IBAC is probing claims that Victoria Police officers shared an unsolicited photo of Dani Laidley at the races in Geelong at the weekend and made transphobic comments about the former AFL coach.
Ms Laidley confirmed on Wednesday she had formally requested Victoria Police’s internal watchdog investigate if officers had circulated the image of her taken at Saturday’s Ballan Cup race meet. She said she also made a complaint to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.
Dani Laidley talking with former North Melbourne captain Anthony Stevens at Geelong Racecourse on Saturday. Ms Laidley gave permission for The Age to publish the image.
The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission issued a statement on Wednesday afternoon, saying it was looking into the matter and wanted information from the public.
“IBAC … is appealing to anyone who may have information in relation to allegations a photograph taken of former AFL coach Dani Laidley at Geelong Racecourse was shared by Victoria Police officers via text message alongside transphobic comments,” the statement said.
“IBAC is asking any member of the public or police personnel who witnessed the photo being taken, or has information about the photo in a text message being sent or received, to contact IBAC.
“IBAC performs a critical role in independently oversighting Victoria Police to ensure officers are accountable and conduct themselves in a way that is consistent with the law, police professional standards and community expectations.”
Ms Laidley said comments attached to the SMS messages exacerbated her trauma, following the unauthorised release and publication of a mugshot and a photo of her being interviewed by two officers while wearing a wig and make-up in May last year.
“It has been extremely disappointing to have to relive past traumas, when I was informed of offensive and transphobic comments that have once against been circulated by members of Victorian Police,” she said.
“The police do a wonderful job, but a small minority of their members still think this behaviour is acceptable, and I feel this will greatly disappoint the Chief Commissioner [Shane Patton], who has been clear in his communication it is not to be tolerated.”
The former North Melbourne coach and player, who began a gender transition last year, said she decided to take a stand against the vilification of the transgender community, with Transgender Awareness Week due to begin on November 13.
“This is a time to celebrate the transgender community and also reflect and pay tribute to lives lost, in some parts, to similar transphobic attitudes experienced by too many. We need to support each other, not tear each other down,” she said.
Ms Laidley gave permission for The Age to publish the image, which was taken by a stranger as she spoke with friends, including her new partner Donna and former North Melbourne captain Anthony Stevens on November 6.
In November 2020, the 54-year-old pleaded guilty to stalking and was put on a good behaviour bond, without conviction, after she admitted making dozens of calls and text messages to another woman.
Three police officers have been charged with a range of offences over the alleged leak of the photographs from last year of Ms Laidley in custody. The charges include misconduct in public office, unauthorised access of police information and unauthorised disclosure of police information.
Two of the officers will contest the charges, while a third is yet to enter a plea.
In May, Ms Laidley launched a negligence claim against Victoria Police in the Supreme Court of Victoria, alleging the force and its officers breached the duty of care owed to her while she was in custody.
“Those officers intended, or knew, or ought to have known, that the natural and probable result would be the republication of the first and second photographs and the words in the press, on radio and television, and on the internet,” court documents stated.
Ms Laidley has not nominated a specific amount of money she is entitled to, but is claiming aggravated and exemplary damages.
A Victoria Police spokesman asked for anyone with information about the circulation of an image of Ms Laidley to come forward.
Those who have information for IBAC can provide it by email at [email protected] or phone 1300 735 135. Anonymous submissions can be made at the IBAC website.
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