Police files off limits
A woman who used Australian Federal Police databases to dig up dirt on her ex-husband during a bitter divorce has lost a claim for unfair dismissal.
Fair Work Australia heard the woman also tried to rope colleagues into her battle against her former husband but was sacked in April last year after her ex hired a private investigator and complained to police.
She was found to have breached the AFP code of conduct after getting a co-worker to send her records on her husband’s businesses, which she described as ‘‘gold’’ and forwarded on to her mother.
Police also found two sexually inappropriate photos on her work computer, including an image of ‘‘two men’s buttocks’’ which she described as ‘‘jovial’’.
The woman, whose name has been suppressed, told the workplace tribunal she had been unfairly dismissed and harshly treated compared to another AFP staffer.
The tribunal heard the woman and her husband, referred to as Mr B in court papers, separated in 2004 and subsequently fought numerous battles in the courts and in the Child Support Agency.
The woman believed Mr B was trying to evade paying taxes and child support.
In January 2007, she tried to recruit a colleague to obtain information about her ex-husband’s businesses, asking him to visit Mr B’s office in north Sydney posing as a customer looking for a loan.
A month later, she got another co-worker to send her information about Mr B’s businesses from the Austrac database, which monitors suspicious financial transactions, tax evasion and money laundering.
She told her colleague, ‘‘the AUSTRAC find is GOLD[sic]... Thanks Again!’’ before forwarding the email to her mother, who was also a party to a legal dispute between the couple in the family court.
The woman included the Austrac information in a letter to the Child Support Agency and also conducted half-a-dozen land title searches on Mr B using another AFP database.
When police launched an investigation in 2009, the woman denied asking her fellow staffers for help and then put the blame on the colleague who forwarded her the Austrac information, saying she believed he had started an inquiry into her ex’s tax affairs.
The woman contended it was unfair that her colleague, a superintendent with more than 30 years’ experience, kept his job while she was sacked.
But Senior Deputy President Anne Harrison found there was no inconsistency in the way the AFP treated the superintendent and the woman.
Investigators also found two inappropriate photos on the woman’s work computer and found she had used the AFP mailroom to send letters to Mr B about the divorce.
In a judgment handed down last week, Ms Harrison found the woman had repeatedly breached the AFP code when she obtained records about Mr B and when she asked her co-worker to meet him on false pretences.
‘‘It was unacceptable for her to request a work colleague to engage in this charade,’’ Ms Harrison wrote.
She described the woman’s explanations as ‘‘implausible’’ and said her evidence was evasive and inconsistent while her expressions of remorse were unconvincing.
But she said it was ‘‘regrettable’’ that the AFP had given Mr B information about her misconduct, which was used against her in legal proceedings.
Ms Harrison found the woman’s dismissal was valid.