Victoria Police (VicPol), after recognising the need for improvement regarding its chain of responsibility prosecutions are reviewing the way they go about investigating alleged chain of responsibility breaches.
Bernie Rankin, head of the Heavy Vehicle Unit within VicPol said they were looking at how they investigate and are aiming to improve it. Detective Inspector Ranking went on to explain:
“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.
Although there is a specialised unit to deal with special cases that require more attention and intensive investigation, all 25 members of Rankin’s team conduct Chain of Responsibility investigations.
There aren’t any VicPol prosecutions of customers under CoR, with 2 prosecutions of trucking companies under CoR failing. There have only been a few successful prosecutions of trucking operators in the last four years.
Rankin went on to describe how CoR investigations were similar to other criminal investigations, requiring much of the same skills. He went on to explain:
“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.
He also explained that other road authorities in other parts of the country had achieved alot of success despite VicPol’s lack of success in this area, notably NSW has had some significant CoR prosecutions.
Rankin explained that in Victoria police needed to ensure they are policing the right aspects of the national heavy vehicle law to ensure they are making full use of the legislation available.
One of the problems, VicPol say is the ease at which offenders can establish a defence. They have sent through a submission to the National Transport Commission’s review of duties under CoR legislation. Alot of the problem has to do with vague terms including “so far as is reasonably practicable”.
VicPol also expressed concerns that heavy vehicle law is too complicated and inconsistent. Some of the concerns include:
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.