Monday, November 7, 2016

Crooked cops in NSW

<i>The crooked cops always slime the honest ones, thus making it hard to tell the sheep from the goats</i>

Deputy Police Commissioner Catherine Burn is likely to face adverse findings when the Ombudsman's long-running and controversial police bugging inquiry, Operation Prospect, tables its report, leaked letters have revealed.

An adverse finding would seriously dent any chance Ms Burn had of replacing Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione when he retires.

The two letters sent to Acting Ombudsman John McMillan by the NSW Crime Commissioner Peter Hastings, QC, have blasted the $10 million Operation Prospect investigation as unfair.

Mr Hastings threatens to seek an injunction in the Supreme Court to block the public release of the report when it is tabled in NSW Parliament.

The Greens will separately seek to "kill off" the report, by amending a police oversight bill in NSW Parliament next week, to terminate the Operation Prospect inquiry.

"Any report that the Acting Ombudsman delivers will be so infected by gross procedural injustice that it will never be accepted as either fair or impartial," Greens MP David Shoebridge said last night.

The Ombudsman has been investigating events that took place 17 years ago, when former deputy commissioner Nick Kaldas was among about 100 police bugged during a police internal affairs unit investigation involving Deputy Commissioner Burn.

The Ombudsman's report is still being written and is due to be released before Christmas.

The heavily redacted letters, obtained by Fairfax Media, confirm for the first time that Ms Burn, Mr Kaldas and former NSW Crime Commission chief Philip Bradley face recommendations of adverse findings.

But the letter attacks the investigation, begun by former ombudsman Bruce Barbour four years ago, for allowing key witnesses to make submissions that were not disclosed to other parties.

Mr Kaldas, who has previously made serious complaints about the Ombudsman's inquiry, retired from NSW Police earlier this year, bowing out of the race for the Commissioner role.

The letter says the process used by the Ombudsman's office is "intolerable", and it was "fundamentally unfair" that Mr Bradley has been unable to see evidence given by important witnesses against him.

Mr Hastings says he has discussed the matter with Ms Burn and "I understand her lawyers have expressed similar concerns about the processes generally and specifically in relation to the failure to put matters to her [redacted] about which recommendations are now apparently being made for adverse findings", the letter says.

"It is a matter of public record that former deputy commissioner Nick Kaldas has serious complaints about the manner in which the investigation has been conducted ... It is significant that those senior personnel who have been investigated but who have different interests, have major grievances about the way in which they have been treated," the letter says.

The report will cause "substantial reputational damage suffered ... The situation is wrong and the damage will be irremediable."

It threatens that Ms Burn, Mr Kaldas and Mr Bradley may join any legal action to injunct the report in the Supreme Court.

However, Ms Burn last night distanced herself from the letter.

"I am under strict directions from the Acting Ombudsman not to disclose the matters in which I have been involved in the Operation Prospect Inquiry. Contrary to a media report today, I have not decided to join in an application to the courts complaining about the process of the inquiry,'  she said in a statement.

No details of the adverse findings have been revealed in the redacted letters.

The October 26 letter also calls for the dispute between the government authorities to be referred to Premier Mike Baird within seven days.

A spokesman for Mr Baird said a copy of the letter had been sent to Mr Baird's office late this week.                

"We look forward to receiving the Ombudsman's report and will respond in due course," he said.

A spokesman for the NSW Crime Commission declined to confirm or deny the contents of the letter.

The Ombudsman's office said the report was still being written and would be tabled in Parliament before Christmas.

Mr Shoebridge said: "From day one it was clear the Ombudsman's office was not up to the job of investigating this extremely sensitive police bugging scandal, and it has hidden its inadequacies behind a wall of secrecy and a grossly unfair process.

"Parliament created this monster and Parliament now needs to do the right thing and kill it off before it causes any more damage."

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