Two New South Wales police officers have been charged with perverting the course of justice and will appear in the Mt Druitt Local Court on 21 June 2023.
The officers – a man and a woman both aged in their late 30s were charged with two counts each of the offence after police attached to the State Crime Command’s Child Abuse Squad and Professional Standards Command began investigating unexplained, non-accidental injuries sustained by a nine-month old baby.
Employment under review
The publicly available details of the allegations are scant, and the public may need to await the court hearing to learn more in that regard.
Investigations into the allegations began in July 2021, and the employment status of the two officers is under review.
Child Abuse Squad
The New South Wales Police Force’s Child Abuse Squad is made up of 19 specialist teams across New South Wales. The role of these teams is to investigate sexual abuse, serious physical abuse and/or extreme neglect of children aged under 16 years, as well as youths aged 16 to 18 years in circumstances where he or she has a cognitive impairment, sensory impairment or other communication needs.
Professional Standards Command
Professional Standards Command is the NSW Police Force’s internal investigation body. It is primarily comprised of police officers and deals with allegations of misconduct, corruption and criminal conduct where police officers may be involved.
After investigating such allegations, it prepares a report which will normally make recommendations, whether they be to take no further action, to take internal disciplinary action whether that is to provide further training to officers, to place them in a different role, or to suspend or terminate them in very serious cases. It can also recommend the filing of criminal charges.
Law Enforcement Conduct Commission
Very serious matters can be referred to the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) although, like the Professional Standards Command, the LECC does not have the power to discipline let alone to prosecute police officers, only to make recommendations.
In fact, the underfunded and under-resourced body only investigates around 2% of the cases that are referred to it, and there have been calls for both better funding and greater power to be given to this supposed police watchdog.
Perverting the Course of Justice
Perverting the Course of Justice is an offence under Section 319 of the Crimes Act 1900 and carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison. The significant penalty related to this charge recognises the importance of protecting the integrity of the criminal justice system.
To establish the offence, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:
- The accused person engaged in an act or made an omission, and
- By that act or omission, the accused person intended to pervert the course of justice.
Under section 312 of the Act, perverting the course of justice is defined as, ‘obstructing, preventing, perverting or defeating the course of justice or the administration of law’.
Some examples of perverting the course of justice include:
- Attempting to bribe a police officer or a judicial officer to avoid being prosecuted or punished,
- Making a false allegation – declaring that another person was responsible for an offence.
- Encouraging or bribing another person to plead guilty to a crime they did not commit, or to provide a false alibi, or give false testimony in court.
Legal defences to the charge include duress, necessity and self-defence.