Thursday, June 20, 2024

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HomeIssue 1Police Commissioner resigns

Police Commissioner resigns

p2202-John-McRoberts-1Police Minister Peter Chandler says the Government has lost confidence in Commissioner of Northern Territory Police, John McRoberts, who resigned yesterday.
Mr Chandler says: “The resignation follows allegations the Commissioner involved himself in a criminal investigation where his relationship with the subject of that investigation gave rise to a conflict of interest.
“The Government has acted swiftly and decisively when it became aware of the matter.
“The integrity of the Commissioner of Police must be beyond reproach.
“The Government has considered the available facts in this matter and believes that resignation is necessary to maintain public confidence on NT Police.
“The Commissioner’s conduct is now the subject of a formal investigation.”
Mr Chandler says Reece Kershaw is now the Acting Commissioner.
“Mr Kershaw was previously Assistant Commissioner Darwin Metropolitan Service and Acting Deputy Commissioner.
“Mark Payne APM is the Acting Deputy Commissioner. Mr Payne was previously Assistant Commissioner Crime and Specialist Services.”
The Northern Territory Police Association Acting President, Col Goodsell, said that the sudden resignation of Mr McRoberts has come as a surprise to the Association.
“In the absence of any further details surrounding the circumstances, we are unable to make any further comment regarding the Commissioner’s resignation.
“The loss of a Police Commissioner, combined with the lack of substantive Deputy Commissioner, as has been the case for the past nine months, presents a unique challenge for the Northern Territory Police Executive and the Northern Territory Government.
“We hope that the Government moves quickly to fill both positions with the best qualified candidates.”
FILE PHOTO: Mr McRoberts (right) inspects Australian warship.


  1. The Police Commissioner is legally entitled to enjoy the confidence of his Minister until an allegation is proven against him.
    The Minster should have stated that the Commissioner has his confidence until the end of the investigation and stood him down in the meantime.
    But by telling the Commissioner that he has lost confidence in him the Commissioner had no choice but to resign.
    He was fired. This is constructive dismissal and it contravenes the Fair Work Act.
    Even if found guilty the Commissioner will have a strong case against the Government for their breach of fair process.
    If it is found in a court that he did nothing wrong then the Government will be in even more trouble. The matter could be breach of contract … $500,000 damages?
    But there are more problems that arise out of this.
    Can the formal investigation now be fair and impartial given that the Commissioner already stands condemned by his Minister?
    It would be brave investigator that makes a finding in favour of the Commissioner. Some would say a foolish one.
    And if found guilty will the finding be seen to be credible?
    The only way forward now is to have a completely independent external investigation.
    But why has the Minister come out so strongly and impetuously against the Commissioner even before the investigation is complete. Is there something else going on?
    This scenario is not without precedent in the NT public service.
    And if the Commissioner feels he cannot get natural justice this will end up heading to court – but likely settled beforehand for an undisclosed amount.

  2. Yes … a particularly interesting scenario unfolding here. There’ll be much more being revealed over the ensuing several months, I’m sure. Just who knew what when? Watch this space!

  3. The Police Commissioner doesn’t have a leg to stand on either way. Some interesting points: The Commissioner’s interference happen some months ago.
    Similar timing: Commissioner’s contract renewed; Chief Minister hands Police Ministry to Deputy. All significant, timely changes.
    Well done to the police force for following through and bringing this to a head. Interesting how it all takes place while the “Chief” is on holidays, just to ensure some more distance from the topic.
    Hopefully the current investigation follows the same path – to the end, more third party texts will be found.
    What then happens? The administrator dissolves the government? This “story” is only just starting. Chandler has handled the whole thing like a “true” leader.

  4. Due process is very important. No one should lose their job just because allegations are made against them and the Commissioner is denying these allegations.
    The Government has not handled this well by reinforcing the view that in the Territory natural justice may not apply and you can be dismissed without a full and fair investigation.
    Potential applicants for the Commissioner’s job from interstate will be looking on in horror.
    Also a terrible look is that the Commander of Professional Standards stands accused although at least he was not dismissed outright.
    The involvement of Professional Standards reinforces the view that the body is not independent.
    The overall picture that will be damaging to the Government and all Territorians is that this is a backward part of the nation where fairness and justice is politically expedient.

  5. To say the least, I’m very dubious about the circumstances leading to the resignation of former NT Police Commissioner, John McRoberts.
    It appears to me that Mr McRoberts was the most effective police commissioner in the history of the NT.
    He presided over a remarkable drop in criminal activity in Central Australia, and I’m sure I read a comment piece by another senior police officer quite recently that no homicides were recorded in Alice Springs during 2014.
    If that’s true, it surely must constitute some sort of record – I’m wondering when was the last time a year passed by without any murder committed in our town? Was it within my lifetime (over half a century)?
    It’s a huge achievement, gone largely unnoticed and unremarked. Just over half my lifetime ago, Alice Springs was dubbed the “murder capital of Australia” with the highest per capita death rate by homicide of any place in the country.
    There’s no prizes for guessing this frightful situation was closely linked with alcohol abuse.
    I wonder, is there a certain sector of our community that’s not too happy with the impact to their bottom line due to the very effective police work at limiting criminal activity linked to lowered alcohol abuse? Would this sector be concerned about the extension of this very effective police method pushing northwards into the Top End?
    Is this sector a significant contributor of donations towards any political party?
    Finally, which political party in the NT has an extraordinary frequency of members, including senior ministers of the NT Government, drawn from the ranks of the NT Police during much of its history?
    I can’t think of any other equivalent situation with any major or minor political party in any other jurisdiction in Australia; or, for that matter, in any other western country.

  6. Alex, I agree that the circumstances around the Police Commissioner, effectively being dismissed are dubious but not that he trod on the toes of the alcohol lobby as you suggest. But will we ever find out the truth?
    Here in the NT we do not currently have independent bodies that can appraise or investigate a situation outside the party politician prism.
    The Territory’s public service watchdog, the OCPE, is very weak and basically backs up the government, the Police Professional Standards appear to lack independence, the Ombudsman has a very low rate of investigating and the Freedom of Information (FOI) process is paralysed.
    Now the Government has appointed the person who oversaw the closing down of NT citizens access under the FOI Act to look into the circumstances of the Commissioner’s sacking.
    With the demise of independent bodies the Government gains the power to do what it likes, without fear of being held accountable.
    The free press and our law courts have never been more important to Territorians.


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