The 2002 Seeking Justice Inquiry was prompted by public concern regarding the handling of sexual offence allegations made against a prominent Queensland swimming coach.
Subsequently, in March 2003, the CMC released the report The Volkers Case: Examining the conduct of the police and prosecution, and in June 2003, the CMC completed the Inquiry into the handling of sexual offence matters by the Queensland Police Service (QPS) and the Queensland Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP).
The Inquiry did not limit itself to child sexual abuse, but included all forms of sexual abuse in our society whether perpetrated against children or adults. The CMC held public hearings on 20 and 21 November 2002.
The Inquiry resulted in a report entitled Seeking justice: An inquiry into the handling of sexual offences by the criminal justice system.
The Seeking Justice report included 24 recommendations, 23 of which advocated changes to various processes relating to the handling of sexual offences by the QPS and the ODPP, as well as legislative considerations.
The 24th recommendation was that the CMC review the implementation of the preceding 23 recommendations and report to the Queensland Parliament in two years’ time. This report is entitled How the criminal justice system handles allegations of sexual abuse: A review of the implementation of the recommendations of the Seeking Justice report.
On 27 September 2002 the CMC sought a reference from the Premier, the Honourable P. Beattie MP, to examine aspects of how the criminal justice system was dealing with reported sexual offences, pursuant to section 52(1)(c) of the Crime and Misconduct Act 2001.
On 3 October 2002, the Commission resolved:
1. To hold a hearing in relation to:
(a) the training, expertise and supervision of police officers investigating sexual offences
(b) the adequacy of existing guidelines and procedures for the initiation and discontinuance of the prosecution of sexual offenders by police and the ODPP, and
(c) the appropriateness of, and the circumstances in which, the publication of identifying information about a person charged with a sexual offence should be suppressed.
2. That closing the hearing would be contrary to the public interest.
Further, the Commission resolved to approve that the hearing be a public hearing.
Following the release of a discussion paper in October 2002, the CMC called for submissions regarding the terms of reference by way of media releases, advertisements in most Queensland newspapers and letters of invitation to representatives of relevant government agencies and concerned interest groups.
In addition, the transcripts of all of the interviews with the Volkers complainants and all of the legal representatives in that matter were also considered as submissions to the Inquiry.
See Appendix 3 of the Report for the full list of submissions received.
Written submissions quoted in the report were received from:
- Bar Association of Queensland.
- Barnes, M., Kift, S. & Walsh, T., Faculty of Law, QUT.
- Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (Damian Bugg).
- Channel 9 Queensland.
- Citizens Against False Sexual Allegations Inc. (CAFSA).
- Faculty of Education, QUT (C. Eastwood).
- Channel 7.
- John Williams and Associates, Solicitors, Rockhampton.
- Legal Aid Queensland (LAQ).
- Protect All Children Today (PACT).
- Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service Secretariat.
- Queensland Advocacy Inc. (QAI).
- Queensland Council for Civil Liberties (QCCL).
- Queensland Director of Public Prosecutions (Leanne Clare).
- Queensland Law Society. Queensland Police Service (QPS).
- Queensland Police Union of Employees (QPUE).
- Esther Centre. Victims of Crime Association of Queensland.
- Youth and Family Service Logan City.
It is not the purpose of the hearings to receive complaints or evidence about specific cases or to investigate individuals. The Inquiry will be limited to an examination of the systemic issues involved in the handling of sexual offences by the criminal justice system. Specific allegations relating to particular cases will be assessed in the normal way by the Misconduct Complaints Services Section of the CMC to determine whether investigative or other action is required. Such allegations will not be considered to be part of the public Inquiry.
While parties involved in Mr Volkers’s case are welcome to provide submissions to the Inquiry regarding the terms of reference noted above, the case will also be examined separately to determine whether there is any reasonable suspicion of official misconduct on the part of any person. The terms of reference of the Inquiry will not include the issue of compensation to parties in respect of child sexual offence allegations and/or charges.