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ICAC changes: Acting integrity chief and Judicial Conduct Commissioner named

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A bureaucrat who helped establish South Australia’s Office for Public Integrity has been appointed the new acting director of the now standalone agency following the passing of contentious laws, while a former Supreme Court Justice will temporarily replace Ann Vanstone following her resignation as Judicial Conduct Commissioner.

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Attorney-General Vickie Chapman has appointed one of her departmental officials, Fraser Stroud, as the acting director of the new Office for Public Integrity (OPI), while former Supreme Court Justice and ex-Law Society of SA president Bruce Debelle has been named as acting Judicial Conduct Commissioner.

Both men will serve in the roles for three months while the Government finds permanent replacements.

It comes after the Government at midnight last night officially separated the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) from the OPI to create two standalone independent agencies in line with recently-passed legislation.

Under the reforms, which were swiftly and unanimously passed through parliament last month to the chagrin of ICAC Commissioner Ann Vanstone, misconduct and maladministration investigations have been handed to the State Ombudsman, while the OPI is tasked with assessing complaints about public officers to determine whether they warrant investigation.

Eighteen employees who work for the OPI, including its previous director Emily Lyons, were at midnight last night officially transferred to a new standalone agency and sent to work in a new office building this morning.

From today, they will be overseen by Stroud, who helped set up the original OPI in 2012 and served as its director for several years before switching to the Consumer and Business Services division of the Attorney-General’s Department, where he worked as its regulation and advice director.

Chapman said Stroud’s past experience setting up the original OPI under the former government gave him a “clear understanding of the logistics of setting up an organisation of this nature”.

“He went on to oversee the OPI, and – in his earlier career in the United Kingdom – founded a successful legal practice,” she said.

“He will help oversee the transition to the new structure and ensure the relevant guidelines and directions are in place around the reporting of corruption, while also establishing the policies and procedures for the handling of complaints lodged with the OPI.”

Debelle meanwhile has stepped in to oversee complaints about judicial officers in his new role as acting Judicial Conduct Commissioner.

The position was previously held by Vanstone, but she officially resigned last month, arguing the role was incompatible with her ongoing work as ICAC Commissioner.

Debelle is a former barrister and Supreme Court Justice and led a royal commission into the State Government’s handling of the 2010 rape of a student at a western suburbs school.

Handed down in 2013, the “Debelle Report” was a scathing assessment of the failures within the Education Department and led to significant reforms.

Chapman said that Debelle had an “exemplary career within the legal profession” and would ensure that any complaints about judicial officers would be appropriately managed.

“He has shown his independence and rigour time and time again, and I believe he will ensure proper oversight of any complaints against judicial officers in this position,” she said.

His appointment comes after Vanstone earlier this year instigated the establishment of the state’s first judicial conduct panel to investigate complaints lodged by five women working in the law who have accused Adelaide Magistrate Simon Milazzo of misconduct.

Chapman’s office has previously told InDaily that Vanstone’s resignation and the subsequent appointment of a replacement Commissioner would not impact the ongoing panel investigation.

Vanstone has previously said that Milazzo has denied impropriety.

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