Frequently asked questions.
A Board of Inquiry (Inquiry) and Royal Commission are similar, but they are not the same.
They are similar in that:
- both have ‘Terms of Reference’ which set out the scope of the inquiry that they can undertake and what they need to report on;
- both have powers to get documents and take evidence from individuals or organisations;
- both can require someone to be a witness;
- if an individual is required to give evidence before an Inquiry or a Royal Commission, and they do not comply with that requirement, in some circumstances they can be charged with a criminal offence. If an individual knowingly makes a false or misleading statement in Inquiry or a Royal Commission, they can also be charged with an offence.
Some of the differences between an Inquiry and Royal Commission are that:
- an Inquiry cannot force an individual to disclose certain communications between a lawyer and their client;
- an individual can refuse to answer a question if they think answering might tend to incriminate them or make them liable to a penalty; and
- an Inquiry cannot obtain search warrants and seize documents.
The Inquiry can use the information you provide to assist in its investigation and inform its findings. The Inquiry may publish the information you give in its final report.
The final report of the Board will be delivered to the Governor. Usually, the Governor will then give the report to the Premier.
The Premier has 30 days in which he must table the report in the Parliament to make it public. There may be reasons as to why the Premier does not do that. If that is the case, the Premier must make a statement of those reasons.
If you don’t want your information to be made public, you can apply to the Inquiry to restrict its publication. Not all information can be restricted: it may depend on the nature of the information and the reasons why you are concerned. If you want your information to be restricted then you should raise that issue with the Inquiry’s legal team when you provide your information.
In some circumstances, the Inquiry can accept information from anonymous sources. The Inquiry can also accept information on a confidential basis.
If you wish to provide information to the Inquiry on a confidential basis, the Inquiry will not generally publish or disclose your identity without your consent. It may disclose or publish the information you provide in de-identified form for the purposes of its investigation.
There may be some circumstances where the law requires the Inquiry to disclose your information and/or your identity. If the information you give is going to be used to make adverse findings against another person, the Inquiry is required to disclose that information to that other person so that they can respond. This might include disclosing your identity.
Yes. The Inquiry might decide that it needs to require you to give evidence and might need to disclose your identity as part of that evidence process.
If the Inquiry requires you to give evidence or appear as a witness:
- you must comply with that request;
- you are entitled to refuse to give any evidence that might tend to incriminate you or subject you to a civil penalty; and
- you may be able to apply to the Inquiry for a non-publication order to restrict publication of your identity or of the information that you give to the Inquiry. This is something you should discuss with your lawyer or with the Legal Team after you receive notice that you are required to give evidence.
If you are concerned about this, please speak to a lawyer. The Inquiry cannot give you legal advice.
The Inquiries Act 2014 contains certain protections for those who provide information to a Board of Inquiry. Those protections can include:
- protection from being sued because of the information or evidence a witness gives; and
- protection from detrimental action from an employer because of information an employee gives to the Inquiry.
Whether or not those protections will apply to you in your particular circumstances is something a lawyer can advise you on.
It might prevent you giving information on a voluntary basis. It might not prevent you giving information if you are required by the Inquiry to do so. This is because the Inquiry has the power to require a person to give information or documents even if there are other laws which make that information confidential or which prohibit disclosure. If you are concerned you may be subject to confidentiality restrictions you should seek advice from a lawyer or from your union (if applicable).
Reviewed 04 September 2020