The decision not to ask the head of Queensland police to give evidence at the state’s commission of inquiry into the force’s response to domestic violence has been labelled “inexplicable” and a “missed opportunity” by experts and advocates in the field.
The $3.4m commission of inquiry will hold its fifth and final week of public hearings next week, having heard harrowing evidence from dozens of witnesses including police officers, lawyers and support services.
But there have been several notable absences from proceedings, including the commissioner of the Queensland Police Service (QPS), Katarina Carroll; the chief executive of the Queensland Police Union, Ian Leavers; and the state’s police minister, Mark Ryan, all of whom have not been asked by the inquiry to appear.
One of Australia’s leading experts on the policing of domestic violence, Prof Kerry Carrington, said she felt the commissioner was a “very obvious person” to be questioned.
“Carroll appeared at a budget estimates hearing [this week] but hasn’t been asked to appear at the most important inquiry into police culture in the 21st century? It’s just puzzling,” Carrington said.
Guardian Australia has spoken to several other advocates who expressed concern that powerful police figures had not been called to attend.
A family member of a victim who was murdered by their ex-partner last year also criticised the decision.
“It’s interesting to hear that the people who give the final word aren’t being asked the questions that need to be asked,” she said.
“They’re the people that at the end of the day are putting these protocols in place and overseeing decisions.”
The commission of inquiry confirmed to Guardian Australia it did not intend to call Carroll, Leavers or Ryan to give evidence at the hearings, scheduled to finish in Mt Isa on Tuesday.
In Carroll’s place at the hearings has been the assistant commissioner, Brian Codd. At Thursday’s hearing, he was asked about an email Carroll sent last year indicating she did not support the inquiry.
He defended the comments, saying Carroll felt the inquiry had a similar purpose to the state’s Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce and QPS was “doing a whole heap of work” to consider its recommendations.
“I saw that and I thought why are they asking him the reasons for Katarina Carroll, saying such and such or sending that email? He reports to her,” Carrington said.
“[I would have asked her] is she going to give Codd permanent officers and 1,000 personnel? Is she open to an external body taking over the investigation of police complaints? These are the sorts of things that really need to be answered.”
Carrington also questioned why the inquiry had not compelled Leavers to give evidence.
The police union leader originally fiercely opposed the commission of inquiry, labelling recommendations by the taskforce another “woke, out-of-touch report”.
Both Carroll and Leavers have since indicated they back the inquiry, describing it as “an opportunity” to commit to reforms.
“It just seems inexplicable [for them not to appear],” Carrington said. “The inquiry in Western Australia into sexual harassment at mines had all the CEOs of big mining companies at that inquiry.
“I think this commission of inquiry into the Queensland police is as important as the Fitzgerald inquiry and I would really hope that there is going to be wide-scale change and structural change.”
The QPS said the organisation and its commissioner had “provided a significant contribution” to the inquiry and will “fully cooperate” with any future proceedings.
“Witnesses who are requested to participate in the [commission of inquiry] are a matter for the inquiry to determine,” a QPS spokesperson said.
Guardian Australia has contacted QPU for comment.
The police minister, Mark Ryan, said the government and police will “cooperate fully” with the inquiry but “who is called to give evidence is a matter for the commission”.
“All recommendations made by the commission of inquiry will be considered,” he said.