Margaret Cunneen’s case against ICAC could open the floodgates

admin | 杭州桑拿
7 Apr 2019

Taking on the ICAC: Margaret Cunneen.ICAC inspector announces audit of Cunneen inquiryJudge rejects court bid by Cunneen to obtain ICAC documentsMargaret Cunneen likely to win temporary reprieve from ICAC hearings

If Crown prosecutor Margaret Cunneen wins her legal battle against the Independent Commission Against Corruption, she will have forever changed the way the watchdog conducts its investigations.

No longer will people hauled before the ICAC wait for an inquiry to be completed – including days of embarrassing hearings – before challenging the commission’s findings in the Supreme Court.

The pre-emptive strike to shut down an inquiry will be a far more attractive weapon in their arsenal.

Supreme Court Justice Clifton Hoeben, the chief judge at common law and a Court of Appeal judge, clearly had this in mind when he said on Thursday he was “thinking about the downstream effect” of the Cunneen case.

In other words, finding in Ms Cunneen SC’s favour could open the floodgates to similar cases in the future.

“The floodgates argument is silly,” was response from Ms Cunneen’s barrister, Arthur Moses, SC.

It is true the court must decide the case on the law, not on whether a favourable ruling would encourage a flood of copycat plaintiffs.

But Justice Hoeben said this appeared to be the first court challenge requiring a body such as the ICAC to provide reasons “at each step” of its investigation.

In this case, the Cunneen camp wants a statement of reasons for the ICAC’s decision to commence the investigation and to hold public hearings.

If Ms Cunneen wins the case, future targets of ICAC investigations will expect the same or will ask the Supreme Court for an order shutting down the inquiry.

The argument is novel but it is not the first time someone has tried to stop an ICAC investigation in its tracks.

Justice Hoeben also presided over a case last year in which mining mogul Travers Duncan tried to stop the ICAC delivering its final report on a coal tenement over the Obeid family’s farm.

He dismissed Mr Duncan’s case, and the decision was upheld on appeal.

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