Police to face toughened laws about unauthorised LEAP database use

Save articles for later

Add articles to your saved list and come back to them any time.

A time limit on prosecutions that saw police escaping criminal charges for accessing internal police databases without authorisation will be extended by two years after lobbying from victims.

Amendments to the Victoria Police Act, introduced to state parliament on Thursday, will see the 12-month limit on the time in which an officer can be charged for using the Law Enforcement Assistance Program (LEAP) system without a legitimate reason increased to three years.

Danielle Laidley said changing the legislation was an important step to prevent others experiencing what she did.Credit: 60 Minutes

Former North Melbourne coach Dani Laidley, who had images of her leaked by police following her arrest in 2020, said the changes were a great move forward.

“What happened to me caused myself, but particularly my family, a lot of grief. These changes can only be a good thing for society,” she said.

“We need to look after everyone.”

A family violence victim who did not want to be identified welcomed the move after reports officers were taking mental health leave, during which they can’t be actively investigated, until the time limit expired.

The woman’s son had to watch while her former partner assaulted her.Credit: Simon Schluter

“It was the perpetrator’s play book, they all did it. This will put an end to that,” she said.

“This change gives me a sense of relief and a sense of vindication because I was denied justice.

“Officers knew they could do it and could get away with it because a delay of more than 12 months in reporting something is very common, especially for domestic violence victims.

“I hope other people can now get justice in a way I couldn’t.”

Darren Hanegraaf was a serving officer at the time of the abuse.

The woman was subjected to domestic violence at the hands of her former partner and policeman Darren Hanegraaf after officers leaked her safety plan to him in 2018.

Officers involved in the unauthorised disclosure avoided prosecution because it took until 2021, and an intervention from the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC), for professional standards investigators to substantiate her claims.

One of the officers allegedly involved in the woman’s case also took mental health leave and avoided punishment.

In October 2022, this masthead revealed a secret Victoria Police report that criticised the force’s handling of the woman’s case.

The woman was repeatedly subjected to serious violence at the hands of Hanegraaf who, on one occasion, dragged her down the driveway before slamming her head against a letterbox and bashing her unconscious. During another incident, she was choked until she passed out.

When the woman sought to report Hanegraaf to police, she was instead pressured to patch up their relationship before ultimately reporting the matter in July 2018. It was then her abuser’s colleague leaked her secret safety plan to flee with her children to Sydney. This, she said, sparked further violence.

Hanegraaf later pleaded guilty and was ultimately sentenced in 2020 to a two-year community correction order.

The woman said while Victoria Police ultimately found there had been unlawful disclosure in leaking her safety plan, by the time the finding was made it was too late for the officers to face criminal charges.

In his second-reading speech, Police Minister Anthony Carbines said the reforms were aimed at strengthening the integrity of the Victoria Police discipline system and supporting the force and other agencies to maintain community safety.

“The majority of Victoria Police officers are upholding the values and standards the community expects of our police personnel,” he said. “However, it is important that Victoria Police has a robust discipline system in place to ensure that any officers who do not do the right thing can be held to account.”

A police or protective service officer can still request a discipline inquiry be adjourned on medical grounds, but must now provide independent evidence to support their application.

Police accountability lawyer Jeremy King said the LEAP system did not automatically flag suspicious activities, making the amendments critical to holding the offending officer to account.

A government spokesperson said they expected the changes to come into effect when the bill passes in early 2024.

A Victoria Police spokesperson said the organisation supported the changes.

*Not her real name.

If you or anyone you know needs support, you can contact the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), Lifeline on 131 114, or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.

Most Viewed in National

From our partners

Source: Read Full Article