Protections for people making a complaint
People who make a complaint about suspected corrupt conduct are given a number of important protections under the Integrity Commission Act.
A person making a complaint does not incur civil or criminal liability only because the person has made a complaint and, in the case of a public official or a member of staff of an MLA, a complainant is not subject to disciplinary action or dismissal only because they have made a complaint.
However, a person’s liability for their own conduct is not affected by their disclosure of that conduct under the Integrity Commission Act.
See section 288 and 291 of the Integrity Commission Act
Defence against defamation
While there is the possibility of defamation action being brought against a person for making a complaint, a person making a complaint has the defence of absolute privilege against such an action. However, this defence is not available if the person making the complaint publishes information contained in the complaint before the information is published by the Commission or the Inspector in accordance with the Act.
See section 289 of the Integrity Commission Act
Loss of protection (false or vexatious complaints)
If a person makes a complaint and a court finds that the person making the complaint knew that it was false or misleading or vexatious, the protections under the Act are forfeited.
See section 290 of the Integrity Commission Act
It is an offence for a person (the retaliator) to take detrimental action against someone else because:
- A person has made, or intends to make, a complaint
- The retaliator believes that a person has made, or intends to make, a complaint
- The Commission or the Inspector has conducted, is conducting or intends to conduct, an own initiative investigation
- The retaliator believes that the Commission or the Inspector has conducted, is conducting or intends to conduct, an own initiative investigation
Detrimental action means action that involves:
- Discriminating against a person by treating, or proposing to treat, the person unfavourably in relation to the person’s reputation, career, profession, employment or trade
- Harassing or intimidating a person
- Injuring a person
- Damaging a person’s property
The maximum penalty for a person convicted of the offence taking detrimental action is 100 penalty units, imprisonment for one year, or both. A person who takes detrimental action against someone else is also liable for civil damages to anyone who suffers detriment as a result.
See Part 7.3 of the Integrity Commission Act