Law & Disorder: NSW deaths in custody and from police operations

Mr Terry Flanders

1Australian & New Zealand Society of Criminology
2Australian Institute of Health & Safety
3ASIS International
4Australian Security Industry Association Ltd

Criminologists are like law enforcement officers, only they work back of house, using their skills to research, refine and build on the available body of knowledge.  Research like any criminal investigation should be based on the collection of evidence.  Evidence, or data, once collected, should be analysed to provide intelligence for us, as a society, to improve.  Continual improvement in any field must include failure based learning.

Data shows that the NSW Police and Corrective Services NSW have both been under-reporting work-related fatalities to SafeWork NSW, the work health and safety (WHS) regulator.  By concealing work-related fatalities, both agencies fail to learn from their mistakes.

Between the calendar years 2018 to 2020 (inclusive), both agencies reported 147 work-related fatalities to the NSW Coroner and only 19 work-related fatalities to SafeWork NSW.

Safe Work Australia advised that reported work-related fatalities across industries in Australia had fallen by 53% between 2007 and 2019. Of course, this is not the case for the NSW Police and Corrective Services NSW.  Deaths in custody and from police operations, during the same period, rose.

With the introduction of Industrial Manslaughter crimes.  WHS legislation is truly the new white-collar corporate crime, a crime with a deterrent effect that police and corrections executives will not be exposed to since they conceal WHS notifiable incidents from the regulator responsible for their investigation.  A practice supported by the Legal Services Section of the NSW Department of Community and Justice.

This practice is likely not confined to NSW.

If left unchanged custody and police operational fatalities will increase.  Any rise in future illicit drug use will likely increase crime rates resulting in more custody and police operational deaths.  The system needs to be changed and now is the time to reshape our future by working together.


Terry is a former criminal investigator from the Jurassic period of law enforcement in NSW.  He has known scumbags and scallywags; saints and sinners.  With tertiary qualifications in health, safety, and criminology.  Terry has worked to protect the workplaces primary asset; people.  Terry is a practitioner, not an academic but is bound to researchers by a common theme; the need to gather verifiable factual evidence.

Terry’s presentation builds on his 2019 ANZOC  Conference presentation and paper themes by providing evidence that the NSW Police and Corrective Services NSW are avoiding criminal deterrents by under-reporting work-related fatalities to SafeWork NSW.


Dec 10 2021