He says it is wrong of Premier Steve Bracks and Police Minister Andre Haermeyer to claim that a royal commission would interfere with current criminal prosecutions and that it was wanted only by lawyers looking for financial gain. Mr Meagher, who was senior counsel for the Costigan Royal Commission on the Painters and Dockers Union in the 1980s – which led to the establishment of the National Crime Authority – says it is not necessary for a royal commission to hold hearings in public.
It could, he writes, suppress the publication of names so that investigations and prosecutions are not jeopardised. “I cannot recall any instance where trials were aborted on account of a royal commission,” he says.
On the issue of lawyers looking for financial gain, Mr Meagher says the cost of appointing extra police and public servants is also considerable.
Lawyers, particularly barristers and judges, are best qualified to investigate the issues, because “they spend their working lives seeking out information, assessing its credibility, analysing it and drawing conclusions”. Speaking last night, Mr Meagher said: “The idea that a royal commission would upset prosecutions is rubbish. With Costigan, most of our hearings were in private, mainly because we did not want other people to know what we were learning.”
Mr Meagher said a royal commission should be set up first to investigate the current wave of violent crime and pervasive police corruption similar to NSW, Queensland and WA.
After deliberations, it could then make recommendations on the need for a standing crime commission or a police integrity commission.
A recent AgePoll found that 81 per cent of Victorians supported a royal commission or similar body to investigate police corruption.