Police photographs of Dean Laidley and photographs taken inside police station a significant data breach and invasion of his privacy.

May 4, 2020 |

The arrest and charging of Dean Laidley for what has been described as stalking is a matter of public record.  He appeared before the Melbourne Magistrates Court and was remanded.  As no suppression or pseudonomysation orders  were made those details can be reported. 

However photographs police take of those charged are not public documents.  They are taken for the purpose of properly recording the processing of a person into custody.  Their purpose does not extend to providing colour to a story.  Further, other photographs taken in a police station of a suspect or a person charged are not for public consumption. Frankly there is no good reason for taking other still photographs. 

It is then appalling to see that the Herald Sun has put on today’s front page Laidley’s “mug shot” as well as a photograph of him near or entering into an interview room.  What is even more galling is that the Herald Sun reports on the “leaking of the former AFL coach and premiership star’s mugshot of him…while speaking to police at the station” under the photographs that have been leaked.  There has been an acknowledged leak which is aclear breach of the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 and the Herald Sun is happy to aggravate  the consequences of that breach and humiliate Laidley.  It is as typically cynical approach by the Herald Sun. The Australian also does itself no great service in also publishing the photographs. Of course the Daily Mail Australia rolls around in the dirt just that little bit more, with a more salacious headline and a bigger blow up of the photographs.  And newspapers wonder why courts hand out significant awards in defamation proceedings?   

The Age reports on the breach and the Victoria Police reaction in Dean Laidley mugshot leak a significant breach of privacy, police say.  The Victoria Police response has been the usual vanilla bromide of “Victoria Police understands the community concern surrounding images that were released of a person inside a police station over the weekend,” and “The community can be assured that we share these concerns and we taking the matter extremely seriously” and  “This is one of the most significant breaches of a person’s privacy and Victoria Police will not tolerate this sort of behaviour.”  And because the Victoria Police are taking it so seriously it has been referred to Professional Standards Command, a rabbit hole of Alice in Wonderland proportions.  The investigation will most likely disappear into the opaque world of internal investigation and the results of that investigation will most likely never see the light of day. The Victoria Police is very poor and examining the bad behaviour of its members.  With its large media department it is better at obfuscating and diverting than investigating and being transparent when it comes to privacy breaches.

The Age article provides:

Police say photographs of former North Melbourne coach Dean Laidley taken inside a police station while he was being interviewed by officers over stalking allegations is a significant breach of privacy.

The former Kangaroos coach and premiership player was arrested on Saturday night in St Kilda and charged with stalking and other offences.

A police ‘mugshot’ of the 53-year-old, who was dressed in women’s clothing, as well as a photo that appears to be taken from inside the police station looking into the interview room where he was being questioned, surfaced on Sunday.

“Victoria Police understands the community concern surrounding images that were released of a person inside a police station over the weekend,” a police spokeswoman said on Monday morning.

“The community can be assured that we share these concerns and we 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 force’s internal investigator, Professional Standards Command, is investigating.

Mr Laidley, arrested outside a St Kilda home about 9pm on Saturday, appeared before Melbourne Magistrates Court on Sunday and was remanded in custody to face court again next Monday.

His lawyer Dee Giannopoulos, from Doogue & George, said taking and leaking the photo was a gross breach of privacy.

“Outraged that pictures of my client, taken by some police officer, on the sly, when in custody in interview have hit the media,” she wrote on Twitter.

Mr Laidley coached the Kangaroos for seven years, playing 151 games for both North Melbourne and West Coast.
The former premiership player is now the head coach of Maribyrnong Park in the Essendon District Football League.

Unfortunately the Victoria Police have a long and less than illustrious record in properly handing personal information.  The abuse of the LEAP database is chronic. One needs only to look at the IBAC report Unauthorised access and disclosure of information held by Victoria Police An analysis of corruption risks and prevention opportunities released in September 2019 to see this is a serious and ongoing problem. As part of its key findings it stated:

Unauthorised disclosures to the media is a risk across public sector agencies, including Victoria Police which frequently deals with issues of high public interest. These incidents are difficult to substantiate due to the source of the information leaks often being difficult to identify.

What IBAC failed to mention was that efforts to substantiate are generally half hearted and more about form filling than serious investigation.   It also found that:

Customised auditing of information access is under-utilised by Victoria Police and its benefits are under-appreciated. A program of proactive, extensive and repeated auditing could be used to identify and deter unauthorised access of information

Regarding the unauthorised information disclosure to media IBAC stated:

The Leveson Inquiry  in the United Kingdom (UK) highlighted the important role media play in shaping the relationship between police and the community. It found public confidence in the police is essential and noted the crucial role the media can play as a conduit for intelligence in relation to preventing and solving crime. However, it also noted there are risks associated with police and media relations, highlighting the relationship can be ‘fraught with difficulty’.30Media assists Victoria Police to communicate with the community, including communications seeking witnesses to incidents, announcing community safety messages and appealing for information on police cases. However, when official information is made public, this can risk people’s safety, negatively affect investigations (for example, by alerting suspects and others to the current status of investigations), and discourage others from coming forward if they lack confidence in confidentiality and privacy protections. Unauthorised disclosures to media can also have a more damaging impact (compared to an unauthorised disclosure to one individual person) due to the fact that the information can be made instantly available to many people through broadcast, social media and online news services.Unauthorised disclosure of information to the media is an area of increasing concern as more people use social media. Social media can make it easier to quickly disclose information without permission and presents challenges when investigating these disclosures. In particular, it is difficult to investigate and substantiate allegations of information disclosure when the information was disclosed in messages using encrypted technology.

In Victoria, section 126K of the Evidence Act 2008protects journalists and their informants. This impacts the investigation of unauthorised disclosures of official information. The protection can complicate investigations making the allegations difficult to substantiate due to the source of information leaks often being difficult to identify.Victoria Police has a policy framework for its employees regarding the release of information to the media, and instructs employees to liaise with the Victoria Police media unit prior to speaking to the media. It also outlines situations where official comment by Victoria Police is needed, and who is authorised to speak to the media. Policy also details the legislative provisions outlined earlier about unauthorised disclosure of information.For this report, IBAC reviewed cases reported to IBAC and Victoria Police of unauthorised disclosures to media, and identified a range of motivations including:• a disgruntled employee unhappy with the organisation or the direction of an investigation31• a perception that privacy in the investigation is not warranted and the disclosure is in the best interests of the community due to the serious nature of the crime being investigated (eg homicides, assaults)• a belief that providing more information to the public may encourage others to come forward.Investigations in the UK have also identified journalists targeting police employees for access to police information.32 Although IBAC has not identified this in our investigations to date, strong prevention and detection controls around information security, and education around offering and accepting of inducements (including bribes or other benefits), can reduce these risks

Unfortunately despite worthy reports by IBAC nothing will change unless there are consequences for data breaches, either in the form of high profile prosecutions and/or payment of damages in civil proceedings. 

The Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 is supposed to provide a means by which a person can make a complaint someone has to deal with a privacy breach by a Victorian agency.  Unfortunately, in practice it is bureaucratic, drawn out and if matters are contested is difficult for a complainant to succeed.  The Victorian Information Commissioner is well meaning but quite limited in the powers available to him.  He can’t bring an action on behalf of a person or commence proceedings for a breach in his own name seeking declarations or civil penalties. He conciliates and if that does not succeed it is referred to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal.  Based on decisions to date applicants have poor prospects of success. The Tribunal’s case law is, at best, idiosyncratic, compared to how privacy matters are considered by other jurisdictions in the common law world.  The net effect is that the legislation designed to protect peoples privacy and give them a form of redress is ineffective.  Unfortunately on the whole if a person has a privacy complaint he or she would normally be better placed to commence proceedings in the courts and rely on equitable causes of action, and sometimes common law. 





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