Monday, March 2, 2015
The former NSW Crime Commission chief Phillip Bradley has sensationally accused police commissioner Andrew Scipione and his predecessor Ken Moroney of giving "demonstrably wrong" evidence to a parliamentary inquiry examining a long-running bugging scandal.
In an explosive submission to the committee conducting the inquiry, whose final report is being tabled on Wednesday, Mr Bradley says the suggestion by the pair that the Crime Commission "obstructed" an internal investigation into the scandal is "demonstrably wrong and must be rejected".
But Mr Scipione has rejected Mr Bradley's claim in his own last-minute submission to the inquiry.
In it he quotes from an annexure to an official report by the Inspector of the Police Integrity Commission David Levine that says the Crime Commission had "refused to supply" key documents and other material to the internal investigation.
"I therefore do not accept the statement ... that the evidence provided by myself and Mr Moroney was 'demonstrably wrong and must be rejected'," Mr Scipione says.
The dispute opens a new front in the decades-old bugging scandal around an operation codenamed Mascot, which ran between 1999 and 2001.
Mascot - a joint operation between the Police Integrity Commission, the NSW Crime Commission and police internal affairs - used a corrupt former policeman, code named M5, to target allegedly corrupt police with a listening device.
But it emerged there was insufficient or no evidence of wrongdoing by many of the more than 100 police and civilians whose names appeared on warrants issued by the Supreme Court.
The scandal has rocked the highest offices in the NSW Police as Deputy commissioner Catherine Burn was team leader of Mascot, which bugged her fellow deputy commissioner Nick Kaldas more than a decade ago.
Complaints about Mascot were initially investigated by an internal police inquiry, Strike Force Emblems.
But in their evidence to the inquiry Mr Scipione and Mr Moroney said Strikeforce Emblems had been impeded by the Crime Commission's reluctance to hand over key documents, citing secrecy provisions.
Mr Scipione said Mr Moroney had advised him that this meant nothing more could be done and this was one reason for him not pursuing the matter when he was appointed commissioner in 2007.
However, in a letter from his lawyer, Arthur Moses, SC, published by the committee on Tuesday Mr Bradley takes issue with this version of events.
It says that a document was tabled at a July 2004 meeting of the Crime Commission Management Committee which contained "specific references to attempts that had been made by the crime Commission and indeed the Management Committee itself to facilitate the dissemination of information relevant to the investigation".
The letter says the document also sets out the impediments to the handing over of the information and the reasons for the investigation being "ultimately discontinued by resolution of the management committee whose members at the time included Mr Moroney and then police minister John Watkins.
Mr Moses says Mr Bradley - who gave in-camera evidence to the inquiry - regards the document as "crucial because it refutes the allegation that has been repeated many times; to the effect that the Crime Commission obstructed the proper and timely grievance of police officers named in certain affidavits and warrants".
The letter says Mr Bradley believes the July 2004 document represents "a fair and proper understanding of the role of the NSW Crime Commission in this unfortunate matter".
But in response, Mr Scipione has written to the inquiry saying it was "most unfortunate" Mr Bradley's letter was not made available to him by the committee before he gave evidence if it was in its possession.
Mr Scipione says his evidence was based on findings of the Strike Force Emblems report which stated that "investigations could not be progressed as limited material was supplied by the NSW CC" and that the commission had not allowed officers to be interviewed.
He also cites the annexure to Mr Levine's report on the Emblems investigation that says the Crime Commission "refused to supply" material including affidavits underpinning applications for listening device warrants.
Mr Scipione says this led him to believe it was "more than open to conclude" that the Crime Commission had refused access to material sought by Emblems investigators.
In fact, the July 2004 document was tabled by committee member David Shoebridge on January 29 this year.
In it, Mr Bradley outlines the Crime Commission's willingness to consider requests for information by Strike Force Emblems subject to legal and other considerations.
But he also says he has "concerns" about Strike Force Emblems - which he says were shared by then commissioner Ken Moroney - because confidential details about its work were being leaked to the media.
"Because of those concerns, I cannot provide highly confidential information to that Task Force," he wrote.
On Wednesday the inquiry's report recommended that the state government issue a formal apology to Mr Kaldas over being targeted by the operation.
It emerged during the inquiry that Mr Kaldas was named in 80 warrants for listening devices issued to Mascot.
It also recommends an apology be given to Channel Seven journalist Steve Barrett, who was named on 52 warrants.
It is critical of police commissioners over what it says is a lack of action to resolve complaints over the decade-old scandal.
The report also recommends the NSW government establish "a single, well resourced police oversight body that deals with complaints, quickly, fairly and independently".
In 2012 the government commissioned NSW Ombudsman Bruce Barbour to examine the issue. Concerns over the length of his inquiry sparked the parliamentary inquiry last last year.
Mr Barbour is now due to report by July.
Posted by JR at 9:21 PM