The Chief Examiner plays an important role in combating and reducing the incidence of organised crime in Victoria.
The Chief Examiner can use special powers (called ‘coercive’ powers) to investigate alleged organised crime offences. This includes the power to require a person to:
- produce documents or things
- attend to give evidence at a private examination
The Chief Examiner’s role is to gather information and intelligence about organised crime. The Chief Examiner does not decide a person’s guilt or innocence, or lay criminal charges.
The Supreme Court of Victoria can also require a person to attend before the Chief Examiner to give evidence, or produce documents or things, or both.
Safeguards on the use of the powers
The Chief Examiner can only use coercive powers if the Supreme Court of Victoria has made a ‘coercive powers order’ in relation to the investigation of an organised crime offence. Such orders are made on the application of a police officer.
The Supreme Court may only make a coercive powers order if satisfied that it is in the public interest to authorise the use of the powers in an investigation. The Court must consider the seriousness of the alleged offence and the impact of the use of the powers on the community.
The Public Interest Monitor reviews and may make submissions on applications for coercive powers orders.
Coercive powers can only be used to investigate the alleged organised crime offences specified in the coercive powers order, and for a limited time.
The Chief Examiner’s independence
To require a person (a ‘witness’) to attend before her at a certain time and place to give evidence and/or produce documents or things, the Chief Examiner must issue that person with a witness summons.
If the witness is held in custody, the Chief Examiner must make a custody order requiring that the witness be brought before her to give evidence at an examination.
The Chief Examiner is independent of Victoria Police. They alone are responsible for deciding whether to issue a witness summons or custody order.
The Chief Examiner must be satisfied that it is reasonable in the circumstances to do so, after considering:
- the value of the information the witness may provide
- the witness’s age and any ‘mental impairment’
The Supreme Court of Victoria can also issue a witness summons or custody order requiring a person to attend or be brought before the Chief Examiner in these circumstances.
Organised crime offences
Coercive powers can only be used in the investigation of an ‘organised crime offence’.
An organised crime offence may involve any type of crime. It must be a serious offence attracting a maximum penalty of at least 10 years imprisonment and involve 2 or more offenders. The offending must also:
- be well-planned and organised
- form part of systemic and continuing criminal activity, and
- be committed for profit, gain, power or influence; or sexual gratification where the victim is a child
An organised crime offence can also include a serious offence where 2 or more of the alleged offenders are a ‘declared individual’ or a ‘declared organisation member’.
People who can be required to attend
The Chief Examiner can issue a witness summons to any person they believe will have evidence, a document or thing that is relevant to their investigation. This may include a member of the public, or a representative of a company or public body.
Children under the age of 16 years cannot be required to attend an examination, or to produce a document or thing. If you are under 16 years and have received a witness summons, you do not need to attend. However, you must advise the Chief Examiner in writing and provide proof of your age (such as a birth certificate).
Witnesses attending to give evidence at an examination or to produce documents or things have important legal rights and obligations. These relate to:
- the compulsory requirement to attend and give evidence and/or produce documents or other things
- legal representation
- the presence of a parent or guardian, interpreter, or independent person at an examination, in certain circumstances
Reviewed 24 March 2021