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  • Jason Regan

Vic Police officers urgently retake oath

Victoria Police has been forced to urgently swear in hundreds of officers after an administrative bungle meant more than 1000 of them have been operating without valid powers.

More than 1200 Victorian police officers are being re-sworn so they can perform their duties. (Joe Castro/AAP PHOTOS)

The mistake has led to the wrongful swearing-in of 1076 police officers, 157 protective service officers and 29 police custody officers, over eight years.

It means some officers have been making arrests, pressing charges and issuing orders without valid powers.

Late on Thursday, Victoria Police said three assistant commissioners - with the appropriate powers - have been retaking oaths since 6.30 am via video link, in groups of 20 to 25 officers, and expect to continue until about 11 pm.

About 660 police and PSOs, out of 1233 officers affected, are expected to have been sworn in by that time. Hundreds more will be re-sworn in the coming days, with officers to take their oath during their first shift back at work and begin their duties immediately afterwards.

In a statement, Victoria Police said most officers should be re-sworn by the weekend. Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said between July 2014 and August 2021 several acting assistant commissioners were sworn in without the required powers.

Those acting assistant commissioners then swore in a number of graduating police officers. Under changes to the Victoria Police Act in 2013, acting assistant commissioners needed to be appointed by the chief police commissioner or a deputy commissioner who had been delegated the authority.

Mr Patton said police affected by the oversight had to be sworn in again before they could perform their duties.

"It's an administrative oversight, it has some significant consequences for a short period of time," he told reporters in Melbourne.

But the mass swearing-in process still leaves an unknown number of court cases in limbo, before an urgent bill to rectify the problem is introduced to parliament. 

The first court issues arose within hours of the bungle being revealed, in a case where a police officer is accused of leaking photos of ex-footballer Dani Laidley.

Prosecutor Neill Hutton addressed Melbourne Magistrates' Court on Thursday, saying issues over whether the investigating officer has been sworn in "may be fatal to the prosecution case".

But Victoria Police have confirmed the informant and other officers involved in the case have not been affected by the oversight. The state government is planning to urgently amend the legislation to fix the error, with the laws to be introduced at the next sitting week.

However, parliament does not sit again until March 8, leaving more than a week for matters involving unsworn police to be contested in court.

Police Minister Lisa Neville said the laws would be retrospective to rectify previous decisions, including arrests or charges issued by unsworn officers.

"We've got to get this right, it will rectify all that and all those matters will stand," she said.

The opposition said it would offer bipartisan support for the laws, as long as they were "solely designed to fix this error and protect Victoria Police".

Premier Daniel Andrews said the government chose not to put the laws forward when parliament sat on Thursday because it could take time to fix.

"When you're fixing something that's particularly glaring you need to take the time to get it fixed right without compounding things," he told reporters.

Mr Patton said it was a "case by case analysis" as to whether people could contest arrests or charges by unsworn police officers. Victoria Police has notified IBAC and the Director of Public Prosecutions.


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