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Former top cop in the dock -

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Former top cop in the dock

The World Today - Thursday, 26 March , 2009 12:34:00

Reporter: Martin Cuddihy

ELEANOR HALL: A former police commissioner has been granted immunity from prosecution in return for
giving evidence against Tasmania's suspended police commissioner Jack Johnston.

Mr Johnston faces two charges of disclosing official secrets. He is accused of telling the former
Tasmanian premier Paul Lennon last year about a police investigation into senior public service
appointments. He is also accused of disclosing official secrets to the Police Minister.

ABC News reporter Martin Cuddihy has been following the story and joins us from the Magistrates
Court in Hobart.

Martin, what are the details of these allegations against Jack Johnston?

MARTIN CUDDIHY: Well Jack Johnston has pleaded not guilty to two counts of disclosing official
secrets. Now he's accused of passing on confidential information to two state government ministers
about a police investigation into a number of political appointments made by the state government
of the day.

ELEANOR HALL: So what has the former police commissioner had to say about this in the court this
morning?

MARTIN CUDDIHY: Well the former police commissioner Richard McCreadie he retired in about January
last year. He's given evidence, quite extensive evidence this morning at this preliminary hearing.
We must stress that it is indeed a preliminary hearing and not a trial at this stage.

Now Mr McCreadie told the court he'd had a conversation with a former police minister, David
Llewellyn in January of last year in the twilight of his term as police commissioner in Tasmania
and under cross-examination from defence counsel Terry Forrest QC he was asked if what had been
said in this conversation, he was asked to detail what the conversation with the police minister
was about.

The former police commissioner Richard McCreadie hesitated when he was asked that and then he asked
for a certificate from the magistrate Sam Mollard. Now this certificate is to grant him immunity
from the testimony that he was about to give.

Now neither the Crown nor the defence opposed this and they did, so magistrate Sam Mollard granted
immunity and Mr McCreadie told the court that after a private meeting with Mr Llewellyn, he didn't
go into the details of what was said, but that after the private meeting the police minister Mr
Llewellyn would have known that police were investigating these certain political appointments.

ELEANOR HALL: So how does this relate to evidence given by the former premier Paul Lennon who took
to the stand yesterday?

MARTIN CUDDIHY: Well Mr Lennon gave quite a variety of evidence yesterday. If I can just refer to
my notes on that. He told, excuse me one moment, I'm just having a look here.

He's given evidence that it was the commissioner's duty to answer his questions and also that he
was aware police were, that there was a high probability he was aware police were investigating
this government appointment.

So again, defence counsel Terry Forrest QC questioned Mr Lennon yesterday and he was asked about
his memory, he was asked to reconstruct his memory about what he would have known prior to a
meeting with Jack Johnston. Now this is in April last year when the crimes are alleged to have
taken place.

The premier told the court that he would have been suspicious prior to a meeting and that there was
a high probability that he was aware of a police investigation prior to the meeting with Jack
Johnston.

ELEANOR HALL: Now Martin Cuddihy, these are serious allegations. What penalties does Jack Johnston
face if he's found guilty?

MARTIN CUDDIHY: Well it's unclear at this stage as to what penalties he will face. I mean it could
involve prison time. We haven't got that far yet. As I say, this is still a preliminary hearing and
the matter has been committed for a trial. But this hearing is just to talk to witnesses and find
out what they know and find out what can be admitted in a Supreme Court.

ELEANOR HALL: Martin Cuddihy at the Hobart Magistrates Court, thank you.