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The matter of complaints handling has been considered by the committee
in previous examinations of AFP annual reports. For example in its examination
of the 2010-11 AFP annual report, the committee recommended that in future
annual reports, the AFP 'include the average number of days taken to resolve
cases for each category of complaint, to enable the committee to better monitor
the timeliness of complaint resolution'. The government responded to the
recommendation in September 2012 noting that the 2011-12 report would provide
information on the average number of days taken to resolve complaint matters in
relation to Serious Misconduct/Category 3 investigations.
In compliance with the committee's recommendation, the AFP provided
details in the 2012-13 annual report in relation to the timeliness of category
In 2012-13, the AFP received a total of 233 category 3 complaints
(compared to 223 received in 2011-12). In addition, there were 167 outstanding
category 3 complaints in 2012-13 compared to 258 in 2011-12.
The AFP stated that it is committed to ensuring complaints are resolved in a
timely manner and has continued to focus on reducing any backlog.
The average number of days open for all category 3 complaints submitted,
including those still in progress, is 82 days.
A substantial reduction in the average running time of category 3
complaints was achieved over the review period. The annual report noted that
there was a sixfold reduction in category 3 complaints open for over 365 days.
In 2012-13, the AFP received a total of 358 category 1 and 2 complaints
which is a reduction on 390 complaints in 2011-12.
Commonwealth Ombudsman's findings
In September 2013, the annual report of the Commonwealth Ombudsman
(Ombudsman) in relation to activities under Part V of the Australian Federal
Police Act 1979 (AFP Act) was published.
The Ombudsman was provided with a list of all complaints closed between 1 July
2012 and 28 February 2013 (the review period) which comprised 564 closed
complaints. The Ombudsman conducted a review over two periods: part one
covering the period 1 July 2012 to 31 October 2012, and part two from 1
November 2012 to 28 February 2013. The Ombudsman found that there were:
338 closed complaints in the first period;
226 closed complaints in the second period.
The Ombudsman examined a sample of 183 complaints of which 106
complaints were reviewed in the first period and 77 complaints were reviewed in
the second period.
Reviewing the comprehensiveness and adequacy of complaint handling, the Ombudsman's
key findings were that there was 'an improvement in performance against the
benchmarks between our first and second inspections this year'.
A year earlier, the Ombudsman's report had noted that 'processes the AFP
implemented in 2011...have been effective.
The Ombudsman noted that the AFP recorded a reduction of 36 per cent in
the time it took to finalise category 3 complaints:
...in 90 per cent of cases, the average number of days to
finalise category 3 complaints for the period of 1 July 2011 to 30 March 2012
was 447 days. For the period 1 July 2012 to 30 March 2013 the average number of
days to finalise category 3 complaints was 284 days.
The committee is encouraged by the initiatives undertaken by the AFP to
improve complaint management. These initiatives have clearly reduced the
backlog of complaints and improved the timeliness of handling individual
The Surveillance Devices Act 2004 (Surveillance Act) restricts
the use, communication and publication of information obtained through the use
of surveillance devices. The Surveillance Act also establishes procedures for
law enforcement agencies to obtain permission to use such devices in relation
to 'criminal investigations and the recovery of children, and imposes
requirements for the secure storage and destruction of records in connection
with the use of surveillance devices'.
Under subsection 6(1) of the Surveillance Act, the term 'law enforcement
agency' includes the AFP, the ACC, ACLEI and state and territory police forces.
The Ombudsman's report into inspections under the Surveillance Act states
that it found the AFP to be compliant with the Act with the exception of four
cases relating to the use and retrieval of tracking devices.
One of these cases was self‑disclosed to the Ombudsman by the AFP. However,
the annual report notes that the High Tech Crime Operations had received an assessment
from the Ombudsman which found the AFP was compliant with the Telecommunications
(Interceptions and Access) Act 1979 for telecommunications interception and
described as having good process with regards to its procedures for handling
Review period, sample and focus
The Ombudsman's inspection of AFP surveillance device records was
conducted from 4–6 March 2013. It focused on surveillance device warrants
and authorisations (and associated records) that expired or were revoked during
the period 1 July to 31 December 2012 as well as records relating to the
destruction of information carried out during the same period. A report of the
results of the inspection was provided to the AFP on 27 August 2013.
While all the records held by the respective agencies under the Surveillance Act
are potentially subject to inspection, under the Ombudsman's discretion,
the inspections were limited to 'those warrants and authorisations that had
expired or were revoked during the relevant inspection period'.
The Ombudsman inspected results related to 86 warrants and
authorisations (a 31 per cent sample) and records relating to the
destruction of information obtained under 72 warrants and authorisations (a 67
per cent sample).
Under section 42 of the Surveillance Act, a warrant may be issued
in relation to the investigation of a relevant offence where it becomes
apparent that there will be a need for extraterritorial surveillance.
The Ombudsman's inspection found the AFP compliant with the requirements
of the Surveillance Act except for four instances.
The AFP self-disclosed that it had not complied with section 39 of the Surveillance
Act in relation to one case in which it had 'applied and was granted a tracking
device authorisation (rather than a warrant) in relation to extraterritorial
In addition, the AFP did not notify the Attorney-General of extraterritorial
surveillance in accordance with subsection 42(6) of the Surveillance Act.
The Ombudsman made no recommendations as a result of the inspection,
although a 'number of suggestions were made regarding how the AFP could better
comply with relevant provisions under the Act.'
The Ombudsman further noted that the AFP 'initiated an internal review and...as a
result, AFP guidance regarding extraterritorial surveillance has been reviewed
On 19 March 2012, the committee tabled its report into Commonwealth
unexplained wealth legislation and arrangements.
At its public hearing into the AFP's annual report, the committee asked the AFP
for an update on unexplained wealth at the federal level. The Commissioner
replied that the States and Territories were beginning to recognise the need
for federal arrangements due to the current jurisdictional limitations of the
Commonwealth in this area. However, the States and Territories were also eager
to ensure that the resources are evenly distributed. Commissioner Negus
A lot of it does rest on the states' and territories'
confidence that they will get an appropriate share of this type of money.
Again, from our perspective, we are more than happy to foster that and to look
at appropriate sharing based on resource inputs and other things that should go
to states and territories as well...we just want a model that will work, and is
fair and equitable to everyone who is putting in.
The committee received a report from the Commonwealth Ombudsman
regarding the AFP's involvement in controlled operations under Part 1AB of the Crimes
Act 1914 during the preceding 12 months. The report was provided in
accordance with section 10 of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law
Enforcement Act 2010. The committee noted the report and has received it as
The committee congratulates the AFP on an extremely productive and
successful year in respect of operations, investigations and improved
The committee recognises that collaboration and cooperation both across Commonwealth
agencies, state boundaries and international borders is central to contemporary
law enforcement. Over the review period, the AFP has achieved exceptional
results which reflect the agency's determination to build relationships with domestic
and international partners and contribute to whole-of-government efforts. These
efforts are matched by a focus on improving internal processes and implementing
more efficient procedures.
Mr Bert van Manen MP
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