24.9°C 03:00 pm

Station feud may topple top cop

Wednesday, 17th November, 2021

By Jack Marx

Businesses in Broken Hill closed the day Charles Moore died in 1941.

The man who began the Pellew and Moore department store in Argent Street left a legacy, according to this newspaper at the time, as “one of the finest characters Broken Hill has produced” whose “honour and integrity was unquestioned … his word was his bond, and he was never known to break a promise.”

His great-grandson, Ian Lawton, agrees.

“When my great-grandad shook someone’s hand, as far as he was concerned, that was it.”

Charles Moore would be saddened if he were watching what’s been happening to his great-grandson, whose decision to involve himself in the purchase of an outback property has set off a chain of events that has led to serious allegations of corruption angled at the South Australian Police, including the Commissioner of Police, from evidence tabled in the Select Committee on Damage, Harm or Adverse Outcomes Resulting from ICAC Investigations, which is currently underway.

It began in 2012, when Ian Lawton and a business partner purchased Mt Lyndhurst Station, an iconic pastoral holding located about 350kms northwest of Broken Hill.

The partnership went sour, Lawton claiming to be owed more than $1m after the property was sold in 2016.

With the help of experienced former barrister, Michael Fuller, and his daughter, Joanna Fuller (a South Australian District Court Judge), Ian went to the South Australian police armed with a detailed brief of evidence which contained, according to the Fullers, “a prima facie case”. Senior Sergeant Andrew Bolingbroke, who is now deceased, gave the brief a police incident report number (PIR 18/E 17253) and, as procedure dictates, agreed to pass the brief on to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Two months passed before a police officer contacted Judge Fuller with the news that the DPP had decided the case didn’t have merit, terminating any investigation. Curious as to why the DPP had formed an opinion so different from her own, Judge Fuller asked the police officer for the DPP’s advice in writing.

“I chased him and sent him some emails and, ultimately, was never given a response about what the advice was,” Judge Fuller told the Parliamentary Select Committee in June. “As a consequence of that, I thought I would just ring the Director of Public Prosecutions myself and see if I could find out what the advice was because I felt I was getting the run-around from the police.”

Judge Fuller called a solicitor at the DPP with whom she was acquainted. What she learned was shocking; the DPP had never received the brief from the police.

“I told him what I had been told,” Judge Fuller told the Select Committee. “I said, ‘I have been told that the DPP has provided advice that there is no reasonable prospects of success.’ He said he certainly didn’t give any advice that there were no reasonable prospects of success and he said he would never do that without a brief. He said that, as far as he was aware, nobody else in the office had any dealings with the matter.”

Ian Lawton was furious. In an email to the SA Police Commissioner, Grant Stevens, dated December 3, 2018, and tabled to the Select Committee, he alleged his complaint had been “corruptly terminated” and requested the matter be referred to the Anti-Corruption Branch for investigation. Commissioner Stevens acknowledged receipt of Lawton’s letter, but Lawton heard nothing further from the Commissioner.

According to evidence before the Committee, Lawton then filed a complaint, in person, with the Office of Public Integrity. Incredibly, even though the complaint alleged corruption in the police force, OPI referred the complaint not to ICAC, but back to the police’s Internal Investigation Service, which, predictably, declared the complaint to be without merit.

At his wit’s end, Lawton then took his complaint direct to ICAC, alleging corruption from the top down, again providing a detailed brief prepared for him by Michael Fuller. ICAC – the organisation tasked with investigating corruption – sent the complaint back to the SA police, the organisation being accused of corruption.

In the meantime, Judge Joanna Fuller had been ruminating on the whole strange saga, remembering the moment when she’d spoken to her acquaintance at the DPP.

“I was in the airport lounge, heading off to do a case interstate,” she told the Select Committee. “At that stage, I think it had got to the point of complaints to ICAC, or so on. I rang [the acquaintance] and I said, ‘Look, it’s still bothering me. I would really like to get to the bottom of what actually happened. You said you never provided any advice.’ He said, ‘I can’t talk to you anymore about it. I’ve had enough grief about this matter.’ He said, ‘I’m just not going to discuss it with you.’ And that was the end.”

But her father, Michael Fuller, didn’t give up. In June, Fuller told the Select Committee:

“I submitted a full brief to the Police Minister – Corey Wingard it was at the time. I gave him a full brief and said, ‘All I ask you to do as Police Minister is ask the Commissioner to provide you with the complaint management system entries, such as they may be.’

"What did he do? He referred it to IIS (the police Internal Investigation Service). He said he had no power to investigate, and referred it to IIS. IIS came back and said, ‘Previously investigated.’ I said, ‘Good on you, Corey Wingard. You are just another one that I have established has not found himself able to inquire’.”

But SA MLC, Frank Pangallo, did inquire. Alarmed by what he saw as an organisation of “infallible untouchables not answerable for their actions”, Pangallo instigated into the SA Legislative Assembly a select committee of inquiry into the ICAC.

“Over the past year, several very serious matters concerning the conduct and standard of investigations by ICAC, OPI and joint SAPOL-ICAC investigations have come to my attention,” Pangallo told the Legislative Assembly last December. “I have been appalled and troubled by this and so should the public of South Australia, if they knew the facts. So should the media, had it taken the time to fully scrutinise the agency’s conduct in some of its more high-profile cases and failures. However, to my disappointment, they chose not to, perhaps out of fear of raising the ire of the agency … ”

The Select Committee on Damage, Harm or Adverse Outcomes Resulting from ICAC Investigations continues.

Last Friday, Grant Stevens appeared before the Committee for the first time. Asked by Committee members to explain the mountain of evidence Lawton and Fuller had presented, the South Australian Police Commissioner, sensationally, refused to answer questions, insisting the matter was “outside the terms of reference” of the Committee.

Later that same day, former ICAC Commissioner, Bruce Lander, also refused to be drawn on the issue of Lawton and Fuller’s evidence, insisting the entire matter was “a non-event … a storm in a teacup”.

Neither were willing to provide any explanation at all for how the police and ICAC had behaved.

Michael Fuller thinks the entire police system is thumbing its nose at the Government and people of South Australia, and a full judicial inquiry is probably inevitable.

“Grant Stevens was arrogant, heckled the Committee, and basically told everyone to get f*****,” Fuller told Barrier Truth. “And Lander did nothing but bluster.”

As for Ian Lawton, all he ever wanted was for somebody to be honest with him.

“Charles Moore was an honest man,” he says, “and he passed that down to me. I grew up with it.

“I’m a man with at least some resources – good, learned people who are willing to do whatever it takes. But, for the average person, what this means is that the police are not there for you. They are there to protect themselves.

“My great-grandad would turn in his grave.”

© Copyright 2021 Barrier Daily Truth, All Rights Reserved. ABN: 38 684 603 658