Former Detective Senior Sergeant Benjamin Weare has been demoted by the QPS. He pleaded guilty in the Townsville Magistrates Court to improperly disclosing information after a restricted video of a cop car hitting teenager on Palm Island was leaked and shared on Snapchat.
Former Detective Senior Sergeant Benjamin Weare has been demoted by the QPS. He pleaded guilty in the Townsville Magistrates Court to improperly disclosing information after a restricted video of a cop car hitting teenager on Palm Island was leaked and shared on Snapchat.

Cops in court after internal footage leaked

Three police officers are accused of misconduct after restricted footage, of an incident where a teenager was hit by a police car on Palm Island was leaked and shared on Snapchat.

The footage was covertly recorded on a mobile phone and shared among police at Palm Island and in Townsville via airdrop and through an encrypted messaging app.

Morgan Elizabeth Lyons, Erica Woodward Thompson and Benjamin Andrew Weare faced the Townsville Magistrates court on Wednesday on charges linked to matter.

 

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Weare pleaded guilty to improperly disclosing information on September 30 this year.

Police prosecutor Felicity Nalder said Weare, a Detective Senior Sergeant, was involved in the arrest of the 18 year old on August 29.

Sgt Nalder said Weare had worked for the QPS since 2006.

Officers involved in the incident were instructed not to communicate with each other about the incident and were not given access to the footage.

On September 7, he emailed his superiors saying he knew an officer recorded the footage and that he asked the officer to share it with him via airdrop.

Once Weare acquired the footage, he showed it to another officer and allowed them to record it from his phone.

Palm Island activist Lex Wotton said the incident would further inflame the already tense relationship between islanders and police.

"It just shows they are not really doing their job," he said.

"They swore an oath not to do these things."

Mr Wotton said the case was similar to that of Kumanjayi Walker, the 19-year-old man killed by a police officer in the Northern Territory, where internal police footage existed but was not shared with the public.

"There is no real accountability to the wider public," he said.

"Police have a law unto themselves. They are not being held responsible.

Palm Island man Lex Wotton said the misconduct charges could inflame already tense relationships between police and Palm Islanders. Pictured: Zak Simmonds
Palm Island man Lex Wotton said the misconduct charges could inflame already tense relationships between police and Palm Islanders. Pictured: Zak Simmonds

"They are just put on desk duties and stuff like that, but, for how long?"

Weare was self represented in court where he told Magistrate Ken Taylor he was remorseful for his actions and had suffered personal and professional setbacks because of it.

He was fined $1000 and a conviction was recorded.

Weare's co-accused Lyons and Thompson faced court on Wednesday also.

Lyons is charged with using a restricted computer without consent and Thompson faces a charge of improper disclosure of information.

Brisbane defence lawyer Claire McGee appeared on behalf of both women who were granted bail on their own undertaking.

Police allege Lyons used her mobile phone to record the footage from an internal QPS computer.

Morgan Lyons (right) faced the Townsville Magistrates Court on charged linked to an incident where a restricted video of a cop car hitting teenager on Palm Island was leaked and shared on Snapchat.
Morgan Lyons (right) faced the Townsville Magistrates Court on charged linked to an incident where a restricted video of a cop car hitting teenager on Palm Island was leaked and shared on Snapchat.

Thompson is accused of filming the footage from Weare's phone and sending it to other officers via Snapchat.

The group were not permitted to access the video which was only provided to the Ethical Standards Command branch, the Forensic Crash Unit and Officer In Charge of the Palm Island Police Station Dave Rutherford.

Rutherford was allowed to play the clip to a small group of officers, which is when police allege Lyons filmed it.

Sgt Nalder said the video was clearly filmed in Rutherford's office and showed his computer and desk.

Thompson's department issued phone was seized as part of investigations.

On September 3, an officer texted Rutherford asking if he was aware Senior Constable Thompson had shared part of the dashcam footage on Snapchat.

At another point she is accused of mistakenly sending a text to Rutherford inviting him to come and see the video.

A plain clothes constable told investigators he spoke with Thompson about the video on Facebook and shortly after she added him on Snapchat and sent him the footage

Sgt Nalder said the community and government entrusted police to responsibly handle confidential, private and sensitive data.

"Curiosity or personal interest is not an acceptable reason to access Queensland Police Service information," she said.

"It certainly can be considered a kind of breach of trust."

Lyons and Thompson will have their matters next mentioned in November.

Queensland Police declined to comment on the matter.

Originally published as Cops in court after internal footage leaked


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