‘Poor decision’ to photograph Dani Laidley, police officer told interview

A former police officer who snapped a photograph of Dani Laidley inside a police station admitted afterwards he made a “poor decision” that damaged the force’s reputation and denied the former AFL coach her rights.

Shane Reid was a senior constable delivering correspondence to a colleague at St Kilda station when on May 2, 2020, he used his mobile phone to take a photograph of Ms Laidley being interviewed by two officers following her arrest for stalking. Ms Laidley was wearing a wig and makeup at the time.

Dani Laidley (right) with former teammate Brent Harvey at a North Melbourne Football Club function last year.Credit:Wayne Taylor

On his return to South Melbourne station, Mr Reid – who is no longer a police officer – allowed another officer to photograph the image on his mobile phone. The next day Mr Reid posted the photo in a WhatsApp group with eight other officers. The group members shared messages socially.

Mr Reid’s photo and a mugshot of the former North Melbourne coach and player entered the public domain, and three officers were charged while others were disciplined by the force. Mr Reid did not take the mugshot photo.

Mr Reid disputes he broke the law and breached his duties as an officer and has pleaded not guilty to one charge of misconduct and three of disclosing police information without reasonable excuse. His lawyers argue he has no case to answer.

The 37-year-old cried in Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday as he watched a recording of the interview he did with investigators two days after he took the photo, when he conceded he had damaged his reputation and Victoria Police’s standing, disappointed his wife and everyone he knew and denied Ms Laidley “[her] rights as a person”.

In the interview, Mr Reid noted the photo scandal came just over a week after the Eastern Freeway crash that killed four officers, and the “community, for a change, was getting around us”.

“And I f—ed up and took a photo,” he said. “I did it and I shouldn’t have. It was dumb.”

The then senior constable, who had been a police officer for six years, told detectives he knew he had no reason to take the photo and said doing so was a “spur of the moment thing”.

“I don’t know why, I guess it just kind of threw me that, you know, a former AFL player … it was not something you would normally see,” he said.

The day after he took the photo, the then officer posted it, without comment, to the WhatsApp group. He said in his interview that afterwards, he asked the group if anyone had shared the photo and no one said they did.

He said he later saw a news story on Facebook where a reader posted a comment with the photo. The following day he contacted senior officers to “admit to my mistake” because he was concerned about the damage caused to Victoria Police’s reputation and wanted to help the force handle the scandal.

Only later in the interview did he voice concern about Ms Laidley and her family. “His family’s got to deal with that,” Mr Reid told investigators.

Ms Laidley watched Tuesday’s hearing online.

Defence counsel Chris Carr, SC, told magistrate Hayley Bate that prosecutors had to establish that Mr Reid breached his duties to prove the charges. Mr Carr will on Wednesday argue his client has no case to answer.

Ms Laidley recently received a confidential financial settlement from Victoria Police after launching a claim in court that argued the force and its officers breached the duty of care owed to her while she was in custody.

Earlier this month, charges against Detective Leading Senior Constable Murray Gentner were struck out when another magistrate, Samantha Poulter, ruled prosecutors failed to establish that the detective breached his duties to not disclose information to his friends about Ms Laidley’s arrest.

Prosecutors are considering appealing against Ms Poulter’s decision. They sought an adjournment in the case against Mr Reid while they considered the appeal in the case against the detective, but Mr Carr opposed that and successfully argued it would be unfair on Mr Reid to face another delay.

Mr Carr said Mr Reid was suspended without pay when charged in December 2020 and had to resign as a police officer last year because he couldn’t support his family.

Ms Bate ruled there would be “profound unfairness” if Mr Reid’s case was further delayed, and ordered it start.

Ms Laidley was ultimately charged with stalking and later put on a good behaviour bond without conviction.

The third officer charged is due to face court in May.

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