Police wars play out in the Supreme Court: Part 1 – Paul Mullett vs Christine Nixon

The long awaited hearing between previous Victoria Police Chief Christine Nixon and her former nemesis Police Association Secretary Paul Mullett, is in play in the Victorian Supreme Court, this week.

Victorian Supreme Court - night

Victorian Supreme Court – dark skies

The legal proceedings concern the bitter, long running power battle and “constant warfare”, between the former Police Chief Ms Nixon and ex-Police Association power broker Mr Mullett.

The civil litigation kicked off on a balmy autumn Melbourne morning, with the weather quickly descending into dark stormy skies and gale force winds.

In 2007 the former Office of Police Integrity (OPI) accused Mr Mullett of perverting the course of justice, perjury and willfully making a false statement.

These charges were later dropped due to OPI bungling, insufficient and false evidence.

Mr Mullett is seeking legal redress for ”malicious prosecution” by some former top brass at Victoria Police.

Ms Nixon denies acting in a malicious manner against Mr Mullett.

The court heard that Mr Mullett began his career with Victoria Police as an 18 year old cadet.

As a young constable Mr Mullett rose through the ranks of Victoria Police.  He later received a police valor award, during his life long career at VicPol.

Ms Nixon was informed by senior police staff around mid-September 2007, that a criminal offense may have been committed, by Mr Mullett.  Allegedly related to the leaking of sensitive information about a murder investigation.

It was revealed that in 2007 Mr Mullet telephoned former Police Association President, Brian Rix and controversial former police union member Peter Lalor, warning them to be careful about speaking on the telephone.

The Court heard allegations that from 2007 on wards, that top cops were “zealous” in their belief that Mr Mullett had lied to the OPI inquiry.

It was argued that alleged misconduct by Mr Mullett should have been dealt with as an internal misconduct, disciplinary matter.

Mr Mullett suggested that he was treated less favorably than other police who face similar criminal charges.

There were claims of malice on the part of Ms Nixon, with the Court hearing that that Mr Mullett’s mistreatment by OPI and VicPol was dramatically different to other police, who have engaged in worse acts than what he was being accused of.

Ms Nixon’s defense counsel contended that both OPI and Office of Public Prosecutions (OPP) had continued the investigation, after Mr Mullett was suspended from duties.

Ms Nixon’s legal counsel advised the Court that VicPol only became involved in the matter, when it was realized that OPI had no power to lay charges against Mr Mullett.

It was noted that at the time Mr Mullett was also subject to a Victorian Ombudsman and Victorian Work Cover (VWA) investigations, related to serious misconduct and bullying.

It emerged that two people made a complaint about Mr Mullett’s bullying, through the Whistleblower Protection Act (2001).

Around June 2009, the OPP prepared a brief of evidence and concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Mr Mullett for perjury.  The charges against him were subsequently struck out.

This bitter power struggle between two police and union chiefs has spanned over a decade.

Victorian Supreme Court - sky-view-night-lights-Lady-Justice

Victorian Supreme Court – Sky view, with Lady Justice.

Mr Mullet told the court his Police Association work focus was on protecting the rights and interests, of the Police Union’s hard working members.

He further claimed that the former Chief Commissioner acted in an underhanded manner, to gain advantages for herself.  Stating that Ms Nixon’s;

“interference” was “a political campaign… to try and interfere in the Police Association”.

Through her counsel Ms Nixon denied those claims.  She asserted that she bore no ill will towards Mr Mullett, describing their relationship as professional.

It was suggested that a particular “antipathy” between herself and Paul Mullett was one sided.  It was added that Ms Nixon did not personalize issues, rather she focused on issues of concern.

Mr Mullett also discussed his concern about leaks of his criminal charges and OPI investigative updates, to the media.

The acrimony and angst of the prolonged investigations led to Mr Mullett’s resignation.

It was noted that in 2010 the bullying allegations against Mr Mullett resolved itself.

During the proceedings Mr Mullett appeared aggrieved that his character and reputation had been adversely affected as a result of the OPI, VWA, VicPol and Ombudsman investigations.

Eventually the charges against Mr Mullet were dropped when the government solicitors realized that OPI were relying upon false evidence.

The Court heard that remarkably this false and un-sworn evidence was only uncovered after a significant period of time.

There have been repeated allegations that the material provided by OPI was not properly scrutinized and incorrect procedures were followed during their investigations.

The Court also heard that flawed evidence was inadmissible in a court of law or government inquiry.

It was noted that from the time Mr Mullett was charged he was never interviewed by VicPol.  It was also observed that no one from VicPol or OPI discussed the possible criminal charges or allegations against him at the time.

The hearing heard evidence about “unusual circumstances”, where proper steps were not taken during investigations. The knowledge of facts were said to be missing in the investigative and prosecution processes.

The phantom Kit Walker email plotter, also made a reappearance during the proceedings.

A former OPI report referred to this investigation stating;

“this report…is a own motion investigation,…about the alleged internal misuse by internal email, by Kit Walker..”.

The Court heard OPI described as a “paranoid” organization, that presumes everyone that they engaged with were liars.

Mr Mullett detailed that when the OPI investigation commenced that he had to be careful, as various OPI surveillance techniques were being used against him and his former Police Association workplace.

Victorian Supreme Court - night lights

Victorian Supreme Court, shinning bright at night

There was mention of the angst about “electronic or operational surveillance” directed towards Mr Mullett.

Examples of break and enter into Police Association motor vehicles and the theft of a laptop were mentioned as instances of OPI harassment.

There were also claims about OPI investigators placing listening devices in the Police Union’s boardroom.

At one stage Mr Mullett revealed that a neighbour witnessed people rummaging through the Police Association bins. This was a common surveillance technique used by Victoria Police.

Mr Mullet described how the OPI surveillance caused his;

“friends and colleagues to distance” themselves from him, due to him “being under considerable surveillance”.

This overt and covert surveillance made it “increasingly difficult” for Mr Mullett “to perform (his) role and functions”, as the Police Association Secretary.

The investigations and subsequent criminal charges leveled at Mr Mullett;

“in part had an effect on (his subsequent) marriage” failure.

Additionally after Mr Mullet was charged he was unable to obtain alternative employment.  He told the Court that he “couldn’t even get an interview”.

The court was shown evidence of distasteful news reports and cartoons, referring to Mr Mullett at the time of the OPI and Ombudsman investigations, as a “dead fish found in yarra”.

Mr Mullett’s nickname is “Fish”.

The Yarra is the main river system that runs through Melbourne.

The case is being heard by Justice Terry Forrest.

The saga continues…..

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