Important stories can hit-and develop-at the wrong time. Like in the days leading up to a coup that delivered Australia its first female Prime Minister. Such losses are an inevitable part of an unpredictable news cycle, but sometimes they must be resisted. Some stories are just too important to let fall off the radar.
One such story concerns former Senior Detective Scott Gladman. Gladman was the officer charged with investigating rape allegations made by a 19 year old woman against AFL footballer Stephen Milne six years ago. The case was eventually dropped. In a statement-released at the time and again when the story resurfaced-police said they had concluded on the basis of advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions and the results of “a thorough investigation” that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the sportsman.
Gladman tells a different tale, one backed up by his fellow investigating officer Mike Smith, another ex-cop. A tale of being hounded and pressured by fellow members of the force to “make it go away” and not “do the job as best you can.” A tale of being told the woman was “just one of those footy sluts” and of police being contacted directly by those with “vested interest in the possible outcome for the club.” A story of player interview tapes being stolen from desks and transcripts of interview found on a photocopier, and of the alleged-victim’s statement being leaked to the club, revealing her identity. And a tale of the senior officers to whom Gladman complained – those in charge of the sexual crimes squad and assistant commissioner of the region at the time-failing to respond to his concerns and do all that they could to make things right.
Thankfully, the Office of Police Integrity are now investigating, with the Chief Commissioner promising to re-open the investigation if allegations that police deliberately sought to compromise it can be proved.
The initial findings of such probes have been explosive, with raids on the criminal investigation unit uncovering the loss of crucial, and mostly irreplaceable, evidence including master tapes of initial interviews, reports from lead investigators and parts of the brief of evidence.
Gladman makes plain that he thinks the case against Milne should have gone ahead, and a jury left to decide the player’s guilt or innocence. “There is a prima facie case still sitting there in that box at that office that should be answered by a jury,” he said. “Stephen Milne is an innocent person until he’s proven guilty in a court of law. However, we never got that far, because the…natural flow of justice was interrupted.”
He said that telling the woman that, “the brief had been put to bed” was one of the worst experiences of his career. For colleague Mike Smith, it was a turning point. He says he lost “…a hell of a lot of faith.”
It is this part of the story that moves me most. The startling revelation that in a modern Australian policeforce. there appears no place for these two good men. Indeed, it may be Gladman’s and Smith’s abundant integrity-demonstrated in their initial pursuit of justice without fear or favour, and their insistence on seeking it again-that makes them such a poor fit with contemporary police culture.
A culture in which what some cops seem to think matters most is “to be seen to be more important in their eyes to the club … [by doing] anything they c[an] … to help.”
Two good souls and a force to be reckoned with Sunday Sun-Herald (Sydney)