Senior Constable Suspended Over 'Disgraceful' Dean Laidley Photo Leak
A Victoria Police officer has been stood down and is expected to be charged over the leaking of photos of former AFL player and coach Dean Laidley inside a police station following his arrest.
Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton said the male senior constable from a southern metropolitan police station was immediately suspended after coming forward over the dissemination of the photographs.
Speaking to reporters, Patton said he was "appalled" by the conduct from within the force, and that the matter is being taken "extremely seriously".
"This type of conduct is completely unacceptable and appalling. It's conduct we will not tolerate," he said.
Patton said the conduct could result in a criminal charge for "unauthorised disclosure of information" which carries up to two years in jail, and/or $40,000 in fines.
The officer will also be subject to internal disciplinary measures and the corruption watchdog has been notified.
Laidley, the former North Melbourne coach, was arrested on Saturday outside a St Kilda address at about 9pm.
Police had charged the 53-year-old with "stalking and other matters".
After Laidley's arrest, a photograph emerged that Patton said was taken inside a police station. The photograph shows the AFL star wearing a long blonde wig and makeup.
A second 'mugshot' photo also emerged.
Patton said the senior constable, who "had no part" in Laidley's investigation, came forward to one of his supervisors. He was interviewed on Monday and immediately suspended with pay.
Patton said the officer shared "some material" with about six people on messaging app WhatsApp.
"How it has then come through to the media and who [sic] other people had accessed it, I'm unaware. We will be stepping through the entire process," Patton said.
"This is one of the most appalling breaches and I cannot recall of breach of someone's privacy like this."
Patton said the officer's phone will be forensically examined to trace who the material had been sent to.
He said an investigation, carried out by the Professional Standards Command, would explore whether others have also offended by forwarding or accessing the material.
"I’m not ruling anything in or out," he said.
"If other members disseminated unauthorised information, they will be potentially be facing exactly the same charges as this senior constable is."
In a statement released earlier on Monday, a police spokesperson said the Professional Standards Command is investigating and taking the matter "extremely seriously".
"This is one of the most significant breaches of a person's privacy and Victoria Police will not tolerate this sort of behaviour," the statement read.
"Victoria Police understands the community concern surrounding images that were released of a person inside a police station over the weekend."
Laidley’s lawyer, Dee Giannopoulos from Doogue and George, took to Twitter to slam the photo leak.
“Outraged that pictures of my client, taken by some police officer, on the sly, when in custody in interview have hit the media. Typical,” she wrote.
“Disgraceful. Taking photos unlawfully and sharing them. And these were sneaky photos while in police interview in police station by a police officer," lawyer Bill Doogue added.
Liberty Victoria, the state's top civil liberties advocate expressed its outrage at the leaking of the images, calling it "transphobic".
“The images circulating of a high-profile arrest today are a deplorable breach of privacy,” Liberty Victoria tweeted.
“The transphobic overtones only serve to make the breach even more egregious.
“Not good enough Victoria Police: we are watching. Please deal with this unacceptable incident swiftly and properly.”
Laidley played in the Kangaroos' 1996 premiership team and coached the club from 2003 to 2009.
He played 151 AFL games for West Coast and North Melbourne.
After a brief appearance in court on Sunday, Laidley was remanded to reappear in court on May 11.