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Ex-AFL coach arrest photos leak sparks police inquiry

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UPDATED | A Victorian police officer is expected to be charged over the leaking of photos of former AFL player and North Melbourne coach Dean Laidley inside a police station following his arrest.

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Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton confirmed the male senior constable, from the southern metropolitan region, was suspended with pay on Monday.

He is expected to be charged with unauthorised access to police information.

The maximum penalty for the criminal charge is two years in prison or $40,000 in fines.

Patton described the dissemination of the photos as “appalling”.

“It’s a breach of our values, it’s unlawful and criminal conduct and that’s the way we are treating it,” he told reporters.

Laidley was arrested on Saturday night outside a home in St Kilda and charged with stalking and other offences.

On Sunday, two photos of the 53-year-old, including a mug shot, were disseminated on social media.

One photo appears to be taken from inside the police station looking into the interview room where Laidley was being questioned.

The photos subsequently appeared on the front page of the Herald Sun and the West Australian newspapers on Monday.

Patton said six police officers were sent the photo by the senior constable via WhatsApp and could also face charges if it’s found they disseminated it further.

The police officer would also be subject to internal disciplinary measures and the corruption watchdog had been notified, he said.

Lawyers acting for Laidley, as well as civil liberties groups, have criticised the police officer’s actions.

“Outraged that pictures of my client, taken by some police officer, on the sly, when in custody in interview have hit the media. Typical #grossbreachofprivacy,” Laidley’s lawyer Dee Giannopoulo tweeted.

Another of his lawyers, Bill Doogue, also tweeted his anger.

“Disgraceful. Taking photos unlawfully and sharing them. And these were sneaky photos while in Police interview in Police Station by a Police Officer,” Mr Doogue said.

The Victorian Council for Civil Liberties described the release of the photos a “serious violation of Laidley’s human rights” with “transphobic overtones”.

“It appears that these images were released with the intention of publicly ‘outing’ Laidley,” the group said in a statement.

“Members of transgender and gender-non-conforming communities routinely report feeling distrustful towards police, and this incident will only further their concerns.”

LGBTIQ Legal, a branch of the community law service group St Kilda Legal Service, said they were concerned the incident would lead to further distrust of police officers.

“This incident requires an independent investigation as the first of many steps that are required for Victoria Police to do better for trans and gender non-conforming Victorians, many of whom have already experienced discrimination,” they said.

Victoria’s Police Minister Lisa Neville described the leak as “completely unacceptable”.

“It was an idiotic thing to do, it’s an unacceptable thing to do,” she told reporters before the officer’s suspension.

But Neville dismissed concerns the taking and leaking of the photos had transphobic overtones.

“I think this had much more to do about football than it did about anything else, but let the investigation go on,” she said.

Laidley faced Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on Sunday and will remain in custody until May 11 after not applying for bail.

He played 151 AFL games from 1987-97 and was an inaugural player at West Coast before joining the Kangaroos from 1993.

He played 99 games at Arden St, including their 1996 premiership before he succeeded Denis Pagan as North Melbourne coach in 2003 and in 149 games led them to the finals three times, before resigning during the 2009 season.

He then had assistant coaching roles at three AFL clubs until 2015.

-AAP

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