Police Officer Appeals Gaol Term After Endangering Domestic Violence Victim

POLICE OFFICER APPEALS GAOL TERM AFTER ENDANGERING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE VICTIM

Police Officer Appeals Gaol Term After Endangering Domestic Violence Victim

Australian women are being murdered by husbands and partners at a rate of one a week. As the body count rises, it is the police we turn to for help and protection. We don’t expect them to betray that duty and put us in harm’s way.

THE STORY

This week, the Queensland Police Service was ordered to pay compensation after police officer Neil Punchard unlawfully accessed the information of Domestic Violence Victim, “Julie.”

Senior Constable Punchard was a good mate to the man who had threatened to kill Julie and blow up their children, so he deliberately provided her address to the abusive ex and boasted that his name was a “get out of gaol free card.” At the time, Julie was protected by an AVO. Punchard joked by text “Just tell her you know where she lives and leave it at that. LOL. She will flip.

Traumatised and terrified, Julie went into hiding and took her complaint about the Queensland Police Service to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT).

QUEENSLAND CIVIL AND ADMINISTRATIVE TRIBUNAL (‘QCAT’) PROCEEDINGS

The findings were damning. QCAT found in early 2019 that Queensland Police Service was responsible for the Officer’s conduct and had breached two of the State’s information privacy principles. Julie was awarded compensation for her ordeal and the Police Service does not get to appeal.

Tribunal member, John Forbes was scathing of QPS and the delay failure to act appropriately and the impact on Julie. “There is no good reason to doubt the citizen’s complaint that as a result, she suffered considerable stress and anxiety.” How much compensation Julie receives is yet to be decided but there is a maximum payout of $100,000.

PUNCHARD’S CRIMINAL OFFENCES

The irresponsible cop who put Julie and her kids in danger plead guilty to nine charges of computer hacking. He was sentenced to two months gaol suspended for 18 months. He has been stood down on full pay pending the outcome of his sentence appeal. He wants to keep his job as a cop after breaching the privacy of a vulnerable person in a way that could have resulted in her death.

WAS THIS INCIDENT A ‘ONCE OFF’? SADLY, NO.

There are other “Julie’s” in Queensland with complaints about police conduct. There are likely to be other Julie’s across Australia’s States and Territories.

The takeaway from this case has been that information has been systematically accessed by officers without authorisation. This is the first time a police officer has been gaoled for improperly accessing a victim’s information .

In the last year, four Queensland police officers were charged with improperly accessing the QPrime database. An enquiry by the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission into public sector data misuse has heard there were high rates of breaches amongst police and that QPS has failed to employ measures to protect potential victims who are at high risk.

QLD Commissioner, Katarina Carroll admitted to the enquiry that individual officers have brought the Service into Disrepute.

QCAT member Susan Gardiner found there was no systemic audit process to regulate use of private data of citizens by police. She was not satisfied that QPS took all reasonable measures to prevent unauthorised access of the QPrime system or disclosure of personal information held by police.

The member found systemic failure with no systematic auditing procedures in relation to access to the QPrime System. Instead, what passed for a system was to passively wait for complaint or incident.

As a result, at-risk groups such domestic violence victims are potentially made more vulnerable. Ms Gardiner found that “after the fact” audits “allows for circumstances where catastrophic events involving [Julie] and her family could have occurred.”

As we wait for the outcome of Punchard’s sentence appeal, the QPS have taken further legal advice on his status. It is difficult to remove a serving police officer. Julie, who is the real victim in this instance was on her own, combatting a QC and defence team supporting the man who jokes with her abuser on how to terrorise her, putting her and her children in significant danger, forcing them to go into hiding and go through the expense of relocating.

CONTACT US – WE’RE HERE TO HELP

Julie was protected by an AVO. Sometimes it helps to talk to a lawyer about how they work to protect you as a victim or what they mean for you as a defendant.

For more information in relation to AVO’s please click here.

If you think someone has accessed your information inappropriately, call Michael and his team of expert lawyers at National Criminal Lawyers on  02 9893 1889 |  0415 179 794.

 

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