Victoria Police to beef up COR skills

By: Steve Skinner

VicPol acknowledges there is room for improvement when it comes to its chain of responsibility prosecutions.

Victoria Police to beef up COR skills
Victoria Police in action on the highway. The service plans to beef up its investigative skills.


Victoria Police (VicPol) is reviewing the way it goes about investigating alleged chain of responsibility breaches.

"We’re looking at ramping up our investigative capability," says detective inspector Bernie Rankin, who heads up the Heavy Vehicle Unit within VicPol.

"What we are doing in the chain of responsibility area is we are actually reviewing the way we do that, and we’re actually looking at the investigative capability of our people; we’re looking at ways we can improve that.

"So we see chain of responsibility going forward as being far more specialised than it is at the moment and we’ll probably have more resources put into it.

"We’re very aware of the good results we can get from chain of responsibility prosecutions, particularly those small number of companies that everyone in the industry knows, who blatantly breach the legislation. It will give us a better capacity to deal with them."

While all 25 personnel in Rankin’s team can carry out COR investigations, for the cases that need "close assessment and deep investigation", there is a specialised unit.

There are no VicPol prosecutions of any customers under COR.

Meanwhile, two prosecutions of trucking companies under COR have failed; two prosecutions of trucking companies are under way; and there are only a couple of successful prosecutions of trucking operators over the past four years.

Catching up

"You could align a COR investigation to a lot of other criminal type investigations in that you need the same skill sets," Rankin says.

"And what we’re doing as an organisation is looking at the skill sets of our people and seeing if we need to do some extra work around that, and of course what that will lead to is then looking at the numbers of people required to do that work.

"It hasn’t got to the stage where it’s gone to force command but I’m certain there will be some adjustments in the way we approach chain of responsibility.

"Some of our counterparts interstate have had a lot of success … there’s been some significant chain of responsibility prosecutions in NSW, and what we’ve got to do here in Victoria is make sure that we’re policing that aspect of the national heavy vehicle law to ensure we make full use of the legislation that is available to us."

Problems with the law

VicPol has sent a hard-hitting submission to the National Transport Commission’s current review of duties under that COR legislation.

It says it’s too easy for the crooks to establish a defence, when there are such vague phrases as "so far as is reasonably practicable".

VicPol also says heavy vehicle law is too complicated, and ongoing changes mean that "lack of consistency could be raised as a defence in proceedings".

Amongst many other criticisms the submission says it’s too easy for executive officers within bigger companies to get off the hook; too many smaller operators haven’t got the time or education to get their heads around the legislation; it’s hard for authorities to act before an accident actually happens; penalties imposed by courts are generally only 2-5 per cent of the maximums; and compliance with an industry code of practice should not of itself be a reasonable steps defence.

Check out the feature on chain of responsibility in Victoria in the April issue of ATN.

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