A Victorian police officer faces a $40,000 fine and two years in prison after allegedly leaking photos of former AFL player and coach Dean Laidley inside a Melbourne police station following his weekend arrest.
Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton said he was “appalled” that an officer had taken the photographs.
“I’m appalled that an employee of Victoria Police has taken these photographs. It’s unacceptable conduct, it’s appalling conduct and that type of conduct has no place in our organisation,” he said on Monday.
“It breaches a person’s privacy … it breaches their human rights and we’re taking this matter extremely seriously … it’s a breach of our values.”
Deputy Commissioner Patton said the alleged actions of the male senior constable were “unlawful” and it was criminal conduct.
- Related: Ex-AFL coach Dean Laidley arrested
He confirmed the police officer from the southern metropolitan region had been suspended with pay on Monday after the leaking of the photographs.
The pictures – one of which showed Laidley in a long blonde wig and wearing a dress – were allegedly sent to six other officers via WhatsApp.
The other photo was Laidley’s Victoria Police mugshot.
Deputy Commissioner Patton said the accused officer had been interviewed and faced charges in relation to unauthorised disclosure of information.
The “significant offence” attracts a $40,000 fine and up to two years in prison.
Victoria Police said Professional Standards Command had begun a thorough investigation and would look into “all aspects of the matter”.
Laidley, 53, was arrested on Saturday night outside a home in St Kilda. He has been charged with stalking and other offences.
The photos, one of which shows what appears to be Laidley during an interview at the police station, were leaked on Sunday.
Deputy Commissioner Patton said the accused police officer would also face internal disciplinary measures and the corruption watchdog had been notified.
Police Minister Lisa Neville described the leak as “completely unacceptable”.
“It was an idiotic thing to do. It’s an unacceptable thing to do,” she said.
But Ms Neville dismissed concerns the taking and leaking of the photos had transphobic overtones.
“I think this had much more to do about football than it did about anything else, but let the investigation go on,” she said.
Laidley’s lawyer Dee Giannopoulos described the incident as a gross breach of privacy.
“Outraged that pictures of my client, taken by some police officer, on the sly, when in custody in interview have hit the media. Typical #grossbreachofprivacy,” she tweeted.
Another of his lawyers, Bill Doogue, also tweeted his anger.
“Disgraceful. Taking photos unlawfully and sharing them. And these were sneaky photos while in Police interview in Police Station by a Police Officer,” Mr Doogue said.
“Police should investigate and those involved pull down immediately.”
Laidley faced Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on Sunday and will remain in custody until May 11. He did not apply for bail.
He played 151 AFL games from 1987 to 1997 and was an inaugural player at West Coast.
After 52 games with the Eagles, he joined the Kangaroos from 1993 and played 99 games at Arden Street, including their 1996 premiership.
Laidley succeeded Denis Pagan as North coach in 2003.
In 149 games, he led it to finals three times, before resigning in the 2009 season.
He then had assistant coaching roles at three AFL clubs until 2015.