Alleged “serious misconduct” by Victoria Police in the taking of witness statements during an investigation into the 1998 murder of two police officers will be the subject of public hearings by the state’s anti-corruption body.
Officers Sergeant Gary Silk and Senior Constable Rodney Miller were shot dead while on duty in Moorabbin, in Melbourne’s south east, and two men – Jason Roberts and Bendali Debs – have been jailed over the killings.
In November last year, the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) began an investigation into allegations that detectives involved in the murder tampered with a piece of evidence that led to Roberts’ conviction.
Separately, the Victorian government asked the Supreme Court in August to assess new claims of an alibi put forward by Roberts, who has always maintained his innocence and is serving a 35-year jail term.
In announcing its public hearings, IBAC commissioner Robert Redlich QC said the purpose of the investigation was to examine “concerning” allegations over the way witness statements were collected.
He said the February 2019 hearings would focus on the taking of statements, the preparation of the brief of evidence for trial, and whether there was full disclosure of witness statements or other relevant information prior to or during the trial.
The hearings will also examine if Victoria Police complied with their obligation to disclose evidence.
“If these concerning practices are still used by Victoria Police, they have the potential to impact the integrity of criminal investigations and the delivery of justice,” he said.
Mr Redlich cautioned that the hearings were not “a reopening” of the police investigation, known as Operation Lorimer, into the Silk-Miller murders.
“IBAC will not be reviewing the convictions that resulted from that investigation,” he said.
“There are other established processes to examine such matters.”
Former homicide detective Ron Iddles had previously reviewed the case and found there were no witnesses who saw two offenders, and no evidence to support the prosecution’s theory that Roberts fired the first shot while hidden inside his car.
The announcement of the public hearings comes shortly after a royal commission was announced into a separate case of alleged police misconduct, around the use of a gangland lawyer – known as Informer 3838 – as a police informant.