The Greg Smith snafu at the office of the NSW DPP still has not settled down. In fact, the tortured explanation issued on Monday (Sept 25) by DPP Nicholas Conference-Cowdery (pic) has only made things worse, if anything.
You can read Conference-Cowdery’s plodding 24-point treatise here.
It seeks to deal with four contentious things: the employment of Greg Smith as Deputy DPP, the prosecution of deputy senior crown prosecutor Patrick Power, the prosecution of Henry Anning, and indemnity and undertakings for Robert “Dolly” Dunn.
For those outside NSW who may not have been captivated by the intense bickering involving Greg Smith, here are some savoury details.
Smith used to be an enthusiast of the right wing of the NSW Labor Party and is and always has been a devoted Right to Lifer and supporter of the Pope on many important issues. He is, in short, Mr Morals. Among others he is close to John McCarthy QC, who was close to Bob Car during his premiership. Smith has travelled from the right of the NSW ALP to the right (or Uglies) faction of the NSW Liberals, which is no great travelling distance at all.
Smith’s son Nathan is the president of the Liberal’s federal electoral conference for Bennelong, Little Johnnie Howard’s seat and Little One thinks the Smiths are just beaut. The Mad Monk is the latest to sprinkle holy water over the utterly peachy Smith.
Smith is a deputy DPP and previously worked as a deputy senior crown prosecutor and a crown prosecutor. He is now being flagged as a future Liberal Attorney General.
On September 16 he was preselected as the Liberal Party’s candidate for the (safe) seat of Epping. As part of his seductive message to the preselectors he gave a solid burst on how more crims would be locked up under his guiding hand in a Liberal government than under Labor.
The drones of the Labor frontbench are miffed by Smif. They see him as not only a traitor to the “cause” but are livid that as a public servant he puffed his Laura Norda credentials to win Liberal preselection.
Police Minister Carl Scully has declared that Morals Man mishandled the unfortunate case involving deputy senior crown prosecutor Dr Power, whose computer was allegedly found loaded with a kiddie porn video.
A “briefing document” said to have been written by Smith was leaked to The Daily Smellograph.
The document described the sequence of events. When told the contents of Power’s home computer, which was being repaired by the DPP’s IT people, Smith called the deputy senior prosecutor into his office. Power pretty promptly stood aside from his job and went home. According to the newspaper “it was not until later that day” (July 4) that Smith rang the police. Power was charged 48 hours later. Morals Man strenuously denies “tipping-off” a colleague and giving him time to clean-up at home.
He says he acted on instructions from Nicholas Conference-Cowdery who was away on pressing conference duties.
Anyway, the leak is now the subject of a complaint to ICAC by Opposition Leader, Probationary Sub-Lieutenant P. Debnam.
So that is the landscape into which Conference-Cowdery’s statement lobbed on Monday. For what it’s worth, here’s our take on his clarifications, restatements of fact and spin.
Employment of Smith
Smith (pic) is to stay on as deputy DPP until February 2, 2007. This is clearly a fat finger to the government which, quite apart from hammering Smith in parliament, is strongly suspected of being the source of the briefing document leak. There’s no love lost between the DPP and the government.
Even though the government claims that Smith volunteered a lot of rhetoric on law n’ order during the preselection, nonetheless Conference-Cowdery is confident that this in no way transgresses the rather loose code of conduct for the Office of DPP. Smithy can be relied on do the right thing, is C-C’s line.
Of course it is nonsense. Smith should have bailed out of his DPP job by now. It’s an utterly bad look to have one of the Liberal’s front line boys sitting over at the DPP’s office fielding phone calls from the Probationary Sub-Lieutenant and Senator Wild Bill Heffernan, who are trying to influence prosecution policy from the sidelines.
Scully is quite right on this point. It frankly doesn’t matter about the cases Smith is running right now – there would have been ample time ages ago to get someone else in place while the deputy DPP was trying to secure his seat.
The precedent of other public servants hanging in till they get their derrieres on the leather is no excuse for this lot not to do the right thing.
In Justinian’s view, poor calls from both Morals Man and Conference-Cowdery.
Prosecution of Power
This is a doozy and the special conditions of the case should have dictated much greater circumspection from MM. Here we have the boss prosecutor interviewing someone he knows is more than likely going to be prosecuted – before the police have been informed.
The situation required the insertion of a third party between the Office of DPP and its employee, namely either the NSW Crime Commission or the police. The police think so too.
As soon as Power’s computer was reported infected with child porn you’d think a DPP would have butted out. In Justinian’s considered opinion it’s a bad look to have the (deputy) DPP and (about to be) accused in a room together discussing the alleged offence before the charges are laid.
There has been debate about the gap of time between Power stepping aside from his job and the police being notified of the alleged offence. The Smellograph’s report of the briefing note said “it was some time later that day” before Smith called the chief of staff to the Commissioner of Police.
Conference-Cowdery’s statement is quite unspecific on the time factor:
“When Dr Power left the office on July 4, 2006, Mr Smith telephoned the Police Commissioner’s chief of staff, Chief Superintendent Aust. Mr Smith told him what had occurred, including the contents of the discussion with Dr Power. Chief Superintendent Aust arranged for Superintendent Begg to take charge of the matter on July 5, which she did.”
You can be sure that if it was you or me suspected of a serious criminal offence we wouldn’t be afforded a chat with the prosecutor before the police were told. The wallopers would be in the front door unannounced seizing things at an early hour of the morning.
C-C ends this aspect of his statement by skewering the Attorney General, Uncle Bob Debus, over the leak of the briefing note:
“The briefing note dated July 25, 2006 referred to in media reports was sent to a senior officer in the Attorney General’s Department (acting on behalf of the Attorney General) and the only other paper copy made in the Office of the DPP before the reported ‘leaking’ of the document was retained by Mr Smith.”
Prosecution of Henry Anning
Sub-Lieutenant Debnam and paedophile campaigner Bill Heffernan were crawling all over the Anning case with their tongues hanging out.
Labor has referred Debnam and Heffernan’s involvement to ICAC and C-C hides behind that saying that public comments about it must be “limited”. Why? Contempt of ICAC or something – really!
Of course, when you’re shafting the AG over leaked DPP documents, a matter also referred to ICAC, then comment is irresistible.
The statement does nothing to dispel the odiferous suggestion that political cronies of the deputy DPP were in his ear about making sure Anning was prosecuted.
If you have a look at Conference-Cowdery’s statement you’ll see that he says Smith contacted Sub-Lt Debnam “to correct the error in media reporting”.
This was the error that Smith had discontinued the prosecution in this paedophile case whereas it was deputy DPP Luigi Lamprati who directed the prosecution be discontinued.
But why does Morals Man have to tell the Sub-Lt this? It’s peculiar, to say the least. There remains the appearance of political meddling in a decision to prosecute.
Indemnities and undertakings for paedophile Dolly Dunn were done in the name of the attorney general, but of course Smith was one of several prosecutors who advised him to do that. Wild Bill H and the Sub-Lt will be disappointed.
Smith should have been gone from the DPP’s office by now. He cannot be a prosecutor and make political promises about law and order policy and crime.
The Patrick Power case was not handled at sufficient arms length. Prosecutors simply don’t talk to those soon to be prosecuted.
Conference-Cowdery’s statement did not settle me down one bit.
I hope that clears everything up.