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ICAC Investigations | Lawyers in Sydney for ICAC Cases

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What is the ICAC?

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is an organisation that was established in 1988 with the aim of impartially investigating, exposing and preventing corruption including white collar and corporate crime engaged in by those within the New South Wales public sector. 

Another aim was to protect and maintain community confidence in public sector authorities in New South Wales.

To achieve these aims, the ICAC conducts specific investigations into allegations of corrupt conduct in the New South Wales public sector.

It also monitors the general conduct of public sector officials throughout the state.

As its name suggests, the ICAC operates independently of any members of government or political parties, or any state-owned corporations, although it is monitored by a NSW parliamentary committee.

ICAC investigations

One of the ICAC’s primary roles is to investigate and gather information about corrupt activity.

In the course of these investigations, the ICAC can hold hearings in the form of either public inquiries or a compulsory examinations.

Whichever form the hearing takes, the ICAC has the power to call witnesses and require them to answer questions and / or to provide materials.

These ‘coercive powers’ mean that those who attend the ICAC do not have the right to remain silent or to invoke the privilege against self-incrimination, although steps can be taken to ensure materials provided or questions answers cannot later be used against a witness.

Lawyers in Sydney for ICAC investigations

The situation makes it especially important for those summonsed before the ICAC to engage the services of defence lawyers who are able to liaise with the body, provide responses to requests for information and to accompany their clients to hearings – ensuring protections contained in legislation are invoked.

The legal team at Sydney Criminal Lawyers is vastly experienced in advising clients in relation to ICAC investigations, attending ICAC hearings to ensure the rights of those called as witnesses are protected and successfully representing those charged with corruption-related offences under both the ICAC Act and the general criminal law.

So if you have been contacted by the ICAC or are already facing allegations of corruption, call our specialist, results-focused defence team today on (02) 9261 8881 and allow us to take care of the legal side of things, so you can focus on what’s most important in your life.

What Legislation Governs the ICAC?

The ICAC was established by the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988 (NSW), which also contains its powers and responsibilities.

The powers contained in the Act are broad and contain coercive powers, including the power to require witnesses to attend the Commission by way of summons and give testimony whilst there, as well as to produce materials as requested.

Who Can the ICAC Investigate?

Under the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988, the ICAC has the power to investigate any agency or official in the New South Wales public sector, including:

* NSW government ministers;

* NSW Members of Parliament;

* the governor of New South Wales;

* NSW government departments and statutory authorities;

* NSW state-owned corporations;

* NSW judges and magistrates;

* NSW public schools, colleges and universities;

* NSW public hospitals and area health services;

* NSW local government authorities, councillors and council employees; and

* people performing public official functions in New South Wales.

Who Can’t the ICAC Investigate?

Unless a matter somehow involves the NSW public sector, the ICAC doesn’t have the power to investigate:

* any person or organisation in the private sector;

* matters involving the public sector of other Australian states or territories;

* federal members of parliament

* Commonwealth departments or agencies

* NSW police officers or police administration officers; or

* NSW Crime Commission officers.

What is Corrupt Conduct?


Sections 7, 8 and 9 of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988 set out the meaning of ‘corrupt conduct’ in New South Wales.

Section 7 of the ICAC Act broadly states that corrupt conduct is that which falls within the definition contained in the following section (section 8) and is not limited by the provisions contained in the section thereafter (section 9).

Section 7 proceeds to make clear that attempts and conspiracies to engage in corrupt conduct amount to such conduct.

Section 8 of the ICAC Act is titled ‘General Nature of Corrupt Conduct’. The section explains the meaning of and provides a non-exhaustive list of offences which ordinarily amount to corrupt conduct.

Meaning of Corrupt Conduct

Subsection 8(1) provides that corrupt conduct is any conduct:

  • that adversely affects, or that could adversely affect, either directly or indirectly, the honest or impartial exercise of official functions by any public official, any group or body of public officials or any public authority, 
  • of a public official that constitutes or involves the dishonest or partial exercise of any of his or her official functions,
  • of a public official or former public official that constitutes or involves a breach of public trust, or
  • of a public official or former public official that involves the misuse of information or material that he or she has acquired in the course of his or her official functions, whether or not for his or her benefit or for the benefit of any other person.

Offences under the ICAC Act

Subsections 8(2) and 8(2A) of the ICAC Act outline the types of offences and behaviours which ordinarily amount to corrupt conduct.

In that regard, subsection 8(2) provides that official misconduct – including breach of trust, fraud in office, nonfeasance, misfeasance, malfeasance, oppression, extortion or imposition – may amount to corrupt conduct.

The subsection proceeds to stipulate that corrupt conduct may involve:

bribery blackmail obtaining or offering secret commissions
fraud theft election bribery perverting the course of justice
embezzlement election funding offences election fraud
treating tax evasion revenue evasion
currency violations illegal drug dealings illegal gambling
obtaining financial benefit by vice engaged in by others bankruptcy and company violations harbouring criminals
forgery treason or other offences against the Sovereign homicide or violence

The subsection adds that corrupt conduct may involve matters of the same or a similar nature to those above, as well as conspiracies to engage in the conduct.

The more recent section 8(2A) expands on the above, providing that corrupt conduct also encompasses that which impairs, or that could impair, public confidence in public administration and which could involve any of the following:

  • collusive tendering,
  • fraud relating to applications for licences, permits or other authorities designed to protect health and safety or the environment or designed to facilitate the management and commercial exploitation of resources,
  • dishonestly obtaining or assisting in obtaining, or dishonestly benefiting from, the payment or application of public funds for private advantage or the disposition of public assets for private advantage,
  • defrauding the public revenue, and
  • fraudulently obtaining or retaining employment or appointment as a public official. 

ICAC’s Investigative Powers

When responding to a matter brought before it by an agency or a member of the public, the ICAC has the power to:

* make its own enquiries to assess whether or not to take any action;

* provide advice to an agency on preventing corruption, should the investigation concern that agency;

* formally request an investigation from an agency and have that agency report back following the investigation;

* refer the matter to another agency for investigation, should the matter be outside its own authority to investigate;

* start its own official investigation.

ICAC Hearings

After the ICAC commences an investigation, it will generally hold a hearing which will either be in the form of a public inquiry or a compulsory examination. 

These hearings are held to determine whether any corruption has occurred in the matter being investigated, and whether any charges should be brought as a result.

Is an ICAC hearing the same as a court hearing?

Whether an ICAC hearing takes place as a public inquiry or a compulsory examination, it is part of an ongoing ICAC investigation.

It is not the same as a criminal court hearing, where police have already carried out an investigation prior to the hearing, and where charges have already been brought against any defendants in the hearing.

Can I have a lawyer at the ICAC hearing?

While an ICAC hearing is not the same as a criminal court hearing, you are nevertheless still entitled to legal representation while attending it.

It is advisable that you engage a lawyer for the hearing, to make sure that your rights are protected throughout the process.

What do I have to do during an ICAC hearing?

While a lawyer can sit with you during the hearing, and advise you when necessary, they can’t actually speak for you like they can in a court.

In other words, during an ICAC hearing, you’ll have to do all of your own speaking, and you’ll have to answer any questions put to you yourself.

Do I have to attend the hearing and testify if summoned?

As is the case for Royal Commissions, ICAC has the power to compel people to attend a hearing and testify as a witness in its investigation.

It is a criminal offence fail to attend an ICAC hearing after receiving a summons to appear, or to fail or refuse to produce materials or give answers when required.

Is there a risk I might incriminate myself when testifying?

Should you appear as a witness in an ICAC investigation, you need to be aware that answering certain questions during a hearing might incriminate you.

You might also be incriminated by producing certain documents that are requested of you at the hearing.

This is a vital reason why a lawyer should be present with you, as your lawyer will be able to advise you as to whether and when you should ‘object’ to answering a question on the ground it may tend to incriminate you.

You will still need to answer the question, but provided the objection i registered the information will not be capable of use against you at a future time.

An exception to this prohibition on use is where the information you give is false, in which case charges can be brought for giving false information.

At the hearing, will I be able to question any of the people who have made allegations against me?

If an allegation of corrupt conduct has been made against you, then you or your lawyer will have the chance during the hearing to publicly examine (ie question) the witness or witnesses who made the allegation.

How will I know what to prepare for the hearing?

Should there be a possibility of an adverse finding being made against you during the hearing, then the Counsel Assisting the Commission will prepare submissions outlining any potential adverse findings.

Your lawyer will then be allowed to prepare submissions in response.

Referrals to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP)

While the ICAC has considerable powers of investigation, it has no powers to actually prosecute anyone for corruption offences.

However, it as the power to refer a matter to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions NSW (DPP).

If the ICAC determines that a public sector official has engaged in corrupt conduct, it will recommend that the DPP bring criminal charges against that official.

Public Inquiries versus Compulsory Examination

A public inquiry will be held where the ICAC determines that it is in the public interest for a particular investigation to be disclosed to the public.

A compulsory examination, however, is closed to the public. It is held where the ICAC believes it necessary for the protection of witnesses or to safeguard the overall integrity of an investigation.

All public inquiries are advertised on the ICAC website with a public hearing notice.

They are also advertised in various relevant newspapers when the circumstances are considered appropriate.

What Should I Do if I am Summonsed to the ICAC?

In the event that you receive a summons to appear as a witness in an ICAC investigation, it is crucial that you obtain expert legal advice prior to the hearing.

Sydney Criminal Lawyers has a particular speciality in ICAC investigations, with an experienced team of lawyers who can guide you through the process and represent you during a hearing.

Why Choose Sydney Criminal Lawyers®?

Going to court can be nerve-racking, but having a strong and compassionate legal team behind you can make the experience significantly easier to deal with.

Here are 12 reasons to choose our multi-award winning legal team:

  1. Proven Track Record of Exceptional Results

    Sydney Criminal Lawyers® consistently achieves outcomes which are in the highest percentile of the Judicial Commission’s sentencing statistics for criminal cases.

    Our legal team devises effective case-strategies and fights hard to have cases dropped entirely or charges downgraded – saving clients the time, expense and stress of a defended hearing or jury trial.

    Where cases nevertheless proceed, our lawyers have an outstanding track record of winning defended Local Court hearings, and complex jury trials in the District and Supreme Courts.

    We also consistently win appeals in the District and Supreme Courts (including the NSWCCA) after clients have received unsatisfactory results with other law firms in the lower courts.We are one of the few firms to achieve successful criminal law appeals in the High Court of Australia.

    Where our clients wish to plead guilty, we frequently achieve ‘dismissals’ and ‘non convictions’ in cases where other lawyers have advised there is no chance of doing so.

  2. Highest Level of Client Satisfaction

    We have the best and most comprehensive client review record of any law firm in Australia.

    Regular communication, accessibility and quality service are our team’s highest priorities.

    We are committed to thoroughly explaining all steps involved in the criminal law process, providing regular updates throughout the proceedings, and making ourselves accessible and responsive.

    We are passionate about providing an exceptional level of service to our clients, and we fight hard to achieve optimal results in the shortest period of time.

  3. Australia’s Most Awarded Criminal Law Firm

    We have received more awards and accolades than any other criminal law firm in Australia. Our team has been awarded “Criminal Defence Firm of the Year in Australia” in a number of prestigious and competitive awards programs for several years running.

    The awards recognise our exceptional track record of results, our outstanding client service, the high level of satisfaction we achieve, the affordability of our services and our overall excellence.

  4. Fixed Fees

    We want our clients to know exactly how much their cases will cost from the very start. That’s why we were the first criminal law firm in Australia to publish ‘fixed fees’, back in 2004.

    We offer fixed fees for most types of criminal cases and services.Our fixed fees apply to a range of Local Court cases such as drink driving, drug possession, fraud, common assault and AVOs, and also specific services such as prison visits, bail applications, appeals and defended hearings.

    Unlike many other law firms, our fixed fees are published on our website – which ensures transparency and certainty.

  5. Free First Appointment

    For those who are going to court, we offer a free first conference of up to an hour with one of our Senior Criminal Defence Lawyers.

    We also offer a free first conference to those who have received an unsatisfactory result after being represented in court by another law firm, or after representing themselves, and wish to appeal.

  6. Specialist Lawyer Guarantee

    We guarantee that only lawyers with substantial criminal defence experience will work on your case and appear for you in court.

    This ensures our clients receive the highest quality representation from an experienced, specialist criminal lawyer.

  7. All NSW Courts

    From Bombala to Broken Hill, our lawyers appear in courts throughout New South Wales – and across Australia for Commonwealth cases.

    And we offer fixed fees for most criminal and traffic law cases throughout the state.

  8. Accredited Specialists

    Our entire firm is exclusively dedicated to criminal law – which makes us true specialists.

    All of our lawyers have years of experience representing clients in criminal cases, and our principal has been certified by the Law Society of NSW as an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist since 2005.

    An ‘Accredited Specialist’ is a lawyer who has practised for at least 5 years in a particular field of law (such as criminal law), has passed a rigorous assessment process conducted by the Law Society of NSW, and has been selected by the Specialist Accreditation Committee of the Law Society as an expert in the field.

    Accredited Specialists are required to undertake more training each year than other lawyers and must be successful in having their accreditation renewed every year. Specialist Accreditation is the mark of a true specialist.

    Our firm’s specialist experience ensures you receive the best possible result, whatever your criminal law case may be.

  9. Results-Focused Law Firm

    Our team is passionate about achieving results, and unlike many other law firms, our lawyers do not have monthly financial ‘budgets’ to meet.

    The absence of budgets means our lawyers are entirely focused on achieving optimal results in the shortest space of time; whether by getting charges dropped or downgraded at an early stage or having cases ‘thrown out of court’.

    Not having budgets also means our lawyers are not under pressure to engage in unscrupulous practices such as unnecessarily adjourning cases or ‘overcharging’ clients – which, sadly, is a common complaint against many other lawyers and law firms.

    No budgets encourages regular consultation between lawyers within the firm – promoting an ‘open door’, team environment where lawyers bounce ideas off one another, formulate case strategy together and benefit from each other’s specialised experience, methods, techniques and insights.

    The result is a firm which delivers optimal outcomes in the shortest time periods, at the least expense and stress to our clients.

  10. Team of Lawyers Behind You

    Our clients benefit from the pool of knowledge that only an extensive team of experienced criminal defence lawyers can provide.

    Our lawyers regularly consult one another to stay ‘ahead of the pack’ in the ever-changing field of criminal law – constantly devising, refining and implementing specialised techniques which ensure our clients achieve the best possible outcomes.

    A team approach is particularly important when it comes to serious criminal cases such as murder, commercial drug cases, serious and sexual assaults, large-scale fraud, robbery and other ‘indictable’ cases.

    In such matters, clients reap the benefits of several lawyers devising and executing case strategies which maximise the chances of having cases dropped or downgraded at an early stage, or ‘thrown out of court’ – often saving clients a great deal of cost, time and anxiety.

  11. Familiar with Magistrates and Judges

    Each of our lawyers appears in court on a daily basis, and has done so for years. We have therefore been able to develop an understanding of, and rapport with, magistrates and judges in Sydney and indeed across the state.

    Our team’s extensive experience before the courts ensures your case is tailored to the specific nuances of individual judicial officers, maximising the likelihood of a favourable result.

  12. Convenience

    We have offices in locations across the Sydney Metropolitan Area and beyond, including:

    We offer free parking at our Sydney CBD offices, and all of our offices are close to train stations and bus terminals.

    For those who are unable to attend our offices, we offer conferences by telephone, Skye and FaceTime anywhere around the world.

    If you are going to court and wish to arrange a free first consultation, call our 24 hour hotline on (02) 9261 8881 or send us an email at info@sydneycriminallawyers.com.au.

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