Home Sexual Health Victoria police officer dismissed for sexual harassment reinstated | Australian police and...

Victoria police officer dismissed for sexual harassment reinstated | Australian police and policing


A Victorian police officer dismissed for sexually harassing colleagues, including joking about upskirting and grooming girls with McDonald’s Happy Meals, has been reinstated.

The constable also discussed the allegations with colleagues despite being told not to do so, telling them he planned to make a fake apology and would give “grief” to a woman he believed had made a complaint.

His dismissal was overturned last month on appeal to the independent Police Registration and Services Board.

It found the 11 separate incidents of sexually charged comments made by the constable to or about female colleagues and the inappropriate discussions about the complaints occurred amid a backdrop of deteriorating mental health following the stillbirth of a child, the death of his mother, and dementia diagnosis of his father.

The case shows Victoria police continue to grapple with cases of sexual harassment and misconduct, five years after a Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) review exposed a troubling culture within the force.

Many serious cases involving police behaviour only come to light when officers appeal their dismissal to the board, which publicly releases its decisions.

Cases heard by the board in the past five years include a senior sergeant who behaved “disgracefully” towards a female police public servant, including exposing his penis to her, a sergeant who had or sought relationships with four junior staff, and another sergeant who made inappropriate comments while briefing colleagues about the VEOHRC review.

In several cases, police found to have sexually harassed colleagues also behaved inappropriately against other women, including breaching court orders against former partners or using police databases to find personal information about women who they wanted to pursue sexual relationships with.

Multiple officers were dismissed for having sexual relationships with women they had met because they were victims of family violence who had sought the help of police.

Twelve officers have appealed their dismissals for sexual harassment or misconduct to the board since 2015, its records show, but the constable is the first to have his dismissal set aside.

The board found his comments to colleagues fell into two categories: ill-judged attempts at humour involving double entendres and “Benny Hill” style jokes, or objectifying or undermining female colleagues.

The jokes included comments about a suspect’s underwear, referring to stuck pages in a book and making moaning noises saying “sorry I just got excited”, and saying he had to clean porn off his computer before bringing it to work.

His comments to colleagues included multiple references to their appearance, including mentioning their “assets” or how attractive they were.

He was also found to have repeatedly used the word “cunt” at work, but this disciplinary matter was not considered serious enough for his dismissal so was not subject to review.

“The evidence supports a finding that the applicant was affected by a serious mental health condition at the time of the conduct and has taken active and committed steps to address this and to improve his psychological functioning and interpersonal skills,” the board found.

“We have considered the important public interest in Victoria police providing a workplace free of sexual harassment and discrimination, and of taking proportional and appropriate action in response to complaints of such conduct.

“We consider that the applicant does not present an unacceptable risk of further conduct of this kind, as demonstrated by his good conduct in employment since the events, the opinions of his psychologists, his insight and remorse, and his commitment to continued psychological treatment.”

A Victoria police spokeswoman declined to comment specifically about the case.

“Victoria police remains determined to eliminate all forms of harassment by our employees both on or off duty,” she said in a statement.

“Victoria police will not tolerate predatory behaviour, sexual discrimination or harassment of any kind in the workplace.”

Last week, the force launched a new 10-year strategy to ensure gender equality in the workplace by 2030.

In 2015, VEOHRC released its first review of sex discrimination and sexual harassment, including predatory behaviour, in Victoria police.

Last year, its third and final report found “unacceptably high” levels of sexual harassment and discrimination, with 25.8% of female employees and 9.8% of male employees reporting having experienced sexual harassment at work.

But it also applauded the force for being prepared to be criticised in public and for its improvements to workforce gender equality.


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