Victoria Police are facing a backlash following the emergence of leaked photos of AFL coach Dean Laidley from inside a police station after their arrest.
Laidley (53), a former North Melbourne coach was arrested on Saturday night from outside a home in St Kilda and charged with offences including those related to stalking.
The outcry over the leak of the photos led the Victoria Police to suspend an officer and announce that they have commenced a Professional Standards Command investigation.
Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton said that a senior constable was interviewed over the leaked photographs and suspended with pay immediately while it investigates the matter. “(The senior constable) is expected to be charged in due course with criminal offences,” said Patton adding that the constable could be charged with “unauthorised access to police information”.
The offence carries a jail term of up to two years or almost $40,000 in fines. The constable is reported to have allegedly forwarded the photos to six other colleagues. Patton termed the conduct as “appalling”.
“Victoria Police understands the community concern surrounding images that were released of a person inside a police station over the weekend. The community can be assured that we share these concerns and are taking the matter extremely seriously.
This is one of the most significant breaches of a person’s privacy and Victoria Police will not tolerate this sort of behaviour. Police Standards Command has commenced a thorough investigation and will be looking into all aspects of the matter,” the police said in a statement earlier in the day.
Earlier in the day the leaked photos invited flak from individuals as well as organisations working for civil liberties.
“Victorians should feel confident that their privacy will be protected by Victoria Police when they interact with police. The release of the photos, which include a mug shot and photographs of sensitive Victoria Police records, is a serious violation of Laidley’s human rights, and will likely impact public confidence in Victoria Police’s approach to privacy,” said Liberty Victoria, one of Australia’s leading and longest-standing civil liberties organisations, in a media statement.
Liberty Victoria said that the leak could also amount to a breach of the Victoria Police Act, which treats a member of the police releasing private information to be a criminal offence in some circumstances.
“The Liberty Victoria also condemns the transphobia that appears to have underpinned the release of these images. It appears that these images were released with the intention of publicly “outing” Laidley.
Members of transgender and gender-non-conforming communities routinely report feeling distrustful towards police, and this incident will only further their concerns,”the statement said, seeking an independent investigation. The organisation noted that Laidley had not made any statement about their preferred name or correct pronouns.
“The leaking of these photos is an appalling breach of privacy and such disregard speaks to deep transphobia that still exists within some elements of the Victoria Police. Our trans and gender diverse clients routinely report a lack of trust in Victoria Police and this incident serves to show why,” said LGBT Legal Service, a community law project run by St Kilda Legal Service, in a message posted on Twitter.
Dee Giannopoulos tweeted with the hashtag “grossbreachofprivacy. Öutraged that pictures of my client, taken by some police officer, on the sly, when in custody in an interview have hit the media,” tweeted Giannopoulos.
If you are upset by the incident or the messages on social media about it, please contact Switchboard Victoria on 1800 184 527 or Life Line Australia on 13 11 14 or text 0477 13 11 14 (6 pm to midnight)