Victoria Police want the coroner to suppress current police pursuit policies to protect public safety. (AAP: Luke Costin)
Families of the six people killed in the Bourke Street car attack are fighting a legal bid by Victoria Police to keep secret an internal review of police operations in the days and hours leading up to the deadly rampage.
- A coronial inquest is expected to examine police operations, including how officers followed Gargasoulas but did not stop him
- Victoria Police is urging the Coroner’s Court to suppress the critical incident response review conducted shortly after the attack
- Coroner Jacqui Hawkins is expected to make a ruling on the suppression application next week
Victoria Police is urging the Coroner’s Court to suppress a critical incident response review conducted by Assistant Commissioner Stephen Fontana shortly after driver James Gargasoulas mowed down pedestrians in Melbourne’s CBD on January 20, 2017.
It also wants to keep current pursuit policies confidential, arguing a suppression order is vital to protect public safety.
A coronial inquest in November is expected to examine police operations and how officers followed Gargasoulas but did not stop him after he was granted bail, six days before the attack.
In February, Gargasoulas was sentenced to life imprisonment with a 46-year non-parole period for murdering six people and injuring 27 others while in a drug-induced pyschosis.
James Gargasoulas was jailed for life with a 46-year non-parole period over the attack. (AAP)
Review goes ‘to the very heart’ of inquest
At a preliminary hearing, the families’ lawyer Sue McNicol QC said the internal police review went “to the very heart” of the inquest and its suppression would render it unworkable.
“The documents [are] inextricably linked and intertwined to the issues that are being openly reviewed and ventilated,” Dr McNicol said.
“You cannot unscramble this egg.”
She also argued much of the material contained in the review had already been publicised in news reports and in the ABC’s Four Corners program on June 10.
But Victoria Police’s lawyer Ian Freckleton QC argued the report’s public release would have a “chilling effect” on how officers would cooperate with future critical incident reviews.
“There’s no suggestion that police will be dishonest but there’s a difference between full candour and inhibited communication,” Dr Freckleton said.
“If there is disclosure of such reports it would cause police to consider how these reports are generated, and the form, tone and content of them,” he said.
“There is a real risk in them [not being] as good, as thoughtful, as self-critical and as aware.
“That in turn flows adversely to the safety of the community… these reports are vital for quick, effective responses and the learning of lessons.”
Suppression against the public interest, media argue
Media lawyer Thomas Otter, representing the ABC and several other news organisations opposing the suppression application, said it seemed to be “an extraordinary position to take” that police would be less than cooperative in future if a suppression order was not guaranteed.
He argued it was against the public interest to suppress the entirety of police reports and policies.
Coroner Jacqui Hawkins is expected to make a ruling on the suppression application next week.
The court has heard a coronial brief containing more than 4000 pages has been prepared for the inquest which will hear evidence from 46 witnesses.