A Royal Commission is established to investigate, in a public forum, any matter of public importance with a view to determining the facts surrounding the matter/s under investigation.
You are entitled to be represented for these hearings. Dribbin & Brown Criminal Lawyers have represented a number of parties in relation to Royal Commission hearings.
At the conclusion of a Royal Commission hearing and the consideration of submissions by interested or affected parties, the Commission will compile a report, containing its findings and recommendations.
These findings will usually contain a number of recommendations, including policy or legislative reforms and may also include a referral of matters to the Director of Public Prosecutions, for criminal prosecutions.
For further information contact Melbourne’s leading Criminal Law Firm .
A Royal Commission is established by either the Governor General, or by the Governor in Council, depending on whether it is a Commonwealth or a State enquiry.
Royal Commissions are constituted by a Commissioner (usually a Judge) who sits together with a number of other Commissioners to determine the issues under enquiry.
Commissions are vested with quasi-judicial functions, meaning that there are significant powers to compel attendances, responses and cooperation. They are usually constituted for a significant period of time and can run for a number of years.
Their constitution and functionality is governed federally by the Royal Commissions Act 1902 (Commonwealth), and in Victoria, under the Constitution Act 1975 (Vic) and the Evidence (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1958 (Vic). Each other state has its own legislation.
Once a Royal Commission is established, the Executive Government, with specific terms of reference, defines the nature and purpose of the enquiry and the nature of the recommendations required.
Dribbin & Brown have acted in a number of different Royal Commissions.
Specifically, Dribbin & Brown were engaged to represent a number of people who were required to give evidence before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
This Commission was established to enquire into historical child sexual abuse, whilst children were under the care and control of a number of institutions, religious, recreational, educational and custodial.
One of the principal objectives was to enquire into what had occurred in a range of specific cases of historical abuse in relation to a number of different institutions.
This enquiry involved a broad range of witnesses from former officers, members and employees of the institutions themselves, to victims of the alleged abuses. Given the nature of the enquiry, it was essential that the Commission provided the victims an opportunity to share their experiences in a safe and supported environment, recognising the historical trauma, as well as the renewed trauma of reliving the specific events.
It was equally appropriate for Dribbin & Brown and their lawyers to be aware of, and be sensitive to, these considerations when dealing with their clients.
In this Royal Commission, the witnesses were constituted by two categories, namely, victims or survivors and institutional members.
Fundamental to both categories and indeed to anyone summonsed to appear before the commission is the right to legal representation. It is recommended that any person summonsed to appear before a Royal Commission avail themselves of competent legal representation.
You may be compelled to answer questions by the Commissioner, even though your responses may incriminate you in a wrongdoing. You may likewise be compelled to produce an incriminating document.
Such evidence may generally not be used against you in any subsequent criminal proceedings. There are exceptions to this and in terms of the Royal Commissions Act 1902, you may reasonably refuse to answer a question or to produce a document, where the answer or production of the document may incriminate you in relation to an offence, and you are charged with that offence and the charge has not been fully dealt with at the time such answer or document is required.
The rights and obligations are provided for under the Royal Commissions Act 1902 (Commonwealth) and include the non-admissibility in any court of any evidence or document produced before the Commission.
At a State level, in Victoria, these rights are provided for under the Evidence (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1958 (Vic).
Many people are reluctant to consult a lawyer for fear of the associated costs. Fortunately, in most circumstances the Commonwealth Attorney General provides funding for legal assistance to those summonsed to appear before a Commission, and we can assist you in applying for this funding.
Whilst the Commission hearings are generally in a public forum, there are instances where vulnerable witnesses or sensitive information require that they be held in private. In such an event, only persons authorised by the Commissioner may attend such proceedings.
During the recent Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Dribbin & Brown represented a number of former institutional members, many of whom had retired from office decades ago and who had limited recall of specific events or procedures. These clients were extremely nervous, particularly given the adverse publicity surrounding the Commission.
It was necessary to advise them of their legal obligations, their rights under the law and the need to provide honest and accurate accounts of their recollections.
It was equally important to caution them against the tendency to reconstruct, whether based on another person’s accounts or any other extraneous information and to only account for that which remained clear in their memories.
The process involved settling written statements, responding to specific questions and issues raised by the Commission through its representatives, giving oral evidence before the commission and being subject to cross examination by any party affected by such evidence. For details, see this publicly available document where Dribbin & Brown acted, Royal Commission Written Submission.
Whilst the outcomes were favourable and none of our clients have been the subject of any adverse findings or recommendations, our clients were unanimous in their gratitude for our assistance and advice in navigating them through an emotionally daunting process.
If you have been summonsed to attend any Royal Commission it important to seek advice from Dribbin & Brown, experienced Royal Commission lawyers based in Melbourne.
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