Former Police Inspector faces jail over drug lies to PIC

A former police inspector suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder could be jailed for lying to the Police Integrity Commission about a drug-fuelled ”boys weekend” with fellow officers.

Court documents reveal that in October 2010 Matthew Mark Dennis, a former duty officer at the Hunter Valley Local Area Command, was secretly filmed by commission investigators taking ecstasy during a three-day trip to the Gold Coast.

”Have you had your pill … go and grab one if you haven’t had one,” a police superintendent and friend of Mr Dennis was allegedly recorded telling him.

”I just had one, put it in me gullet,” Mr Dennis replied.

When Mr Dennis was hauled before the commission the following year as part of its investigation into drug use and drug supply in the NSW police force, he denied that he or his colleagues had ever taken drugs.

When shown the footage, the inspector was forced to admit his evidence was wrong and he subsequently pleaded guilty to two counts of knowingly giving misleading evidence before the commission.

He was subsequently dismissed from the force.

On Wednesday, Mr Dennis’ lawyer, Karen Weeks, applied to have the two charges dealt with outside the usual provisions of the criminal law because of mental trauma he suffered during his years on the force.

Ms Weeks sought to have the matter dealt with under section 32 of the Mental Health Forensic Procedures Act, which would have allowed Mr Dennis to avoid the usual punishments for the offence, which includes possible imprisonment.

Ms Weeks said Mr Dennis had been diagnosed with untreated post-traumatic stress disorder from doing a job that “most of us can’t even imagine”.

“Picking up the parts of people who have committed suicide, dealing with families of people who have been killed in horrendous circumstances,” Ms Weeks said of the work.

But Magistrate Lisa Stapleton rejected the application, finding that the need to punish Mr Dennis appropriately outweighed the community interest in allowing mental ill offenders to be diverted from the standard criminal process.

”Those charged with the responsibility of investigating crime, proferring charges and giving evidence … must have absolute integrity – they must be irreproachable,” Magistrate Stapleton said.

”Giving false evidence to the Police Integrity Commission is a very serious matter and to my mind is made more serious when the person involved is an inspector of police.”

Her honour said that ”nothing less than a criminal conviction” was appropriate and that ”it may be the case that this leads to a custodial sentence”, though she was yet to consider an appropriate punishment.

The court documents reveal that in addition to taking ecstasy during the Gold Coast holiday, Mr Dennis was present when several of his colleagues ate cookies made with hashish.

”Here ya go … have another biscuit,” one officer allegedly said to the superintendent.

”Can you believe Mr Superintendent, two steps from the boss, eating your cookies?” another officer allegedly says.

”The only problem with that would be if I took two more steps and I was the boss … imagine doing cookies when you’re commissioner of police,” the superintendent allegedly replied.

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