Inquiry to probe NSW police bugging claims

A parliamentary inquiry will try to lift the lid on the NSW police bugging scandal.


Ombudsman Bruce Barbour has for the last two years been investigating claims of phone tapping and bugging by the Special Crime and Internal Affairs unit more than 10 years ago and the way the matter was investigated subsequently.

The SCIA tapping operation allegedly involved the bugging of more than 100 police officers.

According to media reports, some officers in the SCIA falsified information to obtain listening devices, telephone intercepts and search warrants and, in one case, induced a criminal to commit perjury in front of a magistrate.

The Shooters and Fishers Party, with the help of the Greens and Labor, successfully launched a new parliamentary inquiry on Wednesday to look at the “conduct and progress” of the ombudsman’s inquiry.

The inquiry will also look into the ombudsman’s use of secrecy powers in his investigations.

In a letter to Premier Mike Baird, Mr Barbour defended why it has taken him two years to conduct the inquiry, which he expects to report on by the first half of 2015.

He said he was concerned the parliamentary committee would likely “frustrate and impede” his investigations.

Mr Barbour warned any such delay would also adversely affect the “welfare of those persons whose conduct is being examined or who are otherwise involved”.

Former police minister Mike Gallacher went a step further, saying the parliamentary probe would “crucify peoples’ reputations”.

Greens MP David Shoebridge said there had been a “complete gag” over the ombudsman’s inquiries.

“Two years of secrecy looking into a secret police report looking into secret covert surveillance,” he told parliament.

“When did NSW become this secret covert state?”

Labor MP Adam Searle said it was time for the ombudsman to provide an update.

Mr Gallacher defended his decision not to publicly release a report into the bugging operations when he was minister, saying it could have jeopardised the safety of police informants.

“I wonder how (Mr Shoebridge) would feel if following the release of such a report, the body of an internal informant washed up on a beach,” Mr Gallacher told the Greens MP.

The parliamentary inquiry will have to report back by February 25 – just weeks before the March election.