Committee raises concerns about Prison Officers' Discipline Bill

The WA Prison Officers’ Union has called on the State Government to clarify a number of issues raised by a Standing Committee report into the Prison Officers’ Discipline Bill.

The Standing Committee on Legislation’s report has raised several concerns about the Bill, which reflect the union’s concerns.

“The Bill seeks to remove a prison officer’s right to silence during an investigation and allows the Corrective Services Commissioner to remove an officer from their job if he has lost confidence in them,” said WAPOU Secretary John Welch.

“Effectively what this means is that officers would be guilty until proven innocent.

“The minority members of the Standing Committee agreed that this is a serious flaw in the Bill, and recommended that the sections of the Act which introduce loss of confidence and the abrogation of the right to silence be deleted.”

Mr Welch said the Committee’s report pointed out that not one other state in Australia had laws which contained a loss of confidence provision against Prison Officers.

“Our position has been from the start that we absolutely support measures that ensure Prison Officers do not act corruptly, however we believe the current legislation is adequate,” he said.

Mr Welch said all the Committee members agreed that the Minister needed to clarify and amend parts of the Bill, and he called on the Minister to do so.

“The Committee has expressed concern about the loss or abrogation of the right to silence and ensuring that the evidence gained in such circumstances cannot be used in separate proceedings,” he said.

“The Committee also asked for clarification that the loss of confidence would not be used to dismiss employees who are ill, and that in circumstances where the Commissioner does issue a loss of confidence notice, the employee must be provided with a statement of the allegation against them.”

Mr Welch said it was clear from the Committee’s report that the Bill had some serious flaws, and he called on the Minister to address the issues immediately.