Witness protection appeals
The witness protection program in NSW was established under the Witness Protection Act 1995. The purpose of the program is to protect the safety and welfare of crown witnesses and others who have given information to police about criminal activities. The Ombudsman is responsible for hearing appeals about the exercise of certain witness protection powers by police and handling complaints from people in the program.
The NSW Commissioner of Police has the power to refuse a person entry to the witness protection program or to remove them from it. A person who is directly affected by such a decision can appeal to the Ombudsman who must then make a decision within seven days. The Ombudsman’s decision is final and must be acted on by the Commissioner of Police.
People who have a right to appeal to the Ombudsman are given full information about how they can exercise that right when the Commissioner makes the decision about their non-inclusion in, or removal from, the program.
Every person taken onto the witness protection program has to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Commissioner of Police. This memorandum sets out the basic obligations of the participant and the police, and:
- Prohibits the participant from engaging in certain activities
- Governs arrangements for family maintenance, taxation, welfare and other social and domestic obligations or relationships
- Sets out the consequences of not complying with the provisions of the memorandum
All witnesses have a right to complain to the Ombudsman about the conduct of police in relation to any matters covered in the memorandum.
Participants in the program should also be given information by the NSW Police about how they can contact the Ombudsman with any complaints. Any eligible person who does not have that information should contact our main switchboard on 02 9286 1000 or 1800 451 524 where they will be referred to an appropriate officer.