Man sacked for helping police wins damages

·2-min read

The NSW transport department has been ordered to pay more than $300,000 in damages to a manager sacked for helping police investigating a woman's murder.

The case involved the 2018 killing of Nicole Cartwright, allegedly at the hands of former departmental employee Dennis James Pietrobon.

Forensic manager Thomas Wood saw media reports of his arrest in May 2020 and immediately approached police, telling them of his investigations into the accused before Pietrobon's dismissal in 2019.

But his assistance led to Mr Wood being sacked for "serious and wilful misconduct" related to concerns about the "privacy and confidentiality" of the information.

In the NSW Supreme Court on Friday, Acting Justice Monika Schmidt ordered Transport NSW to pay Mr Wood damages of $306,409.22.

This comprised of an award of $440,798.78 less workers compensation payments of $134,389.56 made to Mr Wood.

Transport NSW also is to pay him $8231.49 in interest and his legal costs.

The judge in October overturned Mr Wood's dismissal, finding it was unlawful and that he was entitled to damages.

Mr Wood told police of investigating an allegation that Pietrobon stalked and sexually harassed a colleague and had used fetish dating apps at work to download naked pictures.

Another centred on Pietrobon's failure to disclose a conviction for punching a school student.

After calling Crime Stoppers, Mr Wood then advised his manager and emailed superiors about "information critical to possible murder investigation".

Rather than invite police to seize the records it had on Pietrobon, including his work computer and phone, the department sacked Mr Wood.

In Friday's decision, Justice Schmidt described the evidence in the unlawful dismissal case as "disturbing", given everyone has obligations to help police in upholding the law.

This was "especially in the prosecution of offences of the utmost seriousness, such as murder".

She said Transport NSW failed to provide police with computer records which it held, which were relevant to the murder prosecution, when approached during the investigation.

It took until February or March 2021 for the department to eventually provide the records to police.

The judge said it was difficult to see that the records would ever have been provided to police without Mr Wood coming forward.

Transport NSW's case included views about the privacy and confidentiality of the information Mr Wood disclosed and how employment contracts may be crafted to deal with disclosures to police.

The judge concluded that the evidence and the case advanced about the views raised matters of "such considerable public interest" that copies of her judgments will be provided to the relevant minister and the police commissioner.

Pietrobon was never tried for murder after taking his own life in custody in April 2020.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting