The Victoria Police officer who photographed former AFL coach Dani Laidley in custody has begged to avoid a conviction for the “poor decision” but a magistrate has said the privacy breach was “not minor”.
Ex-police officer Shane Reid fronted a Melbourne Magistrates Court hearing on Monday.
He’s charged with unauthorised disclosure of police information. That offence carries a maximum penalty of two years jail or up to a $43,000 fine, the Herald Sun reported.
Reid is accused of taking a photo of the former AFL coach while she was in custody on stalking charges in May 2020.
The then-senior constable later allegedly shared the photo of Laidley wearing a blonde wig and women’s clothing in a text message group chat of other police officers.
Within hours, the photo went viral online and was widely published by news websites.
The photo outed Laidley as a transgender woman and both Victoria Police bosses and trans advocates blasted the privacy breach at the time.
On Monday, Reid’s lawyer asked magistrate Andrew McKenna to consider a non-conviction with a “modest fine”, the Herald Sun reported.
He argued Reid’s “conduct was entirely out of character” and he “profoundly regretted” the incident.
The lawyer said Reid had lost his Victoria Police career as a result, which was “no small matter”.
The 37-year-old now wishes to return to his former teaching career.
“In order to return to that career, he will need to show the Victorian Institute of Teaching he is a fit person to be suitable to teach,” the lawyer said.
Reid’s lawyer said the former officer had reported himself to his station commander that night.
Judge says conviction and fine appropriate after disclosure
But Judge Andrew McKenna said a conviction was necessary if Reid entered a guilty plea.
McKenna added due to the gravity of the offence, the appropriate punishment would include a conviction and fine.
“For reasons of general deterrence, breach of trust, the impact on the victim being the principal issues relevant, here [necessitates] a conviction,” McKenna said.
He told the court it was “inevitable” the photo would spread, though Reid did not intend it to. He must have known taking the photo was a “plainly inappropriate thing to do,” the judge said.
“The offence at its core involves a breach of duty,” he said.
“For Laidley, this was no minor episode in my view.”
He said the episode had impacted the reputation of Victoria Police officers.
Dani Laidley ‘lost her right to choose when to share gender transition’
Prosecutor Neil Hutton told the court they were not pushing for jail time for Reid. However Hutton argued a conviction was warranted.
In a victim impact statement, Laidley said the leaking of the photo took away her right “to choose the timing and manner” to share her gender transition publicly.
She had suffered “significant public humiliation and embarrassment,” the court heard.
He said Reid knew what he was doing was wrong at the time. When told by another officers there were cameras in the room, the court heard Reid said he “probably shouldn’t” photograph Laidley did anyway.
Shane Reid will face court again next March for a two-day hearing, according to The Age.
After a Victoria Police investigation in the incident, dozens of other officers faced internal discipline.
Police also charged two other officers, Detective Leading Senior Constable Murray Gentner and Constable David Hall, with disclosing police information.
Earlier this week, Dani Laidley opened up to the Herald Sun about her transition, saying she feels she’s “a much more rounded person”.
“I just want to keep being a better person, the best woman I can be, and be the best parent, partner, friend, colleague,” she said.
“All those things I probably wasn’t before because of certain reasons.
“It’s been a choice to live authentically as myself or leave this world in pain.”
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