The son of former NSW premier Kristina Keneally has broken down as he avoided prison after he was last year found guilty of fabricating a statement that wrongfully landed a man behind bars.
Daniel John Keneally was found guilty in November of falsifying the official report in 2021 about a phone call he received while working as a police officer at Newtown police station.
Magistrate Rodney Brender on Thursday described Keneally’s offending as a serious “crime against public justice” as he sentenced him to a 15-month intensive corrections order, a term of imprisonment to be served in the community.
Keneally stood as the magistrate made the order, breathing a long sigh of relief before sitting down and folding over.
He continued breathing heavily, hyperventilating into his hands as the court was adjourned.
The 25-year-old was also given a $2000 fine and 200 hours of community service.
Mr Brender said Keneally had no apparent personal or financial motive, but was a young and inexperienced police officer at the time of the offending.
Outside court, Keneally’s defence lawyer Paul McGirr told media the magistrate’s decision was “very fair” and his client “respected” the court.
“The matter is far from over, and my client maintains his innocence,” Mr McGirr said.
“Of course, he sympathises with Mr Moore but again, as we’ve said all along, my client maintains his innocence and keeps his head up.”
Mr McGirr reiterated the magistrate had found no motive.
“He wasn’t trying to get promoted, he didn’t know more … it was an honest mistake,” he said.
“The very heavy burden the prosecution bears is proving beyond reasonable doubt that my client actually intentionally perverted the course of justice … we say that simply wasn’t the case, it was a mistake.”
However, as an appeal has now been lodged, Mr McGirr applied for his client to have the ICO stayed and to be on bail.
Mr Brender did not impose bail but stayed the ICO, meaning Keneally will not have to serve the sentence until the appeal’s outcome.
Following the application, Mr McGirr said the matter could not be discussed as it was pending an appeal.
“We need to let the wheels of justice roll on, but as we said he holds his head up, he’s not guilty of this offence,” he told media.
The court was previously told Keneally claimed the caller, Luke Moore, had made threats about wanting a rural detective “dead” and “as good as gone”.
Mr Moore is the founder of website I Sue Police and was imprisoned on remand for three weeks after the 12-minute call before a recording cleared his name.
The charges were dropped and an apology was issued by the state before the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission charged Keneally.
The court was told Keneally accepted in evidence differences between his statement and a recording of the call made by Mr Moore, with the issue being of intent.
Mr McGirr argued at the hearing that Keneally had unintentionally confused the phone call with material from Mr Moore’s website.
The court was told the website allegedly contained allegations and threats against a Goulburn police detective, though Mr Moore noted he did not advocate for violence.
In November, Mr Brender found Keneally had not distinguished between material from the phone call and Mr Moore’s website, which he was viewing at the time.
“There is no plausible basis from any other sources for the information recorded in the statement, for example (Mr Moore) wanting him (the detective) dead,” he said on delivering a verdict last year.
“The material parts of the statement bare no relationship to what was said orally, nor was there any grounding for it to have been confused with what was said orally.”
Mr Brender said despite Keneally’s “good character”, he could not accept his in court evidence or that the mistake could have been made “inadvertently”.
“The material he wrote had no other possible source and was relevantly a fabrication. It was deliberate. He must have known he couldn’t recall it having been said and it was false to say he did recall it,” Mr Brender said.
“The evidence of a threat to kill a policeman, he knew, would inevitably very likely lead to charges and a court process … it (his statement) is a fabrication and would mislead the relevant tribunal.”
Mr Brender refuted assertions by Keneally he had been distracted by other duties at the time of the call, and had been overtired from the previous night’s shift.
Keneally admitted in court there were significant differences between the statement and the recorded call, and that he had been “incoherent”.
The 25-year-old is the son of Kristina Keneally, who served as the first female Premier of NSW from 2009 to 2011.
He had been suspended with full pay.
The appeal is listed in the District Court for February.