Two more police officers have been charged with criminal offences after the alleged leaking of photos of former North Melbourne coach Dani Laidley while she was in custody.
In a statement Victoria Police confirmed a senior constable from the Southern Metro Region had been charged with misconduct in public office, unauthorised access of police information and two counts of unauthorised disclosure of police information.
He has been suspended and will appear at the Melbourne Magistrates Court on February 11 next year.
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A constable from North West Metro Region has also been charged with two counts of unauthorised disclosure of police information.
He has been transferred to “other duties” and will appear at the Ringwood Magistrates Court on February 5.
“The investigation into these serious acts of misconduct remains ongoing,” a Victoria Police spokesman said on Monday morning.
It comes after a leading senior constable was last week charged similar offences over allegedly sharing photos of Ms Laidley.
Ms Laidley, previously known as Dean, changed her name after her lawyer Rob Stary explained in November that his client had undergone a gender transition.
The photos of Ms Laidley in custody were widely circulated, and the leak was slammed by Victoria Police chief commissioner Shane Patton as “appalling”.
Victoria Police have charged a detective leading senior constable over the alleged circulation of a photograph of former AFL coach Dani Laidley inside a police station, while hundreds of employees have been interviewed so far.
Ms Laidley, the former North Melbourne coach who has since undergone a gender transition, admitted in November to stalking but avoided a criminal conviction and was put on an adjourned undertaking to be of good behaviour for 18 months.
On May 3, after being arrested, two photographs of her inside a police station were leaked and widely shared on social media.
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Victoria Police confirmed on Wednesday the officer had been charged with one count of unauthorised access of police information, four counts of unauthorised disclosure of police information and one count of misconduct in public office.
He remains suspended and will face the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on March 30, 2021.
Two other police officers and one police custody officer also remain suspended and face potential criminal action, while 39 police officers and seven public servants will face internal disciplinary action.
“A committee has been formed and that’s one thing the Kangaroos do really well, they look after their own,” Pagan said.
“I know that Wayne got a message to him and his message was along the line of, ‘Forget about it, we still love you Dean’.
“And I thought to myself, ‘Gee, that was touching’.
“Different strokes for different blokes. It doesn’t make any difference to me, I know what Dean Laidley was to the Kangaroos when I coached him, and that’s what I remember him by.
“I hope he gets well and hopefully he can be productive. He had a good job and was coaching Maribyrnong Park, and one thing with Dean Laidley, he has had a lot of personal troubles, but he was a very good football coach.”
Pagan explained his frustration with drugs, but wanted Laidley to get better after a tough period of his life.
“I feel for Dean and drugs are the scourge of our society. I don’t know what Dean was taking or administering, but it just wrecks so many lives and so many people,” he said.
“All I remember is Dean Laidley playing for us and how tough he was. It is just so sad. I hope he gets better and he can lead a normal life.”
The AFL Players Association and several high-profile names in the league, including Mark Williams and Brent Harvey, supplied character references for Mr Laidley in support of his application for bail in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court.
The court heard Mr Laidley, 53, of Moonee Ponds, had been struggling with drug abuse for eight years and had a range of psychiatric issues, including gender dysphoria.
Mr Laidley, who coached North Melbourne after a playing career at the Kangaroos and West Coast, has been bailed to a rehabilitation centre for the next month.
Police informant Senior Constable James Maddock told the court the woman was worried about Mr Laidley being released into rehabilitation.
“The victim is in short petrified of the accused,” he said.
“She details in one of her statements she is exhausted by this and it’s having a significant impact. She’s fearful of doing ordinary duties like going for shopping.”
Magistrate Kieran Gilligan said Mr Laidley was being granted bail due to his lack of criminal history and the possibility of him being held on remand for years, if the matter went to trial.
Victoria’s legal system is experiencing significant delays due to COVID-19.
Lawyer says former coach hit ‘rock bottom’ last year
The court heard there was a string of incidents before Mr Laidley was arrested, including taking photos outside the woman’s house and verbal abuse.
In one incident last month, Mr Laidley allegedly called her 43 times in one evening.
In another incident, he allegedly threatened to ram her car.
The court heard Mr Laidley was found with a small quantity of methamphetamine when he was arrested.
Mr Laidley’s lawyer Phil Dunn QC said the release of the photos “devastated” Mr Laidley and his family.
Mr Dunn told the court his client had hit “rock bottom” last year.
“He was lonely and depressed, and he was using drugs,” Mr Dunn said.
“Mr Laidley is not a bad man. He’s a man that’s lost his way.
“He’s lived in a cocoon for a long time. He went into a cocoon at the age of 17 to play football. He lived in a bubble that had structures around him.
“As he eased out of the AFL system and had to stand on his own two feet, he’s had some problems adjusting.”
The AFL Players Association will financially support Mr Laidley’s stay in rehabilitation.
Among several high-profile AFL names who provided character references for Mr Laidley were his predecessor as North Melbourne coach Denis Pagan, former teammates Guy McKenna, Wayne Schwass and Brent Harvey and former Port Adelaide coach Mark Williams.
“The man who is here now is a very different person from people who knew him and knew him well,” Mr Dunn said.
The photos were taken when Laidley was in police custody last weekend on allegations of stalking, as well as other charges.
The 53-year-old from Moonee Ponds was arrested on Saturday night after an incident outside a St Kilda home about 9:00pm.
In a statement, police said Professional Standards Command had “suspended two further Victoria Police employees in relation to photos circulating on social media of a person who was in custody at a police station in Victoria”.
The two male senior constables are from the southern metropolitan region and are expected to be charged with a breach under section 227 of the Victoria Police Act, which is unauthorised disclosure of information.
There have now been four police officers suspended as part of the investigation.
Police said as the investigation was ongoing, there would be no further comment.
Independent oversight of police probe
Meanwhile, Victoria’s corruption watchdog said it would oversee the Victoria Police investigation into the “serious privacy breach”.
Victoria’s independent police oversight agency, IBAC, said the scope of Victoria Police’s investigation would address issues the watchdog considered necessary to restore public confidence and prevent future breaches.
The police investigation will examine the number of officers involved in taking the initial photographs and the conduct of any other officers who were present and aware of the behaviour.
It will also probe how other officers received the photographs and responded to them, including whether they further distributed the images.
IBAC Commissioner Robert Redlich said the community was right to expect that police always conducted themselves in accordance with the law.
“Importantly, Victoria Police has confirmed they are looking at any underlying cultural issues, and how they can build on their work with the LGBTIQ community and ensure their officers have proper regard to human rights.
“Addressing any such cultural issues and improving police training will be fundamental to ensuring this type of behaviour is simply not tolerated and doesn’t happen again.”
Top cop’s ‘sense of shame’
Earlier on Friday, Victoria’s Chief Police Commissioner, Graham Ashton, said he felt ashamed of the force when he learnt the photo of Mr Laidley had been leaked in an act of “immaturity and gross stupidity”.
Mr Ashton said while Constable Prestney’s parents did not raise the incident with him at the funeral on Monday, “there was a sense of shame that I felt that someone in the force had done that on a day that we should have been honouring a police hero”.
He said it was clear “a lot of people” in the force had received the messages, and detectives were in the process of determining how widely it was shared.