In November 2017 the Australian Government announced a public inquiry into the banking industry. The inquiry will be conducted as a Banking Royal Commission and will have powers conferred upon it by the Royal Commissions Act 1902 (Cth) and utilise various similar powers under state level jurisdictions including, for example, under the Royal Commissions Act 1923 (NSW). Officially the inquiry is known as a Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry.
What is a Royal Commission?
A Royal Commission is a public inquiry set up by the Government to investigate an issue of public importance. Royal Commissions are unique and different to the adversarial process of normal court proceedings. Key differences include:
- A Royal Commission is set up by the Government, however, its appointed members are independent from the Government;
- It has coercive powers that compel witnesses to give evidence, however, rules governing evidence differ to normal court proceedings;
- Hearings are conducted in public therefore allowing individuals to present their testimonials before the Commission (however sensitive evidence can be taken in private hearings and other orders can be made to de-identify witnesses)
- Royal Commissions will make findings and also recommendations in a final report that are based on the terms of reference of the Commission;
- The Commission itself cannot prosecute individuals and its findings are non-binding, however it can make recommendations to do so, that are usually acted upon by prosecution authorities.
Despite Commissions being different to normal adversarial court proceedings it is very important to be represented in Commission hearings. The public nature of Commissions can place enormous pressure on witnesses. Representation ensures that witnesses understand their rights, responsibilities and are adequately prepared to give evidence.
O’Brien Solicitors are specialist Royal Commission Lawyers
O’Brien Solicitors has represented witnesses in every Royal Commission over the past decade including:
- Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption
- Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
- Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory
Peter O’Brien and other solicitors within the firm have represented many dozens of witnesses in Royal Commissions including the preparation of statements through to putting forward of testimonial accounts by clients, and cross-examining adverse witnesses.
For example, Peter O’Brien has represented a number of witnesses who gave evidence about sexual abuse by clergy within the Catholic Church during the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Mr O’Brien artfully cross-examined many key witnesses including Cardinal George Pell.
Similarly, Peter O’Brien represented key witnesses such as Dylan Voller throughout the hearings in the Northern Territory Royal Commission. This resulted in a series of findings condemning the abuse of children throughout the system in the Northern Territory, and vindicating his clients.
Many clients have gone on to successfully sue various agencies and institutions after Royal Commissions.
If you suspect that you will be called to attend a hearing under the Banking Royal Commission O’Brien Solicitors can represent you. We can discuss your concerns, assist you in your preparation of statements and also make approaches to the Royal Commission. Given the high publicity surrounding this inquiry, representation by lawyers from O’Brien Solicitors will ensure that you are aware and prepared for the processes ahead.
Contact O’Brien Solicitors on 02 9261 4281 if you need representation at the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry.