Victoria Police is the body charged with protecting Victorian citizens’ rights. With that power comes accountability mechanisms to ensure its proper exercise and consequences where the power has been misused.

If you believe you have been the subject of police misconduct, you have several options. First, you can submit a complaint to either the Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC), Victoria Police’s Police Conduct Unit (PCU) or directly through your local police station.

Lodging a complaint against the police could save you time and money. You can submit the complaints yourself online and they will then go through an investigation process. Be aware both the IBAC and the PCU provide online complaint forms, but these do not automatically save upon submission, so you should make sure to save a copy of your complaint for you own records.

IBAC will only investigate matters it deems as serious or systemic corruption and misconduct, and refer all others to the PCU for internal investigation. It can often be the case that investigations are finalised with limited action taken and limited reasoning given about the outcome, leaving many complainants dissatisfied.

In some cases, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) or the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) may be appropriate complaint bodies. These organisations focus on public awareness and non-litigious dispute resolution.

You may also have the option to pursue civil litigation against the police. As of 1 July 2014, Victoria Police operates under the Victoria Police Act 2013 (Vic) (‘the Act’). Section 74 of the Act says that the State of Victoria is liable for police misconduct, rather than the individual police members themselves.

In order to initiate civil proceedings, you must first have a cause of action. This means you must have a reason recognised by the law to bring court proceedings.

The following represent some causes of action common to police misconduct matters:

  • Assault;
  • Battery;
  • False imprisonment (including wrongful arrest);
  • Malicious prosecution;
  • Misfeasance in public office; and

In order to establish you cause of action, you will have to prove a number of elements on a balance of probabilities. These elements differ for each cause of action.

Bear in mind that according to section 72(1) of the Act, the State will only accept liability for the police’s wrongdoing if it was committed in the ‘performance or purported performance of the officer’s duties’.

This is the first of our Police Accountability series. Stay tuned for future entries on how to establish each cause of action.

If you feel you or someone you know has been the subject of police misconduct, contact us on 9890 3321.