Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Police watchdog 'leaks like a sieve'

The Victoria Police watchdog leaks like a sieve, according to former assistant commissioner Noel Ashby, who could face criminal charges following an Office of Police Integrity (OPI) inquiry.

He says a report in The Age newspaper on Wednesday was the first he knew he may be charged and it was typical of the OPI to release information through the media.

"We learn these things through the media and that seems to be almost typical (of the OPI)," Mr Ashby said.

"I think this is the fourth or fifth leak from the OPI.

"We've seen leaks about witnesses that they have or may not have, we've seen leaks about speculation of charges and now leaks about charges are imminent.

"In their investigation into us they were unable to make out unauthorised release of information - which they couldn't because there was none - but they seem to show a healthy disrespect, if today's report is correct, for proper legal process."

Mr Ashby, Police Association secretary Paul Mullett and former police media director Stephen Linnell face the threat of being charged with serious criminal offences, including perjury and misconduct in public office, following public corruption hearings last year.

Following the hearings, the OPI found Mr Mullett tipped off Detective Sergeant Peter Lalor that he was being secretly investigated for providing the address of male prostitute Shane Chartres-Abbott, who was later murdered.

The hearings exposed a chain of tapped telephone calls involving Mr Mullett, Mr Ashby and Mr Linnell.

Phone taps showed Mr Ashby and Mr Mullett exchanged office gossip and confidential information, while others involving Mr Ashby and Mr Linnell discussed operational matters including the Chartres-Abbott case.

As a result, Mr Linnell and Mr Ashby resigned and Mr Mullett was suspended from the force, although he remains in his Police Association position.

"We will fight any charges but we haven't been told anything," Mr Ashby said on Wednesday.

"We have some views on the true motives for this (OPI) inquiry and who knew about the inquiry in advance and what was influencing those people."

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