A parade of MPs has entered State Parliament this morning, expressing their shock at the arrest and charging of deputy clerk of the Legislative Council with criminal charges.
Police today confirmed a 49-year-old man from Fremantle had been charged with possessing a disguise, possessing a controlled weapon and a third charge relating to the tracking device.
He is due to appear in Perth Magistrates Court on March 18.
Premier Colin Barnett described allegations that the Council’s deputy clerk Nigel Lake was in possession of a baseball bat and a balaclava and using a tracking device as “like something out of Monty Python”.
The West Australian today revealed Mr Lake was charged with possessing a controlled weapon, possessing a disguise intending to use it in connection with committing an offence and the use and installation of a tracking device.
Mr Lake was on foot in City Beach, allegedly dressed in a hoodie, black pants, black shoes and latex gloves when he was arrested by police near the home of his immediate superior, the clerk of the Legislative Council Nigel Pratt, late on the night of Tuesday February 18.
“I just find it bizarre, it’s as simple as that,” the Premier said. “It’s a bit like a Monty Python episode, isn’t it ... It’s potentially serious, but it’s going to be before the courts, so I can’t comment.
Mr Barnett said he did not believe the incident, which has made national headlines, would damage the reputation of the WA Parliament.
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Police Minister Liza Harvey said the matter was being investigated by police and it was not appropriate for her to “delve any further into those charges”.
“I was made aware of the charges when (Mr Lake) came to the attention of police (on February 18),” she said. “I was given a pre-briefing at that moment in time, obviously police had to do their investigative work in the follow-up to that incident, and now we’re at the point where they have laid some charges and it’s a matter for the courts.”
“They are very serious allegations … I was surprised, however as you’re probably aware in my portfolio I get lots of surprises and interesting reports of lots of strange goings on every day of the week. So unfortunately these things happen.”
Legislative Council President Barry House said he and other members and staff of the Upper House had been “stunned” by the allegations against Mr Lake.
Mr House said Mr Lake had been stood down on full pay until the matter was resolved the situation was “sufficiently serious” to warrant his exclusion from Parliament.
“The allegations were sufficiently serious for me to direct Mr Lake to stay away from the workplace and also, as we’re obliged to do, to notify the CCC,” Mr House said this morning.
“I’m treating it very seriously.
“I’m not making any judgment or I’m not speculating in any way.
“But it is a serious enough situation for me to stand him aside at this stage.
“I don’t think people were aware of the background and I’m sure you’ll find most of them are coming to terms with the situation.
“Nigel Lake has been a professional and competent officer of the Parliament for over 20 years.
“And he’s been a fine public officer.
“It’s difficult but I can assure you the Legislative Council has a very professional and committed staff.”
Shadow transport minister and senior Legislative Council MP Ken Travers said: “I work in a workplace that has constantly surprised and amazed me. This morning when I read The West Australian, it was a day of surprise.”
Liberal MLC Alyssa Hayden said she was “totally shocked” by the allegations.
“Nigel has been a fantastic operator, someone we could always talk to,” she said. "I’m blown away, totally blown away.”
Labor MLC Darren West said everyone was innocent until proven guilty and he expected this would be a tough time for Mr Lake’s family and friends.
Liberal MLC Nigel Hallett said he had found Mr Lake “exemplary, he just couldn’t help you enough”.
“A fantastic guy, it’s a tragedy,” he said.
Labor’s deputy leader of the Legislative Council Kate Doust said she was “really surprised”.
“I’ve only just seen the article this morning,” she said. “I had absolutely no idea about it, it’s very sad and we’ll just have to see what happens.
“He is very professional, a very decent bloke to work with, always offering very sound advice.”
Mental Health Minister Helen Morton said: “I found out like everyone else, when I read the newspaper.”