This report presents the findings of the Victorian Inspectorate (the VI) on the work and activities of the five Victorian agencies authorised to conduct controlled operations.

This report presents the findings of the Victorian Inspectorate (the VI) on the work and activities of the five Victorian agencies authorised to conduct controlled operations. It includes the results of the VI’s inspection of controlled operations records belonging to these agencies, as well as an assessment of the comprehensiveness and adequacy of their six-monthly reports to the VI.

The five agencies are:

The following Acts authorise these agencies to conduct controlled operations for the purpose of obtaining evidence that may lead to the prosecution of persons for offences (with the applicable agencies listed in parentheses):

The provisions of these Acts are generally similar, however, the Wildlife Act and Fisheries Act limit the types of offences that may be investigated and the operational scope of a controlled operation. Only Victoria Police and IBAC may apply for and be granted an urgent authority to conduct a controlled operation, and only in limited circumstances. Additionally, controlled operations undertaken by Victoria Police and IBAC are classified into cross-border, local major and local minor operations.

Law enforcement officers of these agencies may apply to the chief officer of the agency for authority to conduct a controlled operation. In the case of Victoria Police, the power to authorise controlled conduct (that is, conduct that would otherwise constitute a criminal offence) under an authority may be delegated by the chief officer to specific classes of officers.

The role of the VI is to independently oversight agencies authorised to conduct controlled operations. The VI is required to inspect from time to time, and at least once every 12 months, the records of agencies that have exercised their powers to conduct controlled operations in order to determine the level of statutory compliance achieved by the agency and its law enforcement officers.

The VI reports on the work and activities of each agency on an annual basis to each House of Parliament, as well as the Attorney-General and chief officer of each agency.

While the VI ordinarily conducts biannual inspections of an agency’s controlled operations records, on this occasion the VI conducted one inspection round for authorisations that ceased during the 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020 period. Between 1 January and 30 June 2020, the VI did not conduct an inspection of records belonging to Victorian agencies authorised to conduct controlled operations.

Although the VI had scheduled its first biannual inspection for the year at each agency during this period, workplace restrictions made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic caused the VI to postpone its inspection program. The VI subsequently consolidated records for each agency over a 12-month period into one inspection.

In addition to not being able to inspect controlled operations records during the first half of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic also caused the VI to postpone inspections it had scheduled in the second half of 2020. In the case of Victoria Police, an inspection round scheduled on 8–10 September 2020 was re-scheduled to 26–28 October 2020. An inspection of VFA records initially scheduled on 13 October 2020 was postponed until 9 March 2021.

Temporary regulations made under the COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) Act 2020 – the COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) (Integrity Entities) Regulations 2020 (‘the COVID-19 Omnibus Regs’) – were amended on 4 November 2020 to modify the application of the CCO Act so “for the financial year ending on 30 June 2021, the Victorian Inspectorate is not required under this section to inspect all records of the law enforcement agency and may determine which records to inspect."

Among Victorian law enforcement agencies, nearly all controlled operations are conducted by Victoria Police under the CCO Act. The VI inspected a representative sample of records at Victoria Police’s Controlled Operations Registry (COR) in late October 2020. A sampling approach was adopted due to the significant volume of records within the VI’s remit, the consolidation of records from 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020 into a single inspection and the VI’s resource constraints.

By selecting a representative sample of Victoria Police records for inspection, the VI has been able to draw conclusions about the entire population of the records and report on compliance with legislative provisions. An element of sampling risk is acknowledged as a representative sample may produce a different result from an inspection of 100% of records. However, the VI selected a sample size to ensure sufficient evidence could be obtained to support inspection objectives and findings. The number of records sampled at the October 2020 inspection kept the sampling error rate at 8.6%. This rate represents the maximum deviation for error identification from conducting an inspection of 100% of records.

The VI notes in this report the cooperative and transparent engagement by the officers of each agency whose records were subject to our inspection. While the VI reports on some errors, no significant compliance issues were identified. The VI commends the remedial actions taken by the relevant agencies to address the identified errors.

This report gives the inspection results for authorities that ceased, as well as the work and activities undertaken by the agency, during the 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020 period – the ‘reporting period’. The VI has not made any recommendations as a result of its inspections of controlled operations records for the reporting period.