A former policeman found guilty of attempting to pervert the course of justice by trying to tip-off a suspected white supremacist that he was under surveillance has had his conviction quashed by a WA appeal court.
In a decision published yesterday, three judges of the Court of Appeal unanimously upheld Robert David Critchley’s legal challenge and ordered he face a retrial in the District Court.
Mr Critchley was sentenced to an 18-month jail term in February last year after a jury convicted him in late 2011 of attempting to pervert the course of justice by trying to give a “cryptic tip-off” to the suspected white supremacist that his phone was being tapped by police.
The 45-year-old was a senior constable monitoring calls as part of a covert police operation in January 2010 when he suggested to a friend of the investigation’s primary target that he may want to get a new SIM card.
During his trial, Mr Critchley rejected suggestions that he was sympathetic to nationalist extremist groups. He admitted trying to make two telephone calls from public phone boxes on the date alleged, but denied speaking to anybody.
In the appeal court decision, Justice Michael Buss outlined details of an internal disciplinary investigation which was conducted before Mr Critchley faced the criminal charge.
Justice Buss said as part of that process, Mr Critchley wrote a letter to the Police Commissioner in response to a notice of his intention to recommend his removal from the police force. An edited version of the document which included “admissions against interest” was admitted in evidence at his criminal trial.
Justice Buss said he was satisfied that the trial judge was in error in allowing prosecutors to tender in evidence the edited version of the letter, despite the objection of Mr Critchley’s defence lawyer.
“His Honour should have excluded the edited letter in accordance with the definitive rule that a confessional statement cannot be voluntary if it is induced by a fear of prejudice or a hope of advantage exercised or held out by a person in authority,” he said.