Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission has successfully applied for the demotion of a police officer who ignored a superior officer’s direction to stop a high-speed pursuit of a stolen vehicle and fired his service pistol twice as it drove away.
Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) member Michael Howe last month set aside a ruling by Assistant Police Commissioner Maurice Carless to discipline Senior Constable Barry Wellington by way of a reprimand and substituted it with an order that he be demoted to the rank of Constable for 12-months.
The tribunal was told disciplinary action against Wellington involved his role in a high-speed chase of Toyota LandCruiser linked to a series of serious offences including armed robbery on the Gold Coast on 17 May 2015.
Wellington and his constable partner were one of a number of police vehicles – including the Polair police helicopter – involved in the chase that resulted in a tyre deflation device being successfully used to puncture the LandCruiser’s tyres.
Mr Howe, in his 12-page written decision, noted that while the vehicles tyres were punctured, it managed to continue at a reduced speed, avoided an attempted roadblock by mounting a footpath, at which time the senior duty officer on the scene ordered all police to stop pursuing the vehicle.
“His instructions were ignored. Another officer, Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley, following behind the LandCruiser deliberately made contact with it and made it lose control … and veered off the road onto the verge,” Mr Howe said.
“Sergeant Hurley exited his vehicle and Wellington joined him, as did other officers. The vehicle accelerated heavily backwards and forward ramming police cars trying to drive off and drove at Senior-Sergeant Hurley, who moved to avoid it.
“(Hurley then) drew his weapon and fired at the LandCruiser once as it came towards him … (and) a second time as it drove away. Wellington also drew his weapon and fired twice at the departing LandCruiser.”
Disciplinary proceedings against Wellington did not commence until 9 April last year as a result of him being the subject of two criminal prosecutions (in which charges were dropped), five years’ suspension from the QPS, supervision when reinstated and re-educated including a return to the Police Academy.
Mr Howe said: “In my opinion those matters are factors that should be considered and not ignored. But, similarly the fact that Wellington has only resiled from contending that his behaviour in respect of (one) matter of the disciplinary proceedings was not misconduct has only been since November 2020.’’
Disciplinary proceedings against Wellington involved one charge of misconduct, comprising three parts that included failing to comply with operational procedures and directions to abandon a pursuit and discharging his weapon at a stolen car.
Mr Howe said: “Given my conclusion that Wellington’s behaviour on 17 May 2015 was a matter of recklessness, probably borne of excitement, and that clouded his decision making despite his long training, leading to poor leadership, I find that there is (a) reasonable prospect that Wellington may fall prey to the same behaviour again should a similar dynamic stressful situation arise like (this) incident.
“Given that, and despite the fairly extensive retraining and the supervision undertaken since his return to duty, I find his demotion to Constable … for 12-months is the correct and preferable penalty, both as a protective measure and a message to others.”
Read the decision.