– A crucial top-secret report into the Australian authorities’ response to the distress of the ill-fated asylum seeker boat known as the SIEV 358 was deliberately withheld from a West Australian police investigation into the sinking which killed 104 men.
The West Australian Coroner’s Court has been told that an Australian Federal Police agent had told Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Defence not to give the classified document to the police officer who had been asked to investigate the sinking on June 21st last year as a major crime.
The a West Australian officer in charge of the investigation, Detective a Inspector David Bryson, told the court he had no idea that information had been hidden from him until he arrived at court on Friday morning.
He told the court, which is investigating the deaths of those on board the boat, he has too secret clearances which meant he could have seen any classified or secret information, but he was never told it existed.
As a result, Detective Inspector Bryson told the court he could no longer stand by the conclusions in his own report into the deaths knowing he had not been given full disclosure of all the facts. He said it would no longer be a full and honest report.
“My brief was to treat this job as a serious crime,” he said.
Detective Inspector Bryson said he asked the AFP liaison officer who was to be the single point of contact for all Commonwealth agencies to provide all documents, videos and reports relating to the investigation. “It was a coverall request for all documents either secret or top secret,” he told the court.
But counsel for Customs and Border Protection and Defence, Peter Hanks, QC, then revealed that an AFP officer had given direct instructions that Customs and Defence should not hand over the internal review of the sinking which was ordered by Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare.
“The AFP specially asked that the document,” said Mr Hanks.
WA Coroner Alastair Hope expressed surprise at the revelations and with counsel assisting the inquest, Marco Tedeschi, has asked for the name of the officer that made the request, the date, the reasons and on whose direction it was made.
Detective Inspector Bryson also told the court that he knew “absolutely nothing” about the AFP withholding information.
The inquest has been hearing evidence about the adequacy of the response of the Australian authorities to the passengers on the boat.
It has been revealed they made 16 desperate phone calls to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) pleading for help, saying their boat was taking on water and they had no lifejackets. The phone calls began on June 19th and continued until the boat sank two days later.
The report that was withheld from WA police has already criticised AMSA for not being proactive enough in helping the boat and for transferring the responsibility for the search and rescue to its Indonesian counterparts despite being told that they did not have the capability to conduct the search – Natalie O’Brien



About Jumpin' Jack Cash
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