) of 55 suspected homicides reported to police last year involved vulnerable victims, with related investigations often proving particularly complex and challenging to overcome with conventional law enforcement powers.

The Crime Reference Committee approved the CMC’s submission on 30 January, bringing the organisation’s suite of major crime general referrals to eight (read more about how crime matters come to the CMC).

The CMC’s power to investigate major crime, which encompasses organised crime, criminal paedophilia, serious crime and terrorism, has always been referral-based – either by standing ‘general referrals’ that target areas of major crime or ‘specific referrals’ granted by the Crime Reference Committee on a case-by-case basis.

While general referrals enable the CMC to act immediately, there is still a requirement to notify the Crime Reference Committee as soon as practicable after the commencement of an investigation. The committee also has the authority to end an investigation or impose limitations on use of the CMC’s powers.

Ms Florian said the latest general referral would improve the CMC’s timeliness, efficiency and effectiveness in assisting police with related investigations – something she said was invaluable given that time was critical, particularly in homicide investigations.

‘The CMC focuses its crime-fighting efforts on the types of major crime that are most likely to cause serious harm to Queenslanders,’ Ms Florian said, adding that the CMC carefully considered the public interest and legislative obligations when using its special investigative powers, including coercive hearings that compel witnesses to give evidence.

‘We already have similar authority to move quickly when it comes to investigating suspected major crime involving established criminal networks, outlaw motorcycle gangs, weapons-related offences, money laundering, criminal paedophilia and terrorism.’

Ms Florian said suspected homicides and other violent crimes involving vulnerable victims were more likely to occur at a private location, such as within a household.

As a result, she said there was often limited scope for eyewitness accounts, with investigations frequently involving a small ‘pool’ of suspects who often knew or were related to each other and may subsequently be reluctant to assist police with their inquiries.

That said, she stressed the general referral applied to offences against vulnerable people whether or not they knew or were related to the suspect.

QPS Assistant Commissioner, State Crime Operations Command, Mike Condon said the benefit of this general referral was that it included suspected offences dating back to 1970, with 15 ‘cold cases’ involving vulnerable victims remaining open since that time.

Assistant Commissioner Condon said the ability to secure the CMC’s help would assist with cases such as baby murders and in progressing long term cold cases where the vulnerable were victimised.

‘In the case of investigations involving vulnerable victims, conventional laws and powers are often not enough,’ Assistant Commissioner Condon said.

‘The use of the CMC’s coercive hearings can cut through a lot of issues by securing and testing the evidence of reluctant or uncooperative witnesses, identifying new lines of inquiry and eliminating unproductive lines of inquiry.

‘This helps us focus our efforts on the most promising lines of inquiry.’

The Crime and Misconduct Act 2001 gives the CMC investigative powers that are not available to the QPS, including coercive hearings, without creating an alternative police service. Instead, the CMC’s effectiveness depends on its partnerships with the QPS and other law enforcement agencies, its multidisciplinary approach to investigations and use of its special powers.

In the past financial year (2011-12), the CMC conducted coercive hearings over 145 days in Brisbane, Bundaberg, Mount Isa, Rockhampton and Cairns, calling 132 witnesses to give evidence in relation to 20 major crime investigations including murders, drug trafficking, fraud, weapons-related offences and outlaw motorcycle gang activity. Over the same period, it undertook 26 major crime investigations, resulting in 76 arrests and 396 charges.

For further detail about overall performance, view the CMC’s Annual Report 2011-12.

Last updated: 20 February 2013
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