Cop sacked over drunk antics back at work
A Queensland police officer fired after urinating off a balcony and drunkenly causing $23,000-worth of damage to a police-issued vehicle has been allowed back at work.
Judge McGill said there had been “errors of law in rejecting” the mental health of Senior Constable Isaac Cavanagh, who was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at the time.
The decision handed down by the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) found a previous tribunal did not sufficiently take into consideration the cop’s psychiatric condition.
Mr Cavanagh was dismissed from Queensland Police Service (QPS) after crashing a police car while drink driving in 2017.
QCAT documents reveal Mr Cavanagh began drinking about 1pm on March 30, half an hour after finishing work.
He took the keys to an unmarked police car at a police station, driving it away without an official purpose for doing so, just before 8pm.
The senior constable veered the car off a motorway, hitting a road sign and emergency telephone, before landing the vehicle in a drain.
Mr Cavanagh had a BAC of 0.177 upon being tested.
“Later a blood alcohol concentration certificate was issued for a reading of 0.165 per cent, a high-range drink-driving charge,” Judge McGill said in the QCAT decision.
“What happened showed that (he) was in fact unable to drive safely, and had therefore been a threat to the lives and safety of other road users that night.”
Mr Cavanagh later pleaded guilty to taking the car without consent and to driving without due care and attention.
He was subsequently suspended from police duty.
In addition, Mr Cavanagh pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol and was fined and disqualified from driving for six months.
The judgment states at a police social function in December of the following year, Mr Cavanagh was caught on video urinating off a balcony after consuming alcohol in the hours prior.
Although no one was directly affected by the incident, the QPS argued that the act had disregarded “proper behaviour and public welfare” and that the car crash prior “could not be regarded as an isolated incident”.
The QPS also argued that treatment received by Mr Cavanagh between the two incidents failed to prevent the latter, “as both were associated with excessive consumption of alcohol”, making him unsuitable to be retained in the service.
Deputy Commissioner Stephen Gollschewski dismissed Mr Cavanagh from the QPS in May 2020, a decision which was then confirmed by QCAT in April 2021.
An appeal brought in December 2022 sought to present evidence of Mr Cavanagh’s “good character” demonstrated throughout his 20-year career.
He was described, among other things, as being “a dedicated family man” and a “professional, motivated and hardworking” employee.
Having had no previous disciplinary matters during his career, Mr Cavanagh had also received two medals and six awards during his service.
It was also found that at the time of the driving incident he “was suffering from mental health problems”, namely PTSD and alcohol abuse disorder, for which he sought treatment.
Judge McGill accepted that Mr Cavanagh “still has much to offer the community”, having not been involved in any inappropriate behaviour in the four years since the balcony incident.
While it was found that the psychiatric conditions were “mitigating factors”, they still did not overwhelm the “serious nature” of the incidents.
The Judge found that the second incident was not a sufficient basis to determine that Mr Cavanagh could not be trusted in the future and that he had otherwise had a “long and excellent” record of police service.
The QCAT decision revoked Mr Cavanagh’s dismissal from the force, finding he would instead be suspended from duty without pay for 12 months, taking effect from the date of the 2020 decision.