Timing your complaint

Lodging a complaint as soon as possible after an incident improves the chances of your complaint being substantiated as evidence can be collected that may be lost if the complaint is lodged later.

However, if you have been charged, or may be charged, with an offence then lodging a complaint can have negative consequences (seeWhen charges are laid or anticipated”).

Before lodging a complaint, get the advice of a lawyer (who is experienced in dealing with police misconduct complaints) about the best time to lodge your complaint. A community legal centre can advise you or help you find an appropriate lawyer (see Legal services that can help).

When charges are laid or anticipated

When a complaint is made, it is not unknown for the complainant to be charged, or charged with additional offences, by the police officer(s) named in the complaint. Police officers are also more reluctant to withdraw charges or proceed with lesser charges when the alleged offender has made a complaint of police misconduct. It is also common for police officer(s) to pursue a prosecution more aggressively when a complaint has been made against the informant, a corroborator, or another police officer involved in the police investigation.

In addition, while it is a disciplinary offence for PCU officers to release statements of complaint to other police officers, this has happened.

These reasons make it advantageous for a person who has been charged with a criminal offence to either not make a complaint about police misconduct, or to delay lodging their complaint until after criminal proceedings brought by the police have concluded.

If you have been charged, or are likely to be charged, with an offence that is related to the incident you are complaining about, you should get legal advice before making a complaint (see Legal services that can help).

Note that if police officer(s) charge you with a criminal offence, or add charges, after you lodge a complaint about police misconduct, you may be able to claim malicious prosecution in a future civil case.

Consequences of delaying lodging a complaint

Your complaint about police misconduct can be negatively affected if you decide to not lodge a complaint until after your court case, and your defence to the charges against you includes allegations of improper behaviour by police officers. The fact that you have not yet lodged a complaint can be used against you in court to suggest that you are making up the allegations just to help your court case.

In addition, some police investigators consider complaints that are not lodged straightaway to be less credible that those lodged quickly after an incident.

Also, the chances of your complaint being substantiated are reduced because the police officer(s) about whom you are complaining will have had a chance to get their stories straight.

If you decide to delay lodging your complaint, you should still complete all the steps in “Collecting evidence”. Doing this will enhance your credibility and increase the chances of your complaint being proved to be true.