Presentation on theme: "STANDING STRAIGHT IN THE BOX A PAPER BY GREG SMITH, BARRISTER AND DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS FOR NEW SOUTH WALES."— Presentation transcript:
STANDING STRAIGHT IN THE BOX A PAPER BY GREG SMITH, BARRISTER AND DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS FOR NEW SOUTH WALES
The theme of this Conference, Ethics Overboard – No Apologies, would be seen by many as accurately describing the culture of Australia and many other parts of the world. … the need for sound ethics and promotion of the truth has never been greater in this country.
What is Truth? Truthfulness is one of the greatest and appealing virtues. Recall the lines from a beautiful Irish love song: "Twas not her beauty alone that won me. Oh no, twas the truth in her eyes ever burning, that made me love Mary, the Rose of Tralee."
Religious perspective sees truth as uprightness in human action and speech. This is called truthfulness, sincerity or candour. Truth or truthfulness is the virtue which consists in showing oneself true in deeds and truthful in words and in guarding against duplicity, dissimulation and hypocrisy.
Ian Temby QC: Police officers have to deal with some vile people. But that cannot justify them becoming vile. So it is with the truth. Public officials of all sorts, and police officers especially, must maintain the highest standards even if those with whom society requires them to deal are frequently guilty of reprehensible behaviour. If the police sink to the standard of criminals, whether as to truth or otherwise, the society will suffer grievously.
"What all this comes down to is that wrongful means must not be used to achieve noble ends. There is no point in trying to enshrine that proposition in a rule or regulation. It is simply a question of integrity, and that depends on organisations be imbued with an ethical sense, and the ultimate moral responsibility of individual officers."
TO BE A TRUTHFUL WITNESS How can a witness ensure that he/she tells the truth and the whole truth in a way that is clearly understood by the Tribunal and those present?
1. Witnesses dont ask the questions An answer which is not responsive to the question will be rightly objectionable, for example: A witness, Bob Jones, an employee of the Planning Department of a suburban Council, is called before the ICAC to give evidence about seeing his boss, Daniel Allen meeting in a local pub with a local property Developer, Peter Brown, who had earlier in the same week tried to bribe Jones to influence the making of a favourable recommendation on a controversial development application to a local council. Other evidence establishes that Allen wrote a highly favourable report to Council, strongly recommending approval.
2. The answer may not be relevant to the Inquiry. That answer is clearly objectionable as it is non- responsive. Also it expresses an opinion which may have no weight at all.
3. The Person examining the Witness may only be interested in obtaining part of what the witness can say. His suspicion may have no weight; He may prompt lengthier cross-examination; He may be seen as having an axe to grind; He may expose himself as an informer
4. But what if witness can give very relevant evidence but no question asked seeks an answer which would allow such evidence to be given?
A simple solution is to seek to speak to the counsel assisting or prosecutor during the next interval in the witnesss evidence, if any, and to inform him of the additional material.
This is important, particularly if the witness has remembered things whilst being examined which are not set out in any statement or other document or interview he/she has provided.
If this is not possible, the witness should prepare a written comment on the additional material and either post it or give it to someone involved in the inquiry. This is a far more satisfactory way of dealing with these problems than by saying too much in the witness box.
If a witness or informer is timid or wishes to remain anonymous, there are procedures available to assist this wish.
Persons who believe they have relevant information concerning corrupt or other criminal behaviour may seek confidentiality before they disclose such information.
5. Problems for Witnesses Despite all alternatives to keep a whistleblower witnesss information as confidential as possible, there are sometimes occasions where a Commissioner decides that such a witness has to give evidence in a public hearing which implicates or embarrasses persons in superior positions to him/her in employment.
6. Statutory Protection There are three sections of the PIC Act, which mirror sections of the ICAC Act, which protect witnesses against dismissal or other damage to employment. 114 Dismissal of witness, or person assisting Commission, by employer 113 Injury to witness or person assisting Commission 118 Contempt
8. Protected Disclosures Act 1994 3 Object (1) The object of this Act is to encourage and facilitate the disclosure, in the public interest, of corrupt conduct, maladministration and serious and substantial waste in the public sector by:
(a) enhancing and augmenting established procedures for making disclosures concerning such matters, and (b) protecting persons from reprisals that might otherwise be inflicted on them because of those disclosures, and (c) providing for those disclosures to be properly investigated and dealt with.
Sections 8 and 20 of the Protected Disclosures Act give added protection to a witness or a whistleblower
s.8 - Disclosures must be made by public officials s.20- Protection against reprisals
I believe that some of the greatest examples of courage, namely assistance given by whistleblowers, go largely unheralded. The reasons for these omissions include political bias; the desire for anonymity; the annoyance to vested interests caused by the revelations; plus the fact that often, the truth hurts.
Brian Martin, in his Whistleblower's Handbook rightly states: "Society desperately needs principled and courageous people, and it needs them to be successful in exposing problems and exploring solutions."
Such people are most vital in the fight to restore decency, honesty and security to our troubled society. I encourage these heroes and heroines to come forward and tell what they know, notwithstanding the pitfalls, for the sake of a better society, because as so eloquently predicted in the Gospel of St John: "the truth will set you free.