The Victoria police have charged a police officer with criminal offences over the unauthorised leak of photos of former AFL coach Dani Laidley who was in police custody in connection with a stalking case. Over 50 others face disciplinary and other action in relation to the sharing of the images.

53-year-old Laidley, a former North Melbourne coach and player, was arrested on May 2 outside a home in St Kilda and charged with allegedly stalking a woman. A day later mugshots and photos of Laidley dressed in a blond wig and dress while in the custody of the police were shared on social media. Activists had condemned the leaking of the photographs for breaching privacy and said that the act had transphobic overtones.

Laidley recently underwent gender transition and said she identifies as a woman. Last month she pleaded guilty to the stalking charges, but avoided conviction and jail time. A court put Laidley on an adjourned undertaking of good behaviour for 18 months.

Suspended Senior Constable Murray Gentner was charged with unauthorised access of police information, unauthorised disclosure of police information and misconduct in public office. Two police officers and one police custody officer, remain suspended and face potential criminal action, the Victoria Police said in a media statement. Forty-six others including 39 police officers and seven public servants, will face internal disciplinary action over the photos that were widely shared on social media.

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 “Due to the number of Victoria Police employees who received or forwarded the images, as well as those who shared the social media posts, the investigation has taken longer than originally expected,” the police said.

“One of the main challenges investigators have faced is determining who received or forwarded the photos taken at the station, versus those who were sent links once they appeared on social media.”

The investigating team cleared 224 others as it was found that they were sent the photos after they appeared on social media. The police said that investigations were ongoing.

Victoria’s LGBTQI Legal Service had expressed their concern over the leak of the photos and said that it would “potentially cause feelings of humiliation and hurt for many members of the LGBTQI+ community.”

“These events speak to discriminatory and transphobic attitudes that sadly still appear to exist within some elements of Victoria Police, as evidenced by these actions. As a service that provides legal assistance to transgender and gender diverse people in Victoria, we are concerned these events will only further embed the distrust many people in this community already feel towards Victoria Police,” the LGBTQI Legal Service stated.

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