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Corruption inquiry claims second scalp -

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KERRY O'BRIEN: An official inquiry into police corruption and high level leaks of sensitive
information continues to send shock waves through the highest ranks of the Victorian Police Force.

Today the media director Stephen Linnell handed in his resignation, but it came as no surprise.

Like former assistant police commissioner Noel Ashby who quit on Friday, Linnell's career had
already been destroyed by a series of telephone conversations secretly recorded by the State's
Office of Police Integrity or OPI.

Both men were targeted by the OPI as it tried to identify the source of leaked information about a
highly sensitive investigation into police links to a murder.

Beyond that, the phone taps revealed senior Victorian Police officers immersed in a culture of
intrigue, envy and ambition that would be worthy of Shakespeare.

Mary Gearin reports, and we should warn viewers that the following story contains some coarse

(Excerpt of tapes used as evidence in OPI inquiry)

MAN: There's two things, if tapes come out you've been talking to someone else, they're not yours
and they're not mine.

SECOND MAN: I have 1000 conversations a day, so...

MAN: Yeah, yeah.

SECOND MAN: And the answer is, "Look, I might have, I don't know, I can't remember".

MARY GEARIN: When the guardians of justice become the prey, there are sure to be shock waves. The
devastating power of the phone tap has been turned on some of the most senior members of the
Victorian Police Force.

HUGH SELBY, FMR HEAD, POLICE COMPLAINTS AUTHORITY: I think it's a really refreshing change. It
clearly indicates to everybody inside the police force that nobody who engages in corrupt activity
should think they're safe anymore.

MARY GEARIN: Today the head of media and corporate communications, Stephen Linnell, tendered his

On Friday, it was assistant commissioner Noel Ashby who fell on his sword.

COMMISSIONER CHRISTINE NIXON, VICTORIA POLICE: You work with people closely, you trust them and you
believe that they're doing the best for the organisation. I think I feel betrayed, I think the
corporate community of Victoria Police feels betrayed and I think the Victorian Police do as well.

MARY GEARIN: Both men were undone by embarrassing indiscreet conversations. n this one, Mr Linnell
appears to be warning Mr Ashby about being recorded, talking to the powerful police association
secretary Paul Mullett.

(Transcript of recorded conversation appears on screen)

STEPHEN LINNELL, FORMER MEDIA DIRECTOR: Did you talk to Mullett on the phone yesterday?

NOEL ASHBY, FORMER ASSIST. COMMISSIONER: Yes. I speak to him probably quite regularly, why?

STEPHEN LINNELL: You've just got to be careful, that's all.

NOEL ASHBY: Why, is he being recorded.

STEPHEN LINNELL: Just be careful.

NOEL ASHBY: Is he being recorded?

STEPHEN LINNELL: Um... I can't say.

NOEL ASHBY: He might be?

STEPHEN LINNELL: I can't... I'm not... I can't say. I'll talk to you later.

NOEL ASHBY: Fuck, can you come and see me? I did talk to him yesterday, right?

STEPHEN LINNELL: Mmm. I'll come and...

NOEL ASHBY: I'll ring you on a hard line.


MARY GEARIN: The hearings have exposed a web of lies, petty jealousies and office politics
expressed in the most explicit terms.

Noel Ashby, the seasoned veteran who joined at 16 and rose through the ranks, has been shown to
resent deputy commissioner Simon Overland who was drafted from the Australian Federal Police and
widely tipped to replace Christine Nixon as chief commissioner.

(Transcript of recorded conversation appears on screen)

STEPHEN LINNELL: I just had overland on the phone.

NOEL ASHBY: Yeah, what did that prick want?

STEPHEN LINNELL: Oh, (inaudible), just wanted to get your thoughts on how it all went.


MARY GEARIN: But beyond the merely embarrassing and sensational, these hearings have revealed what
appear to be illegal leaks about a covert internal investigation called Operation Briars. It's
looking into alleged police links with the murder of prostitute and self described vampire Shane

The former media liaison has admitted he leaked information to Mr Ashby about the investigation,
despite earlier denials in closed hearings. And they appeared to discuss how to handle future OPI

(Transcript of recorded conversation appears on screen)

STEPHEN LINNELL: You've got to be on your game the whole time and be thinking about what they ask
and what they've previously asked. And I'm OK with that.

NOEL ASHBY: Yeah, but the goo thing is, there's two things. If tapes come out, you've been talking
to someone else, they're not yours, and they're not mine, and... if... if...

STEPHEN LINNELL: But I have a thousand conversations a day, so...

NOEL ASHBY: Yeah, exactly,

STEPHEN LINNELL: And the answer is, "Look, I might've, I don't know. I can't remember."

NOEL ASHBY: Hey, you may have.


MARY GEARIN: What is yet to emerge from this inquiry is what was promised in the opening address.
Evidence that confidential information about Operation Briars was leaked to one of its targets,
named as detective sergeant, Peter Lawlor, a direct descendant of the Eureka Stockade leader of the
same name.

The information is said to have travelled through a sequiturs route, involving the figure lurking
behind almost every conversation played so far: Police Union powerbroker Paul Mullett. He's due to
appear on Wednesday and it's expected he won't submit meekly to the OPI authority.

PROF COLLEEN LEWIS, CRIMINAL JUSTICE DEPT, MONASH UNI: Mr Mullett is an extremely powerful union
man, he is - his particular style is someone confrontational.

MARY GEARIN: The hearing has established a relationship between Mr Mullet and Mr Ashby, who says he
had to feed the union man information and lies to get a better deal in enterprise bargaining
arrangements, as he complained to Mr Linnell.

(Transcript of recorded conversation appears on screen)

NOEL ASHBY: I'm sick of dealing... he's like... Mate, I'm sick about it, I thought, dealing with
this cunt is like dealing with a criminal informer, it's like, difficult. Smelly.



MARY GEARIN: The former assistant commissioner is alleged to have been the one to pass on the
operational secrets to Mr Mullett.

(Transcript of recorded conversation appears on screen)


NOEL ASHBY: I haven't heard. Nothing else has come out, so...

PAUL MULLETT: OK, that's good.

NOEL ASHBY: Yeah, nothing at all. No other suggestion, no other names of anybody you'd spoken to or


NOEL ASHBY: So that's all I wonder why, then, if your phone, if it was your phone, why wouldn't
that be out already?


MARY GEARIN: For some, this inquiry is exposing the corrosive forces operating within the police.
For others, it underlines a lack of leadership and the need for an independent corruption force.

Former Victorian deputy commissioner and former Queensland chief commissioner, Noel Newnham, says
it reflects badly on the chief commissioner.

NOEL NEWNHAM, FMR QLD CHIEF COMMISSIONER: Well, I think this has shown her to be not a strong
leader, not a team builder.

PROF COLLEEN LEWIS: I think that the powers that the OPI have are adequate for a police integrity
type body, but we need something much more wide in this State. We don't have anything like the
Crime and Misconduct Commission, for example, that they have in Queensland.

MARY GEARIN: But former head of the Victorian Police Complaints Authority, Hugh Selby, says an
independent body, or royal commission would be futile.

HUGH SELBY: A royal commission always comes with an open time frame and is completely uncosted.
Secondly, a royal commission is never an effective way of leading to structural change inside an
organisation. Third, a royal commission always has unfortunate, to use the American term,
collateral damage.

JOHN BRUMBY, VICTORIAN PREMIER: You've seen just over the last week the plan that we've put in
place is working.

MARY GEARIN: Today the Premier defended the OPI process, as well as senior public servants who've
been mentioned in the talk on tape.

JOHN BRUMBY: I'm not going to stand here every day and give you a running commentary on every claim
or background bit of gossip or chatter that's made by people on the phone.

MARY GEARIN: However, if the last few days are any guide, simple chatter can be a very dangerous

KERRY O'BRIEN: Phone taps, who knows where they lead. Mary Gearin with that report.