By Sonia Hickey and Ugur Nedim
The woman whose address was disclosed by a Queensland police officer to her abusive former partner is fighting the state government in court.
Domestic violence victim ‘Julie’ commenced legal proceedings after a policeman accessed her personal details on the police database and provided it to his mate, her former partner.
The story so far
The case has highlighted the brazenness of misconduct engaged in by some officers of the Queensland Police Service (QPS), showing they will go so far as to betray and endanger the abused, vulnerable people they are entrusted to protect.
It also shines a spotlight onto the misuse of the state’s QPrime database, which a recent investigation found has been systemically accessed by officers without authorisation – which can amount to a criminal offence.
Julie’s complaint explains that she was forced to take her children into hiding after the senior constable accessed her address from the database and sent it to her violent former partner, who has been convicted of domestic violence offences and now faces additional charges for allegedly breaching a domestic violence order.
The complaint says that after disclosing the address, the officer engaged in a text exchange with the man, joking about it, and saying Julie would ‘flip out’ when she found out her ex had her new address.
Julie lodged a complaint with the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC), but the matter was referred back to Queensland Police Service’s Ethical Standards Command.
The complaint was found to be substantiated and the officer was ultimately disciplined, but he remains employed by the QPS.
Breach of privacy claim
Julie has now launched a breach of privacy claim with the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) seeking compensation for the officer’s misconduct and expressing concerns he has been allowed to keep his job.
Julie has also applied for granted to the information about her that’s stored on the QPrime database, as the QPS has refused to hand over a copy of her file.
The maximum payout Julie can receive under the state’s Victims’ Compensation laws is $100,000.
The QPS is being legally represented by the government’s legal service, Crown Law Queensland.
The lawyers are instructed by the Queensland Government Insurance Fund. Meanwhile, Julie is representing herself.
She had originally hoped mediation and negotiation would settle the matter, but instead the government has applied to the tribunal to brief a Senior Counsel (which is a senior barrister, also known as a ‘silk’).
During the initial proceedings, the government’s solicitor could not give the tribunal a guarantee they would not ultimately pursue Julie for legal costs.
While the lawyer described the matter as ‘complex’, many believe it is more straightforward than it’s being made out to be: a police officer acted illegally by accessing QPrime for an unauthorised purpose and provided that private information without authority to his friend, a convicted domestic violence offender, potentially endangering the woman.
In the meantime, the Queensland tax payers are footing the bill for QPS to be represented at QCAT and will be liable for any payout.
Lots of talk, little action
Despite Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, being a vocal public advocate for domestic violence victims, and despite the fact that Julie’s is a high-profile case, the Premier not spoken publicly about the incident.
Instead, the government issued a statement which says: “It would be inappropriate to comment on a matter currently before QCAT, just as it would be inappropriate for the premier to intervene or become involved in tribunal proceedings in any way.”
It remains to be seen whether the outcome of the legal proceedings will be consistent with the findings of the internal QPS investigation.