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Dr. Michaelson Taped Meeting Transcript With The Victorian Ombudsman's Office
Wednesday, 17th November, 2004
(Note: Names and other identifying information have been extracted from this transcript. Ombudsman Investigators 2 and 3 are actually Office of Police Integrity (OPI) employees.)
Omb Investig 1: Okay, its 5 minutes past 2 pm, Wednesday 17th November, 2004, and this is a meeting with Dr. Reina Michaelson, and [personal assistant] Miss Louise Johnstone, and present is (Omb Investigator 1 states own name) speaking, (Omb Investigator 1's official title), (Omb Investigator 2 name)?
Omb Investig 2: (Omb Investigator 2 states own name), who we've met before.
Omb Investig 3: (Omb Investigator 3 states own name).
Omb Investig 4: And (Omb Investigator 4 states own name).
(Omb Investig 1): I'd just like to explain that (Omb Investig 4) and (Omb Investig 3) are making up the Special Projects Unit who are basically going to concentrate on the types of complex complaints of the nature that you've identified, and that other people have identified to us, and they've started with basically a review of the files that have been held within this [Victorian Ombudsman] Office, and they are looking at complaint handling of investigations across a range of agencies, but the three main ones being the police, the Department of Education and Training, and the Department of Human Services. And, I think we can safely say that at least part of that initiative though is that you are bringing part of these issues to our attention, and thank you for that, because I think it is an extremely important initiative, and I think it is going to have some really useful outcomes for increasing public accountability in that whole difficult area.
So, I actually, am going to introduce the meeting and then hop out of it, because these are extremely competent people with more experience in sexual abuse allegations that I have, and I think that you will find that they will be really, really good for you to deal with. So, I hope that you are happy with that.
Reina: That's very, very, very happy. I am thrilled with it all.
(Omb Investig 1): Terrific.
Reina: It's all looking very good.
(Omb Investig 1): Terrific. So, I think it's a really productive outcome. And, I can go at this point. It is nice to meet you both again, you are always welcome if you wish to raise any matters to come back to me, but I feel that it is going to be the Unit now that focuses on the matters you've raised, and the matters others have raised.
Reina: Yes, thanks.
(Omb Investig 1): Thank you.
[(Omb Investig 1) leaves room]
(Omb Investig 2): Perhaps I can just go through what's been happening. And I'll introduce (Omb Investig 3), (Omb Investig 3) is actually the (position title of Omb Investig 3), so there has been quite a lot happen since you've been away. Part of it does impact on some of the material that you've given us, so I guess that the meeting is going to be broken up into two components if you like, we will talk to you about what we feel is the best way forward, hopefully for all of us.
(Omb Investig 2): And, I guess in that certain part of it, we do need some support to some of the propositions that we bring to you. So, as I said, we've formed a team, and we are looking at a whole range of issues, and unfortunately from our point of view the publicity has got out prior to us having a conversation with you, we thought we would have a conversation with you prior to the press getting hold of certain things that has transpired, I had a transcript from (name withheld) yesterday, and I did notice a certain common name in there [nervous laugh]
Reina: Sorry, I got a shock too. I had no idea that (publication – withheld) was going to come out.
(Omb Investig 2): No.
Reina: Even though I work closely with (writer name) as you actually know.
(Omb Investig 2): We were caught by surprise. But nevertheless, I think that has been very positive from our point of view.
Reina: It has had a very positive response from the community.
(Omb Investig 2): Yes. I think that already, we've had an impact. But that's a big bonus, isn't it?
(Omb Investig 2): But I guess to kick off the meeting, and (Omb Investig 3) is going to talk about the Project to you, but I've got carriage of the complaints that you've lodged to us. And it would be fair to say that what we've done with those complaints is we've used those complaints maybe not to your intention but we've certainly used those complaints as part of a foundation for what we believe might be a better outcome than what maybe you've envisaged.
So, I just don't know how to say this, but you're… the complaints that are very specific we have to respond to. But, we're seeking your support with this response, because if we were to tackle some of those specific issues, they might have a negative impact on the bigger picture that we're trying to make a far more progressive response from the agencies. So, what I'm alluding to is that we may use your complaints (and I've got a number of them here) but the majority of them are about poor reporting, and all those sort of… accountability type ones, in our Project, and address them in that format because that's the best format, and to make people far more accountable for their actions. That's the plan.
Reina: That's good.
(Omb Investig 2): So, if you're happy with that.
Reina: You'll have to talk me through it more because at the moment it's kind of general.
(Omb Investig 2): Yeah, we'll do that. But, that's the sort of direction we're going. Which leaves us with a couple of specific issues that fall outside of those things that we are tackling. Things that I'm talking about, you've mentioned specifically about tape-recording of interviews, like that interview with (alleged threatened victim – name withheld), and then I think the other one is to do with (the alleged perpetrator - name withheld) is (Omb Investig 3) with the car-park and that sort of thing.
So… they're outside of that, a couple of those there in our opinion are I guess somehow [inaudible] and I guess in comparison with the big issue, were sort of making the decision whether that will divert us away from what I think we are all on about. So, and I'll come back to that.
Reina: Yeah, we might have to because I think that (alleged perpetrator - name withheld) has done terrible things and even what he's done overtly terrible things that he seems to just… slip…
(Omb Investig 2): Yeah.
Reina: And just because he's well connected and he's in a very influential position, I just believe that he should be held accountable and where the police haven't done a proper job, to hold them accountable, it would be hard for me to just let that one go.
I feel strongly about it. I don't think anyone should be above the law.
(Omb Investig 2): We're all in agreement with that!
(Omb Investig 3): Just in relation to that, and I really want to focus on what we're doing in a sort of collaborative way… The concern that I've got (and I've got legal qualifications and background) is that the actual investigation of a threat to kill, is something that is extraordinarily difficult to prove, and in the face of the facts of the correspondence and different ways of interpreting the set of events, it is not actually going to produce the sort of result I imagine you want in terms of that particular individual.
And, I only give you a brief background in relation to (alleged criminal) who threatened people with a machine gun on top of David Jones store and they had great difficulty convicting him on that. So, it's a very difficult actual crime to prove. And, because that's the actual hook you've got with (alleged perpetrator - name withheld), I think that it won't produce the result that I imagine you want.
Reina: Yeah, can I just add one thing, there? It was very clear that (Police Officer 1) interviewed her, and didn't want to pursue it. Now, I think I was saying yesterday in my [media] interview that Police have a lot of power in deciding the outcome of the investigation just by what they decide they want to do from outset. And, it was just very clear that he just didn't want it to proceed. And he actually tried to intimidate her. I think that he should be held accountable for that because I don't believe that police should be misusing their position to determine the outcome of the investigation.
(Omb Investig 3): I agree. And we've already opened and found in the earlier stages of our work, the discretion that exists at station levels for example, in even characterizing something, as an offence, you know, particularly even a sexual offence. So, that is something that we pick up, but I guess that, you know, you have autonomy in relation to if you persist with the complaint, there is some discretion about whether or not the [relevant Department] would want to pursue it but I guess, though, as a Team, we would be reluctant to pursue that level of detail, if you like, the attitude of one or two Officers when we are in the position to influence the attitude of… the training framework that Police operate in, in relation to the attitude they take in an investigation about sexual assault.
And, I guess that we see that, in the role of the Team, is for us to take a systemic picture, and it will detract from our work, and I think probably your work, if we take particular individuals to the count. Now, we're not trying to apologize or excuse or do anything in relation to individuals in the way that your experience is of those individuals, our job would be to… if it was something to be investigated, it would be taking information from people… and what outcome do you really want in the end?
And I guess that that is what I would be saying to you… there are real difficulties with us taking that on as part of this Project. And, if it were to be pursued, then it's what the outcome for those particular individuals is likely to make a difference. And, that's something that you might like to consider about that.
But, I guess our hope is that from today, we get your support in relation to the majority of the complaints you have made in writing to us, to say that you are satisfied with the actions that we take that will be to pursue the Project work.
We will talk about that, if you want to hear about that.
Reina: Yes, probably I think what would be good, is if you explain to me everything that you're proposing, then I will have a think about it and then I'll get back to you when I've thought it through.
(Omb Investig 2): That would be good.
(Omb Investig 3): Yeah.
Reina: Because this has come as a bit of a shock to me.
(Omb Investig 2): That's why we wanted to… we could have rung you up over the phone, which would have been totally inappropriate. We wouldn't do it like that, no. Not at all.
(Omb Investig 3): There are two other things… the context stuff is that… Yesterday, the Office of Police Integrity was created, that means that every single complaint about Police is now investigated by a special Unit that is non -attached to the Ombudsman Office.
The problem for all of us conceptually, is that George Brouwer [Victorian Ombudsman] who is the Ombudsman, and is also the Director of Police Integrity. But because the focus and political discussion that's been around has been to fight police corruption, we need to have something that looks more like a Crime Commission, and this [Victorian] Government chose, 'No, we'll do it, all under an Ombudsman framework'. The outcome as of yesterday, was that 'Okay, we'll do it as a big in-between, we'll have something that, if you like, has arisen from the Ombudsman Office, through the Police Ombudsman wing of the Ombudsman, but we'll make it look like a quasi- Crime Commission. Now, that's what's happened, and there is no police complaints work that is done through the Office of the Ombudsman.
Reina: Okay. I get you.
(Omb Investig 2): That makes sense?
(Omb Investig 3): I'm glad you do, because I don't think I do.
(Omb Investig 3): I understood it until last night. All that work though is quarantined, and they are very, very strict, they've been given a lot more powers, they can do coercive interviews, and their goals will be to continue to use, if you like, individual complaints, to establish what is happening within the police force, but to do some own motion, assertive stuff in relation to finding police corruption. So, that quarantined work means that all existing police complaints go into that area. The personnel of that area are all (no, I shouldn't say all) but there are a significant number of policeman on the board, and it's a different environment from the traditional Ombudsman environment.
Reina: Yes, that's quite different, isn't it?
(Omb Investig 3): It is. And, that's the reality of the context that we're [now] working within. So, that would be where the pursuit of police complaints go - so that's an important part of the context. The other important part of the context is that (Omb Investig 2) and I are actually Police Integrity employees…
Reina: You are?
(Omb Investig 2): Yes.
(Omb Investig 3): [laugh] We are. I'll give you some background about me later. And (Omb Investig 4) an Ombudsman Victoria employee [laugh] And is the Ombudsman, I mean, Mr. Brouwer…
Reina: It's so complex, isn't it?
(Omb Investig 2): It's very complex.
(Omb Investig 3): …has decided that this is such an important area/ is (Omb Investig 3) that he wants this to be a joint Project. And, it's so that we can look at the way if you like, all the general area, which is Education, Human Services, taxi drivers, are I guess the key ones we are interested in the general area that complaints involving sexual assault in those areas are going to be looked at the same time as the way that Victorian Police are handling allegations of sexual assault. Both against officers, but also in the way that people are received, and that is (Omb Investig 3) about the attitude that individuals reporting assault face.
So, it'll have a look at the whole way that it operates within Government agencies, a whole of Government look at it. But be in a position to say for example when someone in the Disability Services is saying that they've been sexually assaulted by a worker in a Disability Service, Human Services are saying that they can't do anything until the Police have finished their investigation, Police are saying they can't really investigate the matters very well because one person has got a disability and they're both denying it and nothing happens.
So, for us to be able to look at that holistically is I guess a unique opportunity. And I guess that the sense that George Brouwer has said, even though every other area of the functions of the [Ombudsman] Office have been separated, in this area it needs to continue to operate as a joint Project. So, that's if you like the context.
What are we doing? We are reviewing all the files, the police complaints, and mainly the complaints from the Education and the Human Services area, every single complaint that has anything to do with someone alleging sexual assault. Whether or not the complaint to us is about that, maybe is not relevant, if there is a person saying they have been subject to sexual assault, or sexual misconduct, then that is a file that we are looking at, and we are entering, we've established a database, and what we're doing is looking at if you like the sort of things that people complain about, and probably the kind of things that people don't complain about, where complaints come from, where they don't come from, and then all the players, every single name that's been on the file in this Office, for the last four years in association with the complaint, would be entered on a database.
And what it will demonstrate is if there are names appearing more than once.
(Omb Investig 3): And what we hope to do with that information, and with some discussions we are having with people like yourself, but already we've met with the CASA's (Centres Against Sexual Assault), we've met already with the APP, we've met with the Witness Assistant Service to identify if you like what are common issues and we will be taking those issues with the facts that we have, and asking the key agencies how is that they collect data. What it is they do, to track employees, or for example, failure to prosecute rape cases in particular agencies, incidences of sexual assault that influence two students at the same school, stuff that might never get to police, and look at their policies and procedures, and then identify issues that are common that point to rape - systematic rape breakdown issues. And, we've already got 44 issues.
(Omb Investig 2). And, they're very significant issues, too.
Reina: Can you give a couple of examples?
Well, an example of the practice of some agencies when an accusation is made about a person with insufficient evidence to prove or proceed, or negotiate the termination and resignation occurs. That's one issue. In the early discussions we've had, we've identified issues with taxi drivers, I can't remember all of them…
(Omb Investig 2): But, in those 41 issues we've captured your issues. Things like the [tape] recording, remember, you've talked about that quite a bit, well, were going to focus some of those things.
Reina: Like, power to interview witnesses that can corroborate?
(Omb Investig 2): Yes. Well, what were looking at is partly the prosecution process that picks up things like the witnesses, it's from 'go to wo' and…without tipping what we've already found, there are a number of issues that we are going to put to the police, as we are going to put to others as well, too, by the way. But we are in the early days.
(Omb Investig 3): We will continue meeting, and we are interested in identifying those structural defects, the policy and procedure, employee screening, issues across the board, and identifying that sort of stuff, but also solutions and ways in which if you like agencies might be able to improve the collective response that they have through understandings between agencies, policies that they do implement in relation to insuring everyone has access to a CASA person, those sorts of things. And, we are interviewing everyone separately and apart, or talking to them, and I should say that it is intended to be a collaborative process that is problem-solving because we think that we have been on a problem-finding, we want to go ahead with what we think so we are getting that hard data together and confirmed through discussions with people.
Once we've got if you like consensus on what are the key areas of issue sort of stuff, we will probably as this is early days yet, so we are not committing ourselves to this, but we will see if we can actually get some problem-solving activities happening, so we might get representatives from the key agencies together saying 'These are the issues we've discovered, particularly across agencies, what are you going to do about them?'
(Omb Investig 2): And, some of these are agencies will be agencies specific too... And there are some hard issues for them to answer, by the way. There is some very difficult questions that we want answers to.
(Omb Investig 3): And, irrespective of the results of that, I think that we are increasingly heading to something that is a formal report, maybe tabled in Parliament, that established some issues hopefully and recommends some areas of change. The key aim of the Project is to improve the response of all agencies to allegations of sexual assault… To provide consistency and efficiency and timely responses… That produces the best outcome for the person that's been assaulted. I think we are going to be able to achieve that, but some of the stuff I think is relatively easy, I mean, 'Does your database talk to itself?' But that very clear message that you had is that the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing, and there is no way for tracking of what is maybe a predatory environment.
I think there are maybe some hard issues and we might not do anything apart from identify that, to make sure that's on the agenda of public debate. The conflict that exists been natural justice and privacy, and allegations as opposed to convictions, and everything in between, how the community has to not just hope that it all goes away, and I think the community also has to have clear and consistent messages about 'No means no' and the person's process and complaining has to achieve an outcome that is positive and not negative for the person.
And that we may not… I mean it would be terrific if there were long- term better policing methods and better employment methods that reduce the incidence of sexual assault in our community. That's really ambitious, but I think medium-term, the possibility is that we will improve the way people respond to allegations of people who complain about sexual assault, just to improve the experience for people who've experienced that. So, I mean that's the process, we've had six months, and we started in October, we as I said are three or four issues down the track, half a data-base full of files down the track, formal profile and public profile from the Ombudsman, the fact that it was publicized in the paper yesterday, the first job Mr Brouwer did as the Director of Police Integrity was to instigate a Joint Project in terms of understanding and if not investigating the way in which at a systematic level allegations of sexual assault are dealt with.
You know, there are people doing lots of work in lots of areas, and we don't want to, we are not going to repeat stuff that other people are doing, it's a unique opportunity because of where the Ombudsman sits in regard to Government Departments and where the Director of Police Integrity sits now in relation to Police in that it IS a whole of Government perspective, there is hardly anybody who has that opportunity. And we have an opportunity at a practical level. The Law Reform Commission has done a great look at the Law, and great consultative process, but our job will be to actually look at the forms people fill in when somebody is knocking on the door of, you know... (name of suburb - withheld) Police Station. That type of result, and, to make sure I think there has been already education setting up of the special Unit, we have contacts now, and there are other Units dedicated to it, and there is an understanding and acknowledgement that nobody is doing it very well.
[End of Side One/Tape One]
(Omb Investig 3): With the experience of individuals, there will be multi-agencies involved. And people need to be able to know all the way through that process, what the next step is, and expect to be treated with dignity and respect and not have to take poor attitudes from people… and if convictions aren't possible, which is the case for a significant amount, it's not enough to say there is no conviction so no action.
I guess my background (details of Omb Investigator 3's background - withheld) and decided I wanted to investigate Police [laugh].
Reina: That's funny [laugh]
(Omb Investig 2): [laugh} It IS funny, isn't it?
(Omb Investig 3): And now, I guess, I get the best of both worlds [laugh] where some of that old experience goes out the door.
And, (Omb Investig 4)'s got (qualifications specified - withheld) doing (type of work - withheld).
Reina: [to (Omb Investig 4)] (Acknowledging Omb Investig 4's employment details - withheld).
(Omb Investig 4): It is. Yeah. Yeah.
Reina: So, (employment details of Omb Investig 4 – withheld).
(Omb Investig 4): I did. Yeah. (Further details of employment - withheld). So… Yeah.
I've been here (details of employment – withheld)
(Omb Investig 2): I think the Ombudsman did as best he could through recruiting a fresh team for this Project.
Reina: [laugh] Excellent.
(Omb Investig 3): So, that's the advantage of our perspective is the, and it is, and we are very happy to be involved in this.
(Reina??): Well, (Omb Investig 4), I would think that you would have had a lot of experience in this…
(Omb Investig 4): I have, yeah, very much so.
Reina: You would know this stuff very well.
(Omb Investig 4): Yeah, and none of it is terribly surprising.
Reina: Well, looks like you've seen the worst of it, both of you.
(Omb Investig 4): Yes.
(Omb Investig 3): Yeah, so you think that you can't be shocked, but you can…
(Omb Investig 4): Yeah.
(Omb Investig 3): I guess that's, well, our backgrounds are all diverse, but our commitment to making a difference and improving things are clear.
(Omb Investig 2): So, that brings us back to what we we're talking about. The project has two components, there's the Project part, which is taking a fair bit of our time, it does have issues like we've said in relation to the new formation of the two Offices and then there's your complaints. So, we're capturing them, in total but we need to talk about those other ones that you have to think about what you feel.
Louise: Some of them I guess would be chopped up and chucked in the Police Integrity side of things and others will be kept.
(Omb Investig 2): Well, what would happen to them is that we believe we are picking them up anyway.
Reina: I would want answers to each individual complaint though. I don't want it all just to be incorporated into a general Project and referred to generally. I don't think that I would be satisfied…
(Omb Investig 3): OK. So in relation to your - I think there are ten in your letter?
(Omb Investig 2): I don't know the number off the top of my head. It would be something around that.
(Omb Investig 3): So, you want something in response to each of those and…
(Omb Investig 2): And where we see they fit in, is that what you're saying?
Reina: No, I just would hope that they will be investigated, and there will be specific responses to each of those. Just from the top of my head, I don't think I would be happy if for example the failure of (Police Officer 2) to adequately investigate the complaints against the organized child pornography network- in the late 90's. For that to never have a specific answer, for that just to be responded to in some sort of generic report on general police failure to treat these issues seriously.
I would like to see (Police Officer 2) and the others to be held accountable for their individual failure to investigate properly.
And I would like to see, hopefully, as a result of them being held accountable for their improper conduct for an investigation to be instigated.
I don't trust the Victoria Police still, I just think they're full of crap… excuse my language.
(Omb Investig 2): That's OK.
Reina: Their supposed investigation into the four re-opened cases has been a complete whitewash all designed to vindicate them from the findings of the Ombudsman. So, I would like the Ombudsman to be overseeing this subsequent investigation but it's my firm belief - and that of the victims - that at best, those police officers did not adequately investigate their complaints, and at worst, the police actively covered it up, because some of them are 'on the take'.
(Omb Investig 3): Weren't some of those issues covered [in the previous Ombudsman investigation]?
Reina: [firmly] No, they're all new.
(Omb Investig 3): This is… This is… I thought that the… the… key bit of that was in relation to… and I'm sorry, I haven't… I had a look at the report that they made… But not in any great detail… but that… the… um… the… I thought that the Crime Stoppers allegation… or am I getting confused?
Reina: Yep. You're getting confused. The Crime Stoppers issue was dealt with by (Ombusdman Investigators 5 and 6)'s report.
But, I have reported the existence of an organized paedophile network and child pornography network that's also trafficking drugs and is also associated with unsolved murders, I reported that to police…and they made a mockery of it. And then I subsequently found out that they've received numerous reports independently identifying the same network, however.
And, when those reports were made, the same thing happened…that they weren't investigated properly, the witnesses were intimidated, and nothing's come of it.
And it's [child paedophile and pornography network] still going on.
(Omb Investig 3): Well, that's a very good example of what I think the Project may address. My understanding is that the way that data is collected requires… and we are in the early stages yet… that there may be too much discretion given to somebody in regard to the way that data is accessed.
When somebody says, 'I want to tell you about my experience,' the way that person may be received may be totally up to the discretion of the person whose there.
In investigating the previous allegations in relation to the paedophile network there have been no witnesses to the fact… in fact, there's been nobody who has said that, 'On the (date – withheld), I presented at (name of suburb - withheld) Police Station and this is what I said'.
So, it's very difficult for us to investigate that. It's very difficult for anyone to investigate that…without witnesses as to the fact. I mean, you've given your…
Reina: I have witnesses. There are witnesses who can.
(Omb Investig 3): Well, my understanding is that…
Reina: Well, there are witnesses… three of them to substantiate that they independently made a complaint to (Police Officer 2, Police Officer 3, Police Officer 4 – names withheld) regarding that same network.
(Omb Investig 3): Not in relation to the Child Care Centre…in relation to something else.
Reina: In relation to an organized paedophile and child pornography network that's also trafficking drugs and associated with a number of unsolved murders in this State [Victoria].
(Omb Investig 3): See, I don't know if anybody's got the names of those witnesses.
Reina: No, I haven't given them, yet because I was told that the file… Actually, I have given them, and I was actually told that the file would be brought up… collected… and that you wouldn't contact the victims until I got back so I could…
(Omb Investig 3): I understand the names that you faxed to (Omb Investig 1) there we're some names that we're email to (Omb Investig 1) in that related to the (alleged perpetrator – name withheld) creche.
Reina: No. In the last meeting I gave you the names of the three.
(Omb Investig 2): I just need to check that. I'm not debating that.
Reina: We did. Because, we absolutely had a heart attack about it because we know that it is such a sensitive case…
(Omb Investig 2): Well, we'll revisit that.
Reina: Because this is an essential issue. This is like the key issue.
(Omb Investig 3): That's right, because we haven't contacted anyone, and I saw some names and I know that they we're actually people who we're associated with the…
(Omb Investig 2): [to Reina] Those we're the names you sent through. Remember, they we're the names you sent through.
Reina: Yes. Separate. That's separate, a whole new complaint.
(Omb Investig 2): Yes.
(Omb Investig 3): OK.
Reina: Quite independent of the last complaint. In fact, the only thing that overlaps is the investigating Officers of which we have serious concerns.
(Omb Investig 3): Which is why we are, in our files, identifying anyone who has anything to do with… just to see all the different themes in relation to that. So, we'll go back, in relation to those names, and…
(Omb Investig 2): Yeah.
(Omb Investig 3): And…
Reina: Can we go through, actually, I need to put some money in my car, So, can we sort of go through…
(Omb Investig 2): Can we stop this [the tape] then? Are you happy with that?
(Omb Investig 3): OK. That's right. We'll go through all of this. And we'll have an action plan, in relation to each one
That would be great. And actually, we need to sort of… we need to clarify between you know, the difference the old and the new, the difference between the general and the specific, and the whole lot.
(Omb Investig 3): Great, that's terrific.
(Omb Investig 2): [speaking to tape] 2:55. Thank you.
[Tape stopped for a short break]
(Omb Investig 3): OK. So we'll go back and listen to the original tape you had… with (Omb Investig 2) on it…
(Omb Investig 2): And just… just for the tape, I make the time about: 3:05.
(Omb Investig 3): OK. The other two bits of that… This is all about how they [the police] proceed with previous reports, what they've done with them, their ability to actually say when there are two or three similar reports and match that up. The other allegations are, failure to investigate allegations of serious crimes, and the minimization of existence of previous reports.
So, you've got corroborative witnesses in relation to the particular, which is something that can be subject to investigation. When we say can, it's possible that it can be subject to investigation, but these other matters are clearly really something that we hope to address in relation to… the database and the information exchange and the ability to actually track multiple offenders or similar offences is a key issue. It's an issue for all the organizations. We hope to be able to do that.
The next area relates to…
Reina: Can I just relate to the first issues?
(Omb Investig 2): Yes.
Reina: Our main contention is… that there is a criminal network that is operating in Victoria, and it's responsible for child pornography and the distribution of it, child prostitution, and trafficking in drugs, and it's also committed a number of unsolved murders in this State. Our main contention is that police are protecting them.
(Omb Investig 3): Yep.
Reina: It's not only that this case demonstrates all of these failings to document cases adequately, the point is that it is being protected, the victims who were abused as part of this network as children can testify to the fact that police officers we're actually being paid off so that this criminal network remained untouchable. So that's why we want it to be investigated thoroughly, and for there to be a report of the kind of quality that came out as a result of the last complaint. There is clearly something really bad happening in this State, and it needs to be sorted out.
It's organized crime, and it's being allowed to continue because… There are a couple of bad eggs in the right places.
(Omb Investig 3): I'm not sure either the Office of Police Integrity or…
I'm absolutely certain that the Ombudsman of Victoria can't deliver that level of investigation, can't do that.
Reina: Can't investigate organized crime and police protection of organized crime?
(Omb Investig 3): No. Can't.
It can investigate the allegations of the conduct of corrupt police officers… possibly. And, that's once its new coercive powers have been tried and tested in Court.
Reina: I believe that there is at least enough to say that the repeated allegations made independently made by independent witnesses of the organized crime network has not been adequately investigated.
And, through that investigation I'm hoping that you will find evidence of police corruption and police officers being 'paid off' by this network.
And then, as I know that you can't actually investigate crimes as such, just to have the acknowledgement that there is a scandal of this type of organized crime that will lead to some action being taken - even if it is by the Victoria Police. That's what I was hoping.
(Omb Investig 3): I mean… I… The… The… The role of the Office of Police Integrity as I said before is relatively new, it's bringing a new face to Victoria in relation to non- Police if you like investigation of crime. Still, within that Office the people who are actually writing off the briefs and producing if you like the paperwork that will produce a day in court of people. And they're the only ones in Victoria, under the Law that are able to prepare a brief of those, criminal prosecution. So, that's one issue.
The extent to which there are witnesses to facts saying that, 'I said, on such a such a day, and nothing's happened,' you know, we'll have a look at that, and what we can do in relation of that. Because we are interested in the experience that individuals have suffered - or alleging abuse - may have faced. You know… but we are conscious of our limitations particularly now, in relation to our own limitations in terms of what we can do with that.
But…If we could get back to you in relation to that.
But, we won't able to take steps without VicPol having the carriage (sorry, when I say 'we', I mean, I'm talking about the Office of Police Integrity, not actually talking about us) having sufficient… [inaudible sentence]
(Omb Investig 3): What I would hope… would be achieved… is possibly nothing, in relation to that past ring, even if it's still operating.
What I hope we would be able to achieve is that people would be coming to police from now on, or after what we recommend gets implemented, that whether they [victims] come from (country town X, country town Y, City Z – names of localities withheld), say, 'This is what happened to me', there is enough of a [police] database [for police] to say, 'That happened there, that happened there, who else is involved? We've actually got a picture that allows us to covertly get the evidence we need to do this.'
Maybe some of the stuff that's recently come to light in relation to the customs stuff and international and whole other stuff the likelihood is that some of those names might appear. But, it will be witnesses to the fact and the evidence that 'I was there, this is what happened'.
Reina: I think that is very good for the general Project, I think it is wonderful. It is fantastic. We are totally supportive of that, and we will do whatever we can to support it.
What we do want to see is a specific investigation into our specific complaints with outcomes.
(Omb Investig 3): Yes.
Reina: It's proved difficult to address these issues. We've tried to get Victoria Police as have others, to investigate this organized crime network, and have just been placed with brick walls.
(Omb Investig 2): Have they [Victoria Police] written back to you, or anything? Have they given you no feedback, or…
Reina: In relation to this paedophile network, they [Victoria Police], when you go through the documentation, you will see that they have tried to deceive us at every level in order not to investigate it. So we have had no satisfaction at all from Victoria Police just in relation to that. In terms of the other four investigations, the re-opened ones - they've given us limited feedback. But, then, I've been away [on a break] for six weeks.
The seriousness of the crimes that are continually being committed by that [paedophile and child pornography] network are such a degree that I would hope that the whole community and the Government would want to see it finished. Something has got to be done about, because children are [presently] continuing to be abused by that network, and they have been abused for a number of years and have not received any justice at all, and they're being allowed to continue.
(Omb Investig 3: (personal details – withheld) because I have a different view of what the justice system can achieve. It's incompatible with my personality that is of optimism. I guess we will look at the witnesses to the fact and then make a decision in relation to what course of action can come from our team.
(Omb Investig 2): We would need to prepare what we viewed from that material. We are picking up the response that you are seeking, which is a response to each one of those [the formal complaints]. And, we are not fobbing them off, by the way, we are certainly not doing that, I don't want to give you that impression.
Reina: It's too serious to fob off.
(Omb Investig 2): Well, we're certainly not doing that. We just want to be sure that we do it right. That's the process.
Reina: And, can I just say before you do, that they are worthy of proper and thorough and rigorous investigation.
(Section deleted about a specific uninvestigated murder case, due to need to protect alleged victims.) It needs to be looked at - it can't just be pushed to the side, or incorporated into a general report.
(Omb Investig 3): But, what we know about child pornography, even extensively in investigations, that the outcome it achieves the best for some people is never enough. There is never… I mean, the number of people that achieve a satisfactory justice process in criminal, going to jail, getting a sentence that gives the victims some sort of closure, is by far [inaudible].
And, I guess the sense of…what we want though in terms of our involvement in looking at what administrative inaction or inappropriate action has taken place that's a legitimate thing for us, or if you like, the [Ombudsman] Office to undertake. But, to achieve people who have abused children, being prosecuted successfully and jailed successfully with a non-traumatic, criminal justice process for those witnesses is very difficult.
And, I don't think that is going to be able to be achieved without a concerted adoption by the community as a whole, that that is totally unacceptable behaviour, there needs to be early warning, big education stuff, and adoption of some of the Law Reform Commission stuff.
I guess we're not going to paint ourselves into anything like that big a picture, we're going to nibble our way down… get the training a bit better, lets work towards something that is approached collaboratively, as a community, that it does a cultural change.
Reina: Yes, I'm totally supportive of that. I think it's terrific. I think it's wonderful. But, I do feel strongly that the issue of organized crime and the existence of police corruption and this example of it… the Truth needs to come out.
(Alleged perpetrator – name withheld), one of the key offenders, may never get prosecuted. He may never. But, for those kids that have been abused by him, at least for the police officers who failed to investigate the reports that it be acknowledged that it wasn't investigated properly, and that it should have been, should bring some vindication to them, and it's one step forward, if you know what I mean.
(Omb Investig 3): Yeah, I do understand that. I'm just not sure that anybody can achieve that. But, we'll have a look at it.
Louise: So, the take of the Ombudsman at the moment, is that he is the… That nothing can really be done productively on Reina's allegations given the current framework that we've got to work with and thus the need for the work of this Project to highlight…
(Omb Investig 3): The acceptance that the Police processes on the allegations of sexual assault are inadequate has been taken on board. The ability of this Office to investigate corrupt officers who are involved currently, there is no jurisdiction to look at ex- service officers, so we're looking at events that happened ten or fifteen years ago, the chances… we would need good... any successful outcome would cause the police to have good, irrefutable evidence that previous reports we're made, AND intentionally mismanaged.
Reina: You would be able to see, I am sure, when you recall the file that it wasn't dealt with adequately. You'll be convinced of that. Even if it's to the point that they [specialist police] failed to document the case properly. Then when you put together the bigger picture, there's subsequent denial that previous reports were made about this network and the lengths that they went into that they took to convince me that there weren't previous complaints (and I am working with the victims that made it) that it all points to the bigger picture that there is something seriously amiss here.
(Omb Investig 3): Well, we'll have a look at that. We'll go on to have a look at the issues around the conduct of the manner of the interview with (alleged victim – name withheld), I guess OUR view is that that detracts… that we can interview… that if (Police Officer 1) was to be interviewed, his… um… if the conduct of his interview was called into question, that most likely it would have been a judgement call and there is no consequences in relation to a judgement call.
Reina: The thing is, that again, it points to an overall picture because not only did he…
[End of tape two]
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