Police 'surprised' at detail of raid leak
The Australian ... was given a detailed briefing about plans for a counter-terrorism operation. Photo: Reuters
SENIOR Victoria Police officers were ''dumbfounded'' and ''surprised'' at the amount of detail their federal counterparts fed to a News Limited newspaper in a deal struck to delay publication of a story that could put lives at risk, a court has been told.
The Australian was given a detailed briefing about plans for a counter-terrorism operation, known as Neath, after one of its reporters became aware of the Australian Federal Police's probe into the Australian Somali community funding terrorism.
A Victorian Detective Senior Constable, Simon Artz, 40, is accused of wilful misconduct by leaking details of the case to journalist Cameron Stewart.
Both forces say their joint investigation was compromised because of Stewart's knowledge of the operation. But the AFP, in a successful bid to delay publication, agreed to a deal in which the reporter was briefed about the entire operation in July 2009.
This briefing gave Stewart more information than he previously had, including that the targets of police surveillance planned to attack Australian soldiers at a Sydney army base, and surprised the Victorian officers.
His front-page article ran on the morning of the scheduled raids. Melbourne Magistrates Court yesterday heard that Stewart assured the AFP the newspaper would be sold from 5am.
But officers involved in the raids, which began at 4.25am, had bought copies from 1.50am.
''I was extremely disappointed and shocked by the detailed amount of information contained in this article about Operation Neath,'' Assistant Commissioner Stephen Fontana told the hearing. ''I was a little bit dumbfounded.''
Deputy Commissioner Kieran Walshe said he was surprised at the amount of detail in the article.
After the raids in August 2009, five Melbourne men were charged with conspiring to commit a terrorist attack at a Sydney army base. Three were convicted after a Supreme Court trial and two were acquitted.
The committal hearing will resume on Monday.