Thursday, June 21, 2012

The poison at the top of the Victoria police again

Former top cop Simon Overland harmed career of Sir Ken Jones, Ombudsman finds. However Mr Overland has been cleared of allegations of "detrimental action involving Victoria Police".

A long-awaited report tabled in State Parliament this morning probed Sir Ken's controversial exit from the police force last year.

It found that Mr Overland's actions in sending Sir Ken on "gardening leave" in October last year, from which he did not return, was "at least significantly detrimental to Mr Jones".

Ombudsman George Brouwer said: "I think it is fair to state that the stigma associated with a senior officer being directed to take leave from work and exit the building by close of business, including having their building and email access withdrawn on the same day, could reasonably be perceived as detrimental to their reputation and personal standing."

He also said: "Mr Overland's actions had adverse consequences for Mr Jones."

But Mr Brouwer did not believe Mr Overland's actions constituted "detrimental action".

"Rather, Mr Overland had formed the view that Mr Jones had engaged in serious misconduct by leaking information to the media," he said.

"I consider this was the driving force for the action he took in relation to Mr Jones.

"I am therefore not of the view that Mr Overland's actions were taken as reprisal for any disclosure that Mr Jones was suspected to have made."

The report states Mr Overland believed Sir Ken was a source of leaks to the media and said he had a "fear of being set up by Mr Jones".

Current top cop Ken Lay said in the report he may have had his own suspicious of Sir Ken leaking but was not certain.

"I can't remember sitting in this meeting and saying ‘it was Ken Jones’," he said.

"There is no way known that I would have looked Ken in the eye and said, ‘you're leaking Ken’... the truth is I may well have suspected... I have no evidence at all to indicate that that is the case."

The Ombudsman revealed he had received a further allegation of "detrimental action" but was unable to make it public because of the Whistleblowers Act.

He recommended new legislation be introduced to allow the Ombudsman to identify a whistleblower where there is a public interest.

Mr Brower interviewed 18 witnesses and accessed secret police files and emails, including evidence from the Office of Police Integrity.

The report reveals a culture of mistrust and suspicion developed in the lead-up to Sir Ken's departure from Victoria Police.

Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews has called on the Baillieu Government to "fast-track" legislation so details of the additional allegation can be publicly aired.

"The Ombudsman wants to talk about it. He wants to serve the public interest by getting more information into the public domain and the Government have nothing to accede to the request that the Ombudsman has reasonably made," he said.

The Ombudsman's report states: "Mr Overland took some of the actions regarding Mr Jones that have been alleged.

"At least one of those actions was detrimental to Mr Jones and had an adverse effect on his professional reputation.

"However, I do not consider that the actions taken by Mr Overland were taken in reprisal for Mr Jones having made or having been believed to have made a disclosure, but were taken for other reasons.

"Accordingly, those actions do not constitute ‘detrimental action’ as defined in the WPA (Whistleblowers Protection Act).

In his final conclusions, the Ombudsman further states: "Mr Overland’s fear of being ‘set-up’ by Mr Jones because of an email exchange on the parolee issue is indicative of a Chief Commissioner who was concerned about Mr Jones’ motives and allowed this to influence his decision making."


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