The son of former NSW premier Kristina Keneally has denied claims that he “made up” an official police statement that wrongfully landed a man behind bars over alleged threats to kill police.
Police allege Daniel John Keneally fabricated an official report in 2021 about a phone call he received while working as a police officer at Newtown Police Station.
The court heard the 24-year-old claimed Luke Moore had made threats about wanting a rural detective “dead”, “as good as gone” and “off the planet” during the 12-minute call on February 24.
Mr Moore, who is the founder of website I Sue Police, was imprisoned on remand for three weeks before a recording of the call cleared his name. The charges were dropped and the state issued an apology.
The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission launched an investigation and charged Constable Keneally over the report.
He wore a navy suit and white shirt as he appeared in Sydney Downing Centre Local Court on Tuesday to fight the charge of fabricating false evidence with the intent to mislead a judicial tribunal.
His lawyer Paul McGirr argued the police officer made an unintentional mistake in confusing the phone call with the material on Mr Moore’s website, which he was browsing at the same time.
He maintained his client had believed the statement was true at the time but “now concedes it’s not true” after listening to a recording of the call in question.
However, crown prosecutor Daniel Boyle said the phone call recounted in Constable Keneally’s statement was “all wrong” and “didn’t happen”.
“These are words you just made up, are they?” he asked the officer.
“Absolutely disagree,” Constable Keneally emphasised.
“That‘s what I believe happened at the time I wrote the statement.”
However, he accepted there were “significant differences” between his recollection of the call and the taped conversation played in court.
The court heard the 24-year-old had filed a verbatim conversation in his report, but none of the quotes were contained in the recording of the phone call.
He conceded the “rambling and incoherent” phone call did not contain any threats of violence or any mention of the name of the rural detective.
Constable Keneally admitted he “wasn’t totally focused” on the phone call with Mr Moore because he was browsing the caller’s website and the police database while also attending to duties.
Forensic psychiatrist Dr Olav Nielssen opined the “sheer amount” of distractions had the effect of “undermining the accuracy of (Constable Keneally’s) recollection”.
“Our memory is not reliable,” he told the court.
Senior lecturer and memory expert Dr Stefanie Sharman agreed, noting that splitting his focus is likely to have weakened his ability to recall information and its source.
“Even a couple of minutes is enough for people’s memories of conversations to decay pretty significantly,” she said.
However, Mr Boyle argued Constable Keneally used direct and detailed quotes in his report about the phone call.
“This was not a mistake,” he said.
“Looking at the transcript and his statement, they’re not even close.”
He said the 24-year-old had made the statement with the knowledge it could be used to arrest and prosecute Mr Moore.
Mr McGirr refuted the claim, telling the court his client was following instructions when he gave the statement and he didn’t expect it would lead to criminal prosecution.
“Clearly we concede my client has made a mistake in terms of his recall in this matter, which is compounded by the fact that he put it in an intelligence report,” he said.
Yet he maintained there was “no real smoking gun” that explained why the 24-year-old would have intentionally made a false statement against Mr Moore, whom he didn’t know.
Under cross examination, Constable Keneally vehemently denied that making the statement would help advance his career.
Mr McGirr acknowledged Constable Keneally had done “pretty average police work” by not taking contemporaneous notes, but said he had been “doing his best”.
Magistrate Rodney Brender will hand down his decision on November 21.
Constable Keneally remains suspended from the NSW Police with full pay.
He is the son of Kristina Keneally, who served as the first female Premier of NSW from 2009 to 2011.
The Labor politician then went on to serve as Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate for three years, from 2019 until she was ousted from her seat of Fowler last year.