Thursday, November 28, 2013

Police apology after detective used Jill Meagher grave photo during speech

THE homicide detective who showed a photo of the semi-naked body of Jill Meagher during a charity talk has come close to tears, but maintained he had done "nothing wrong". 

The photo - of Ms Meagher's body lying in a shallow grave - was shown to an audience of hundreds of men at the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia fundraiser.

Victoria Police offered the force's sincerest apologies for the "unfortunate error", which distressed members of the 400-strong audience.

Premier Denis Napthine said he was "sickened" and "shocked" by the news and apologised to Ms Meagher's family on behalf of the government.

"Immediately my heart went out to the Meagher family,'' Dr Napthine said.

"This sort of thing is just totally and utterly unacceptable."

But Detective Senior Sergeant Ron Iddles this morning defended his decision to show the photo of the 29-year-old's body in her grave, but said he was unlikely to use it again.

"I don't believe I did anything wrong - will I use it again? In hindsight maybe not," he said at a press conference in Brisbane.

He said he had shown the photo in presentations "five or six" times, to an estimated 2500 people.

"It was never ever intended to demean the victim, it was never meant to be in any other way," Det Sen-Sgt Iddles said.

"I delivered it in a professional and compassionate manner."

He said he had spoken to Jill Meagher's family twice, at length last night and again this morning, and he had their full support.

"Jillian's father has rung me again this morning half an hour ago and offered his total support and cannot understand the media hype."

He said Tom Meagher was in Ireland, but also conveyed his support through Ms Meagher's father with the family not asking for an apology.

"He (George McKeon) said 'Ron, you are doing a fantastic job and I do not object to the fact that up you used my daughter's photo'."

Det Sen-Sgt Iddles said the photo was shown for about one second out of an hour and 15 minute speech in Bendigo on Friday.

Reflecting over his 25 years in the police force and the public speeches he had given - all in his own time and for free - the well-known homicide detective came close to tears from the backlash.

"It's taken it's toll," he said.

"I've devoted my career and 25 years of my life to the victims - the people who cannot speak."

Despite the furore he said he would continue to give public speeches to "make a point" about the need for community support in homicide investigations and the devastating violence still experienced against women.

He said the photo was shown during his discussion of the recent murder for the public to understand how investigations worked.

"Last night I thought no, why would I do it ... But then I thought the community needs someone like myself to explain."

He said he understood the Victoria Police could apologise on his behalf and respected that people could have their own opinions over his decision to show the photo.

He said those who had criticised his decision, including the Victorian Premier, needed to understand he did not make the speech to demean Ms Meagher.

"Sadly I think the people who make judgement about me weren't there," he said.

"Those who were present know exactly what I said and the manner in which I said it.

"Sadly the one person who had a problem with it did not contact me or the ethical standards, they contacted the media."

Acting Deputy Commissioner Steve Fontana last night banned all public presentations on operational matters by officers until new rules were put in place.

"This was a deeply unfortunate error of judgment and my sincere apologies are extended to Jill's family, friends, the community, and in particular to her husband, Tom," Mr Fontana said.

Today he repeated his concerns about the presentation and the apology: "From our point of view it was inappropriate for that type of material to be shown in a public forum."

But he also acknowledged, Det Sen-Sgt Iddles had shown the image in an "informative" and lengthy presentation, that had been done "with good intent".

Fontana also praised Det Sen-Sgt Iddles as an experienced professional "man of integrity" who was "probably one of the best we have in this organisation".

That followed comments yesterday that Det Sen-Sgt Iddles has been one of Victoria Police's most dedicated and hardworking detectives for more than 30 years.

Police apology over Jill Meagher insult
Jill Meagher.
"Few wearing the uniform have been more committed and loyal in their service of the community," he said.

"I am saddened that a speech he delivered in good faith, at a charity fundraiser, will have caused further emotional anguish for the family."

Earlier today, the head of Victoria's police union defended Det Sen-Sgt Iddles' actions.

Police Association Secretary Greg Davies said this morning that Det Sen-Sgt Iddles had called Ms Meagher's family to express his regret, but they said an apology was unnecessary.

"Once it was put in context to them and once they had spoken to Ron they were quite satisfied with what he'd done and encouraged him in his efforts to make a difference," Mr Davies said on 3AW.

"I don't think it's offensive to the memory of Jill Meagher - I think it champions the memory."

Mr Davies said it was "ridiculous" that Victoria Police chose to issue an apology without first speaking to Sen-Sgt Iddles.

"If you're trying to get the message across about violence against women in the community ... you can sit around and talk about historic things or you can talk about recent things fresh in people's minds."

Detective Senior Sergeant Ron Iddles.
Detective Senior Sergeant Ron Iddles.
A Victoria Police spokesman said any suggestion Det Sen-Sgt Iddles had not been spoken to prior to the statement being issued was wrong.

"Sen-Sgt Iddles was spoken to several times throughout the afternoon by his manager at the Homicide Squad as well as the police media department," the spokesman said.

Mr Davies criticised the Herald Sun, telling 3AW that the newspaper had made no attempt to contact Det Sen-Sgt Iddles.

Herald Sun editor Damon Johnston said Mr Davies' version of events was wrong.

"We followed police protocols, and contacted the Victoria Police media unit around 3pm yesterday, submitting a series of questions relating to the story," Johnston said.

The police response - the apology signed off by Mr Fontana - was received by the Herald Sun shortly after 6pm.

Johnston said after receiving the official response, the Herald Sun then rang Det Sen-Sgt Iddles directly on his mobile phone and left a voice message.

"He did not return the call," Johnston said.

Members of the audience have said they were upset by the graphic photograph.

"I was shocked, and where I was sitting a few people looked at each other and there were raised eyebrows," one said.

Another said the picture had appeared abruptly on the screen. "I looked but I had to look away," he said.

"It was a photo in a shallow grave; obviously, they had just opened it."

The Herald Sun has been told some audience members were shocked that Det Sen-Sgt Iddles discussed personal details of the Meagher family.

"There were 400 people in that room and there was no warning. Someone could have known her. It could've been quite disturbing for them," an audience member said.

But local National Party MP Damien Drum said the talk had been "outstanding" and the audience had been warned about the content.

"I was there supporting prostate cancer and I found the presentation appropriate given the context of a homicide detective talking about the work that homicide detectives do day in day out," he said.

Labor MP Jill Hennessy criticised Mr Drum for downplaying the impact of the presentation.

"I think it's disappointing that a member of the government was at this event and couldn't see the impact and apparently doesn't find it inappropriate," Ms Hennessy said.

"Regardless of the context I think that most would be shocked and distressed to learn that images of Ms Meagher were shown."

The use of the image in the talk has also been defended by the Prostate Council of Australia which promotes the Biggest Ever Blokes lunches.

Spokesman Ishtar Schneider said the PCFA did not manage or control the events.

"In any case, we have also spoken to people in attendance who have explained that the presentation was not offensive and the context was a story about the process of police investigation, and that sensitive material was clearly prefaced with a warning," she said.

Event organiser Keith Sutherland said the charity lunch went "exceptionally well".

"We were just trying to get the message out to 400 local men about prostate cancer," he said. "We raised $70,000."

He said he had previously heard the detective speak, and thought he had been well-received by the audience.

It is understood that Det Sen-Sgt Iddles has raised more than a million dollars for charities through his voluntary speaking engagements over the years. 28 Nov 2013

Victoria Police are literally corporate thugs, and glorified debt collectors.

Victoria Police laughed at a dying man where realisically the (police) people involved should be charged with manslaughter.

Australia's farsical legal system literally supports corrupt police to the detriment of the general populous at large.

Watch how the legal farce unfolds with regards to the death of Gong Ling Tang outside the outer Melbourne suburb of Dandenong's police station.

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