Friends and family of a disgraced former police inspector have burst into tears of relief outside a Sydney court after a magistrate indicated she may allow him to serve a nine-month custodial sentence in home detention.
Matthew Mark Dennis, 48, was swamped outside the Downing Centre Local Court on Friday after he was sentenced for lying to the Police Integrity Commission about a drug and alcohol fuelled Gold Coast weekend with fellow officers.
In October 2010, Dennis, a former duty officer at the Hunter Valley Local Area Command, was secretly filmed by commission investigators taking ecstasy during a three-day trip to the Gold Coast.
"Have you had your pill … go and grab one if you haven't had one," a police superintendent and friend of Dennis was recorded telling him.
"I just had one, put it in me gullet," Dennis replied.
When Dennis was hauled before the commission the following year as part of its investigation into drug use and drug supply in the NSW Police Force, he denied that he or his colleagues had ever taken drugs.
When shown the footage, he was forced to admit his evidence was wrong and he subsequently pleaded guilty to two counts of knowingly giving misleading evidence before the commission.
"It undermines the integrity of the police and public confidence in their duties," magistrate Lisa Stapleton said of Dennis' crime.
"He had ample opportunity to admit to the commission that he had lied," she said.
"I'm satisfied that he chose not to for a number of days, to protect himself. The information would have affected his progress through the force, if not his employment overall."
Despite these comments, and the fact that she could have sentenced Dennis to two years' jail, Ms Stapleton gave Dennis a nine-month sentence and gave him the opportunity to demonstrate that he is suitable for home detention rather than jail.
This was, in part, because of the officer's ongoing mental health problems, including depression, and post traumatic stress disorder sustained during his work in the force.
The court has previously heard that Dennis had been forced to undertake work "most of us can't even imagine".
"Picking up the parts of people who have committed suicide, dealing with families of people who have been killed in horrendous circumstances," his solicitor said of his time in the force.
Outside court, a relative of Dennis burst into tears.
"I can't believe it, I can't believe it," the woman cried.
Dennis showed little emotion, walking from the court stony faced.