Decisions in hundreds of disciplinary cases concerning Queensland police officers could be revoked, following a court decision.
- Last year, the Supreme Court rules in favour of two officers, leading to the findings
- Commissioner Carroll says 26 dismissals could be affected
- An independent committee will deal with the cases
Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll has confirmed up to 300 cases will be reviewed, after the court of appeal determined the police service had been conducting disciplinary police proceedings in an “invalid way”.
University of Queensland Law Professor Graeme Orr said the cases were considered “void”.
“It’s as if they never occurred because the person who made them wasn’t properly appointed to that role,” he said.
Last year, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of two police officers, Detective Senior Sergeant David Cousins and Sergeant William Johnson, who were subject to disciplinary action.
The court heard that when referring cases subject to disciplinary action, a delegate for the police commissioner would refer to a “prescribed officer” without stating who that was, or their ranking.
The Queensland Police Service appealed that decision, but it was dismissed last month.
The court ruling affects cases from November 2019 to late 2022.
Acting Deputy Commissioner Mark Wheeler — who will head a committee looking into the cases — said a lot of cases will not be affected.
“In many occasions, people who will be affected have actually already been dealt with … in some circumstances, community service,” he said.
But Commissioner Carroll says of most concern were 26 cases where officers were dismissed.
The police commissioner confirmed this could include actions taken against officers as a result of the 2022 inquiry into Queensland Police Culture.
Legal representative for the two police officers, Calvin Gnech, said it could mean sacked, sanctioned or demoted officers who were subject to disciplinary proceedings may now be entitled to compensation.
“[That could mean] backpay, reintroduction of any rank that was taken, depending on where the matter ends up, possibly compensation, and [in some of the cases] the matters be re-heard again.”
Mr Gnech said it could also mean some officers who were fired, could be re-hired.
Committee to deal with cases
Commissioner Carroll said the independent committee led by Acting Deputy Commissioner Wheeler will look into every case that has been affected by the court ruling.
“These matters range from very different types of conduct, including for example, domestic violence, sexual harassment, misuse of information and drugs and even minor matters,” she said.
“I want people to know that we’re dealing with this extremely seriously, we have senior people in the room to make those decisions as required and in a really rapid fashion.
“We want to deal with this quickly but we want to be thorough.
“We will not be able to deal with this in a matter of days.”
Mr Gnech welcomed the move, but said it should have happened earlier.
“One would have hoped that such a committee would have been formed far earlier than now,” he said.
“We wrote to the Queensland Police Service as far back as May 2021 outlining our concerns.”
The police commissioner confirmed today that she was aware of this, but said, “the legal advice was that we should actually continue with this”.
“We sought three pieces of legal advice. In good faith we’ve now looked at it and are abiding by the outcome of the court.”