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Corruption watchdog overstepped the mark on laying charges

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The Crime and Corruption Commission continues to face scrutiny over its practice of charging individuals and even predicting the chances of prosecution.

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In a report arising from its five-year review of the CCC, tabled yesterday, the Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Committee noted that while the watchdog had the power to charge people, it was up to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to decide whether to take cases to court.

The Palaszczuk government was forced to sack the Logan City Council two years ago after a CCC investigation led to fraud charges against seven councillors and mayor Luke Smith.

However, in April prosecutors dropped the charges, with only Smith now facing trial.

The case prompted criticism of the CCC, and chairman Alan MacSporran, at a time when some stakeholders were calling for more independent safeguards against corruption and misconduct in Queensland.

In its report, the committee questioned why the CCC had created the impression it had influence over prosecutions when investigating Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and former deputy premier Jackie Trad in unrelated cases that were ultimately dropped.

“The committee questions why, in the Premier and former Deputy Premier matters, the CCC publicly commented on the likelihood of prosecution and stated, in regards to the Premier matter that there was a ‘prima facie case’ but did not refer the matter to a prosecuting authority or the DPP,” the report states.

“It is the committee’s view that the reporting of this matter at the least provides a perception that the CCC does have discretion in regards to whether a matter is prosecuted, as it has the discretion to refer its evidence and briefs to an entity who can prosecute. The committee considers more fulsome consideration of the interaction between the CCC and ODPP is warranted.”

The committee – led by a Liberal National Party member and with Labor and Green MPs – recently launched an inquiry into the Logan City Council case and the report recommends such matters be thoroughly examined as part of that inquiry.

The CCC has again been criticised for a lack of transparency over its handling of complaints, with the committee also calling for more clarity over the difference between assessments and investigations.

There are also recommendations in relation to the structure, composition, budget and powers of the CCC which the government will have to make a decision on.

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