Supreme Court rules IBAC must reconsider police assault case

In a landmark appeal decision, the Supreme Court has ruled this morning that IBAC must reconsider an alleged serious police assault in February 2009 to determine if it should be independently investigated by the watchdog rather than being investigated by police.

In 2010 the predecessor to IBAC – the Office of Police Integrity (OPI) – referred the complaint to police to investigate, a common practice which has been rejected by advocates as police investigating themselves.

 ‘This decision brings a further important opportunity for a fully independent investigation of these serious allegations, which advocates have been calling for since the complaint was first made in 2010,’ said Tiffany Overall, Human Rights Officer with Youthlaw, today.

The allegations include Mr Bare having his teeth chipped while being pushed into the gutter, being capsicum sprayed while handcuffed, and being racially slurred by Victoria Police officers in February 2009, when he was 17 years old.

The court found that the original referral of the complaint back to police by the then OPI breached section 38 of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities because rights set out in the Charter were not fully considered in its decision.

 ‘While IBAC could ultimately refer the complaint back to police for investigation, today’s decision will lead to greater scrutiny of such cases, and throws into the spotlight the need to fully consider the Charter.

 ‘An independent and robust investigation would ensure  fair outcomes for complainants, deter future human rights abuses, and instil greater confidence in Victoria Police,’ Ms Overall said.

Ms Overall said that while the decision represented significant progress, there was a need for further action because the decision did not find there is an automatic right to independent investigation of serious complaints against police under current Victorian law.

‘We now call on the Victorian Government to carefully consider this decision and to put in place the mechanisms and resources required to ensure all complaints of police misconduct are independently investigated,’ Ms Overall said.

 ‘The Victorian Government needs to strengthen legislative powers and resources of IBAC so that all investigations into police human rights abuses are conducted independently of Victoria Police.

Mr Bare brought the action because he did not have confidence in Victoria Police investigating his complaint due to genuine concerns that information about him or his complaint might be passed on to the officer involved, risking reprisals from local police.

Mr Bare was assisted to take his case to the courts through support of Youthlaw and pro bono assistance from private law firm Maddocks, and counsel Jason Pizer, Emrys Nekvapil and Fiona Spencer.

Bare v IBAC Court of Appeal judgment

Bare v IBAC Court of Appeal Summary

Ethiopian mans claim of police brutality and racism referred to IBAC Mark Russell, The Age, 29 July 2015

Nassir Bare to get independent investigation of racial abuse  Peta Carlyon, ABC News 29 July 2015

For media comment:

  • Nassir Bare
  • Tiffany Overall, Advocacy and Human Rights Officer, Youthlaw, on 0400 903 034 or
    Ariel Couchman, Director, Youthlaw, on 0438 812 937

For media assistance:

  • Darren Lewin-Hill, Communications Manager, Federation of Community Legal Centres, on 0488 773 535.