An expert public service fraud investigator who published a helpful guide to government departments was charged with disclosing sensitive information, despite basing the book entirely on publicly available content.
The bizarre case came before Magistrate Peter Dingwall for sentencing on Thursday, and he had no hesitation in making a non-conviction order for the long-serving senior public servant.
"This is one of the clearest cases for [a non-conviction order] that I've seen in my 26 years being here," Mr Dingwall said.
The man had considerable experience in fraud investigation, studying it at length, working in the private sector and in government departments and at the Fair Work Ombudsman.
He had also served the community significantly in other ways. He was with the State Emergency Service during its response to the Thredbo landslide, and has spent 11 years in the Rural Fire Service.
The book, Australian Public Service Fraud Investigation, was written with the aim of recording his considerable experience and helping government departments prevent and investigate fraud.
He used information from his employment, but the entirety of the book's contents were based on publicly available information.
Strangely, he was charged and prosecuted for using a government database to help format and distil the material for the book.
His barrister Ken Archer said the allegations against his client were effectively that he breached intellectual property of the department.
"Your Honour will see from the documents that they are documents that are essentially, in my respectful submission, distilled from publicly available documents," he said.
The book sold 27 copies, before the department issued an objection.
The public servant immediately stopped publishing, and then cooperated fully with police.
"He did not commit the offence believing that it was wrong to have done so," Mr Archer said.
He was then charged with disclosing sensitive Commonwealth information, which carries a two-year maximum penalty.
The proceedings forced him to resign from his job, and he has had to seek psychological counselling and medication due to the stress.
The Commonwealth prosecution argued that the man should be convicted, saying it was necessary to deter others in the community from acting in the same way.
The prosecutor did not dispute the defendant's excellent character, but said that was common for public servants.
He conceded there was no harm flowing from the book to the department, but said the offence was not trivial.
Mr Dingwall rejected the prosecution's push for a conviction, finding it was a case that warranted a non-conviction order.
"The defendant was entirely motivated to pass on what he learnt in his extensive study to others who may benefit from it," Mr Dingwall said.
"In my view, the criminality is very low indeed."