The Sydney Morning Herald from Sydney, New South Wales, Australia on December 7, 1996 · Page 160
Get access to this page with a Free Trial

A Publisher Extra Newspaper

The Sydney Morning Herald from Sydney, New South Wales, Australia · Page 160

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Issue Date:
Saturday, December 7, 1996
Page 160
Start Free Trial

; - -"J.-..- - - - "- Fatal errors: behind the Black Hawk crash Blueprint for a shrinking ABC Britain's Nazi King INI Wje jSgbneg Pontine tnlh mm HEW SATURDAY, DECEMBER 7, 1996 H ;w 29 4f : :v3, r vvv. SPECIAL BRANCH FILE No.., -"' aTWWiriminir i"f- ---' " . "' ''iBj"" - j David Yeldham ... the Supreme Court judge who looked for sex in Sydney's public toilets. fmm FEW months ago, the head of the 1 NSW Police Spe" (J cial Branch, Detective Superin-LJ kJLtendent Neville Ireland the robust and good-looking long-time bodyguard to the former Premier Neville Wran made a startling discovery in his safe, one that rocked the NSW Police Royal Commission when Ireland told of it this week. Ireland, in the job less than two years, found five folders that contained dossiers on prominent and eminent people in NSW, including details of suspected and rumoured illegal behaviour. Ireland immediately recognised the damage that the dossiers might do if they were leaked, and also that the keeping of such files was probably outside Special Branch's charter. He said he had bothered to read them fully only when he was asked by the Police Royal Commission to search out documentation relating to the commission's investigations of Justice David Yeldham, the bisexual former NSW Supreme Court judge who committed suicide last month in Justice Yeldham was in debt to the Police Special Branch, who helped hush up at least two arrests on sex charges. Who ordered them to do this, and did they get favours in return? BERNARD LAGAN and KATE McCLYMONT report. the face of the royal commission's investigations. News of Ireland's find tumbled out only after what appeared to be a stab-in-the-dark question posed by the Police Royal Commissioner, Justice James Wood, when Ireland was in the commission's witness box on Tuesday discussing Special Branch's charter. After Ireland's admission, Wood started to ask what the files contained, but immediately thought better of it and indicated he might get the commission's investigators to talk privately to Ireland about the contents. It has been a tough week for Special Branch, which is normally surrounded in secrecy on the 16th floor of College Street police headquarters well away from from any inquiry and hardly ever the subject of public scrutiny. Special Branch has survived in NSW despite its abolition in some other States; in South Australia, the former Premier, Don Dunstan, not only wound it up in the 1970s but also destroyed its files. Police Special Branches can be compared to State-based outposts of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and, indeed, were formed in conjunction with ASIO in 1948 and modelled on their British namesake. Their mission was, and is, broadly to keep tabs on subversive individuals and organisations, guard against politically motivated violence and take charge of security for high public officials such as the Premier, ministers and overseas dignitaries. Nothing in the NSW Police Branch mission statement given to the royal commission this week suggests that the branch should be involved in the investigation of day-to-day petty criminal activity even when it involved a former Supreme Court judge like Yeldham, who was well known around the gay beats of inner-city railway station toilets in the 1980s and '90s. Indeed, Ireland confirmed this. But, as evidence to the commission this week has shown, Special Branch certainly did involve itself with Yeldham, and appears to have saved him on at least two occasions from being charged in connection with homosexual activity in public places. Why? At its most sinister, the answer may be that Special Branch had bought off a judge and considered him favourable to police in court on difficult matters. As counsel assisting the royal commission, Paddy Anne Ber-gin, disclosed this week, the commission has been secretly M!ftlrfHd:MMU:l:JMjllMl FORMATION Special Branch police are chosen at senior constable or constable level. Jobs are not advertised. In 1948, the Commonwealth Government formed the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. In the same year, the conference of State police commissioners agreed to establish and maintain a unit which, in general terms, would maintain records and undertake the type of Inquiry done by the Subversive Organisations investigating Yeldham for a year to establish why he appeared to have been receiving preferential treatment from the NSW Police. The commission had not, she pointedly added, given Yeldham special treatment the imputation made in State Parliament by the Labor MLC Franca Arena when she publicly linked Group and the military police In the past. It was modelled on Britain's Special Branch. MISSION STATEMENT Monitor extremist activity. Anticipate politically motivated violence. Gather Information on various factions within the community. Provide security for visiting dignitaries and full-time protection for high public officials, such as the Premier and Yeldham to the commission's investigations days before he committed suicide. Bergin suggested to the commission that the investigation had thrown up a big question about Special Branch and Yeldham: were records about his various dealings with police, when picked up for suspected homosexual State and Federal MPs. Conduct security assessments and threat assessments for-public officials. Liaise with ASIO when Special Branch obtains information of possible relevance to national security. STRUCTURE Chief: Superintendent Neville Ireland. Six teams of three or four people under the command of sergeants. One senior officer In Woilongong and another in Newcastle. activity in public places, doctored to give him special and favourable treatment? And could it be that information from police records was actually used against Yeldham? On one occasion in the early 1980s, after Yeldham had voiced strong criticisms from the bench about police interviews with young people, the then Chief Justice intervened. Sir Lawrence Street acknowledged in a statement to the commission that he had called Yeldham to his office when he learnt of information within the Police Service that Yeldham had exposed himself on a railway platform. Street suspected that a disgruntled police officer was behind the information and, after speaking to Yeldham, discarded the information as unfounded rumour. But, as fresh evidence presented to the commission yesterday morning by Bergin shows, the number of times Yeldham was witnessed behaving in an indecent manner at Sydney railway stations continues to grow it now amounts to seven and never once was he charged. Four former schoolboys testified yesterday as to more of Yeldham's activities. Special Branch appears to those at the royal commission as something of a law unto itself in the maintenance of files and how its files might have been used. Continued Page 32 FNITWV0379A Two extra doors free. Outdoors free. Golf a. Golf Cabriolet There's one of five Volkswagen Golfs to suit you, from the new five-door CL to the luxurious Cabriolet. For more information phone 1800 060 936 or see your Volkswagen dealer. Volkswagen Golf. FfOITI $24,990 '$24,990 refers to the Golf CL manual, Golf Cabriolet manual from $48,990 both excluding dealer and statutory charges. m

Get access to

  • The largest online newspaper archive
  • 19,400+ newspapers from the 1700s–2000s
  • Millions of additional pages added every month

Publisher Extra Newspapers

  • Exclusive licensed content from premium publishers like the The Sydney Morning Herald
  • Archives through last month
  • Continually updated

Try it free