What powers of investigation do we have?

During an investigation, we have substantial investigative powers under the Public Guardian Act 2014 to:

  • gain access to any relevant information necessary for the investigation including medical and financial information
  • require people to produce records/accounts; we can require information by Statutory Declaration
  • issue a written notice for a person to attend at a stated time and place, give information, answer questions and produce documents

During or at the conclusion of an investigation, there may be grounds to use our protective powers to assist the adult including:

  • suspending an attorney's power under the adult’s Enduring Power of Attorney. If the attorney for personal matters is suspended, the Public Guardian is automatically appointed under the legislation as attorney for personal matters for up to three months. If the Public Guardian suspects the attorney for financial matters is not competent or protecting the adult, the attorney’s financial powers can be suspended and the Public Trustee acts as financial attorney for the suspension period. The Public Guardian may lift the suspension during the three-month period or apply to QCAT for the tribunal to make a formal decision about whether the enduring power of attorney will continue or whether there is a need for appointing a guardian and/or administrator to replace the enduring document.
  • applying to QCAT for a warrant to enter a place to remove the adult who is suspected to be at immediate risk of harm because of abuse, neglect or exploitation.
  • applying to QCAT seeking the appointment of a guardian and/or administrator for an adult if there is no Enduring Power of Attorney and the current arrangements are not protecting the adult.

The purpose of an investigation is to identify the vulnerable person’s ability to make decisions about the issue, the level of risk, any decision-making arrangements and what possible action is needed to protect the adult. The Public Guardian does not conduct criminal investigations. We will gather information to determine whether the allegations can be substantiated on the balance of probabilities.

The Public Guardian will cease an investigation upon an adult’s death and will not commence an investigation relating to a deceased adult with impaired decision-making capacity, unless there is an overriding public interest to commence or continue the investigation. Our decision on whether there is an overriding public interest would be informed by things like:

  • Whether there is a risk to another, living adult with impaired capacity - where there is readily available information that the formal decision maker, for example an attorney, administrator, or guardian, is a formal decision maker for another, living person with impaired decision-making capacity.
  • Whether there is an opportunity to discourage abuse, neglect, or exploitation - where an investigation may obtain sufficient readily available information to establish whether we should make a referral to the police or State Coroner. When sufficient information is identified and suggests that the matter should be referred, our investigation will cease and we will make the referral.

Read the Public Guardian’s policy statement about conducting an investigation after the death of an adult with impaired decision-making capacity.