Royal Commissions

Doogue O’Brien George have extensive experience appearing in Royal Commissions.

We are currently representing clients appearing at both current Royal Commissions. That is the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption. Appearing at Royal Commissions is a specific and complex area of law that requires thorough preparation and understanding of the law as it applies to Royal Commissions.

What is a Royal Commission?

A Royal Commission has coercive powers beyond those that a Judge might normally have in a Court. That means, in essence, they can compel you to answer questions.

They are formally established by the Governor-in-Council (for Victoria) or the Governor-General (for Commonwealth Commissions) by letters patent on behalf of the Queen. A commission will be set up to investigate and deliver a report on matters that are of public importance and that have attracted controversy.

Commissions generally conduct a public inquiry, receiving many submissions and might have weeks or months of open hearings with a large number of witnesses. The total duration will depend on its <<link>> terms of reference <<link>> but will often continue for longer than a year. The Institutional Response to Sexual Abuse Royal Commission is expected to run for a number of years, recently scheduled to extend to the end of 2017.

The Law Governing Royal Commissions

Royal Commissions are governed by the following legislation (Commonwealth & other States):

  • Royal Commissions Act 1902 (Cth);
  • Royal Commissions Act 1923 (NSW);
  • Commissions of Inquiry Act 1950 (QLD);
  • Royal Commissions Act 1917 (SA);
  • Royal Commissions Act 1968 (WA);
  • Commission of Inquiry Act 1995 (Tas);
  • The Inquiries Act 1945 (NT); Royal Commissions Act 1991 (ACT).

In Victoria, the Governor-in-Council is given the power to issue a commission by s88B of the Constitution Act 1975 (Vic) and the powers of Commissions are governed by the Evidence (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1958 (Vic).

If you have received a summons to appear, please contact us immediately for some advice about what is involved. Click here to download our ebook on this topic: Appearing Before a Royal Commission.