Saturday, November 19, 2011

Police 'dimwits' cause case collapse

A MAJOR drug case has collapsed after two senior Victorian policemen - described by a judge as "absolute dimwits" - failed to take 20 seconds of their time to legally swear an affidavit or affirm it.

Many fear the decision yesterday by the Director of Public Prosecutions to "discontinue" charges against three defendants facing trial may not be his last.

Since the practice was revealed last month, prosecutors and police have been working to establish how many other pending cases, or possibly past convictions, may be affected by investigators improperly taking out affidavits.

Drug boss Tony Mokbel this week was granted permission to apply to change his guilty pleas, while other trials have been delayed based on the officers' - and many others in the crime department - admission they have never followed the law.

The decision by the DPP, John Champion, SC, followed Judge Jim Montgomery's ruling in October, upheld recently by the state's highest court, to declare an unsworn affidavit invalid.

The County Court judge went on to use his discretion to exclude from the trial the evidence later seized in search warrants based on the affidavit.

Detective Senior Sergeant Stephen McIntyre told Judge Montgomery in pre-trial evidence he had never sworn an affidavit in his 25-year career.

A later "straw poll" of 25 detectives in the department revealed that they have also acted similarly.

In a unanimous decision a week ago, the Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by the DPP against Judge Montgomery's rulings.

But the court's three judges noted that they "would not wish it to be thought that the discretion should necessarily be exercised in the same way were the same issues to arise again for consideration in similar circumstances".

After Detective Senior Sergeant McIntyre's evidence, and that of Detective Inspector Glenn Davies - who confirmed conduct identical to his colleague - Judge Montgomery remarked: "We can all come to the conclusion that their state of mind was that they were all absolute dimwits."


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