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Police Commissioner calls for ICAC secrecy review

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Police Commissioner Grant Stevens has called for an overhaul of the secrecy provisions of the state’s ICAC Act after SAPOL’s decision to take no further action against Attorney-General Vickie Chapman over a potential breach.

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SAPOL last week announced it had referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions for assessment the question of whether Chapman breached the secrecy provisions of the Act when in September she released a media statement that linked a matter at Renewal SA with the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption.

Late yesterday, police advised that “a formal response has been received from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions” and “as a result… there will be no further investigation or other action taken in relation to the matter involving the Attorney General”.

Speaking this morning on his weekly segment on ABC Radio Adelaide, Stevens lamented the “confusion” created by the ICAC Act’s secrecy provisions, saying: “I think I’d be one of many observers who would like to see some clarity around this space.”

“There needs to be a review of how the secrecy provisions are applied and how they’re dealt with,” he said.

“There is a need for some confidentiality around certain matters, but when it creates confusion… it’s not helpful and there needs to be some clarity for people who are dealing with these matters in terms of what can be said and what can’t be said.”

Stevens would not confirm what advice the DPP provided, saying: “No-one’s suggested as a result of the process that we’ve gone through – and I’m not prepared to elaborate on the content of the advice, I’m not authorised to make any comment – you can’t presume that what Vickie Chapman said was or was not an offence.”

“It’s my view that when we conduct an investigation, regardless of what that investigation is about or who it’s in relation to, if there is a finding that there has been some technical breach of the law or some minor breach… the person who makes the determination of whether or not we should prosecute, and for the sensitive complex matters that will be a DPP opinion, will take into account the public interest in actually proceeding with that matter,” he said.

“That doesn’t mean that we dismiss it as the investigating body – we’ll still seek an opinion [but] the person who provides that opinion will take into account a range of things, one of that being the public interest.”

That has prompted the Labor Opposition to demand the DPP’s advice be released, with spokesman Stephen Mullighan saying “we need to know whether in his view, he thinks the Attorney-General may well have breached the ICAC Act”.

Stevens told the ABC he was “not authorised to elaborate on anything other than the status of the investigation as we were proceeding or the outcome, [and] I’ve clearly indicated what the outcome of that investigation was”.

Premier Steven Marshall came under fire yesterday for suggesting he was aware there was no police recommendation to prosecute when SAPOL handed its file to the DPP, adding he knew this because he’d discussed the matter with the Police Commissioner.

“The reality is the police have gathered their evidence, they’ve passed it to the DPP, they haven’t recommended prosecution as other people have been suggesting,” Marshall told the ABC yesterday.

Stevens confirmed the matter was raised – although he did not recall by whom – at the weekend’s Superloop Adelaide 500 car race.

“The Premier and I caught up at the race and we had a conversation about a range of different things – one of those items was in relation to the public statement that was put out by SAPOL last week in relation to the Vickie Chapman matter,” he said.

He said he gave the Premier “nothing that wasn’t in my [previous] public statement”, adding: “I made a comment to the effect of the fact that we put it out for an opinion and we were waiting for that to come back.”

“I advised the Premier that we had sent the material to the DPP for an opinion and that we made no recommendation one way or the other,” he said.

Asked whether he concurred with Marshall’s interpretation of the conversation, Stevens said “he may have taken away an impression from that point of view but my understanding of what he said was… well, you can interpret from what he said that there was no recommendation”.

“I’m satisfied that was there anything sensitive or complex in relation to the nature of the conversation… I would have stopped the conversation,” he added.

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