Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ombudsman George Brouwer finds ghost ship at Barwon Prison on the day Carl Williams died

On 19 April 2010 Barwon Prison was a hive of activity – in the sense of unexplained busy-ness, with no one in particular in charge. That is the gist (reading between the lines, of course) of Victorian Ombudsman George Brouwer’s recent report “The death of Mr Carl Williams at HM Barwon Prison – investigation into Corrections Victoria” (“the Ombudsman’s Report”). In addition though, one explosive (IMO) new revelation is made by Brouwer – one that has received no media attention to date.

I recently posted on David Prideaux, general manager of Barwon Prison before and after Williams’ murder, but on assignment elsewhere in April 2012, and Nicholas Selisky, aka Nick Selisky, acting general manager in lieu. The Ombudsman’s Report f.n. 16 states gives a much lengthier time of secondment for David Prideaux than other information implies, with Prideaux, according to Brouwer, absent from the general manager role between 14 June 2009 and7 May 2010. That’s quite a break, but it apparently didn’t stop Prideaux from being sent an email as general manager on 23 April 2010 (ibid para 225). No doubt Williams’ murder days earlier justifiably brought forward, in some respects, Prideaux’ return to his role, but this small ambiguity/slippage over who was actually GM on this day – Prideaux or Selisky – is emblematic of Brouwer’s report; with the same ambiguity/slippage repeating, with two other key figures also mysteriously present (i.e. theoretically accountable), and yet able to stare Brouwer down with “not my job” assertions, around the time of Williams’ murder.

The first such key figure is Peter Hutchison, operations manager for security and emergency services group for Corrections Victoria (i.e. the man directly responsible for prisoner placementand security arrangements). If you scan the fine print of the Ombudsman’s Report, you’ll divine that Hutchison went on leave sometime before 6 April 2010, and returned from leave on 10 May 2010. During this reasonably lengthy absence, apparently no one was acting in Hutchison’s absence, with Hutchison, in an interview with Brouwer, almost crowing about his absence around the time of Williams’ murder thus:

“so [my] Supervisor … was not and could not have been critical of me regarding any action or inaction as a result of them [i.e. the heated Matthew Johnson phone calls to an unnamed criminal associate in April 2010]”: para 227 Ombudsman’s Report.

Curiously, George Brouwer doesn’t take up, either with Hutchison in interview, or in his later considered report, who the buck here might stop with, in lieu. But this, as I’ve said, is part of a larger pattern anyway.

Andrew Mackenzie, Acacia Unit supervisor, received considerable media attention as the only Barwon Prison staff member Brouwer singled out for possible disciplinary proceedings. The trouble here is twofold: first that the acts subject to these disciplinary proceedings (Mackenzie forwarded lewd chain emails, etc) have little or nothing to do with the multiple derelictions of duty at Barwon Prison that enabled Williams’ murder, and secondly (and here is the bit that you won’t read about), that Mackenzie left his role as Acacia Unit supervisor in or before June 2010; para’s 533, 538 Ombudsman’s Report (Mackenzie had started in the role c.November 2009; para 518). While at least in this case Mackenzie unambiguously held his supervisor role on 19 April 2010, Brouwer’s lack of follow-up to the circumstances of Mackenzie’s leaving his role in the fall-out to Williams’ murder is disturbing, as is Mackenzie’s ability to duck a curly line of inquiry (para 538) by simply stating he’d left the role by then (no successor required, apparently). And Brouwer’s recommendation of disciplinary proceedings against Mackenzie for unrelated matters is all the more laughable in the circumstances.

Two figures the Ombudsman’s Report, curiously IMO, doesn’t recommend disciplinary proceedings against are Michael Trotter and Suzette Gajic, who I’m presuming is the “Prison Officer B” in the Ombudsman’s Report. Para’s 530-538 of the Ombudsman’s Report detail some (alleged) seriously askew conduct by Trotter and “Prison Officer B” (Gajic). The allegation made by an unnamed Senior Prison Officer is that he witnessed Trotter (Operations Manager of Barwon Prison at the time) on 20 April 2010 ask “Prison Officer B” (Gajic) to speak with Acacia prisoner Tommy Ivanovic – a direct witness, if not accomplice, to William’s murder – out of “curiosity”. A 40 minute conversation between “Prison Officer B” (Gajic) and Ivanovic “in a non-English language” (presumably Serbo-Croatian) ensued. “Prison Officer B” (Gajic) denied to Brouwer than there were more than a handful of “non-English language” phrases used in the 40 minute conversation, but apparently did not deny that it took place. Michael Trotter, meanwhile, was apparently not even interviewed by Brouwer over what are surely very serious allegations. But then Trotter is a shadowy figure indeed; his name comes up no where in else in the Ombudsman’s Report or in any public documentation on Barwon Prison and/or the murder of Carl Williams, other than as a job contact (Google search "Michael Trotter" "Barwon Prison" on 25 April 2012).

If Michael Trotter is an elusive figure,“Prison Officer B” (Suzette Gajic) doesn’t hide behind a bushel. Gajic appears to have been the “console operator” (i.e. person responsible for monitoring the CCTV screens) on the day and time of Williams’ murder. You may remember that most of her 58-page interview transcript was suppressed at Matthew Johnson’s committal proceedings for Williams’ murder in December 2010. Since then, Gajic has gone to ground, admittedly – an even smaller part of her 58-page interview transcript was read to the court at Matthew Johnson’s trial (on 12 September 2011).

As to what was in the (suppressed) remainder of her statement, Herald Sun journo Paul Anderson wrote in December 2010 of the following explanation why Gajic was temporarily not watching the CCTV screens at the time of Williams’ murder:

Sounds (just) plausible, and random, enough. The trouble, is, however, that the Ombudsman’s Report has a completely different scenario why the unnamed “console operator” (again, I am presuming it is Gajic) was temporarily inattentive of the CCTV screens at the time of Williams’ murder. A guard-escorted trip by another Acacia prisoner (not from Williams’ Unit One) from his cell, to and from a jail interview room (to see his lawyer; routine, I would have thought), apparently required Gajic’s full and undivided attention at the CCTV console, including even for a couple of minutes after the prisoner had returned to his cell: Ombudsman’s Report para 313.

The credibility of Gajic’s recollection here (she was interviewed on 14 April 2011) would surely compare unfavourably to the professionalism of a five-year old caught red-handed with lollies. Its nakedly dissembling preface “From what I’ve been able to work out . . .” is scarcely required – but it does add weight to the bizarre circumstance of why the Ombudsman’s Report simply accepts such dissembling, and in doing so is left unchallenged by the mainstream media. Helpfully for Gajic, the Ombudsman’s Report instead goes off in a completely different direction, waxing lengthily on how small and inadequate the CCTV split-screens were. David Prideaux, interviewed by Brouwer shortly before his disappearance, apparently did not believe the size of the CCTV split-screens was a (or the?) problem, but Brouwer posthumously slaps Prideaux down on the too-small-CCTV-screen matter (Ombudsman’s Report para’s 320-322). Again, you wouldn’t read about this.

I’ll finish with a potential third story Gajic may want to try next time – this one has twin advantages: of being an Acacia-wide alibi, and of not emanating solely from her say-so. Oh, and it has also received no sceptical media coverage. So here it is:

“The morning of Mr Williams’ death was a very busy morning for the staff in the Acacia Unit, as we were conducting a review of our fire procedures. The staff had no time to do anything other than their professional duties . . .” (emphases added)
- Andrew Mackenzie, Acacia Unit supervisor, para 610 Ombudsman’s Report.

Update 12 May 2012

Bob Hastings has resigned as Corrections Commissioner, at a press conference late yesterday afternoon (too late for the Friday 6pm news). While Hastings is well into his sixties (and is presumably eligible for a generous defined-benefit super lump-sum/pension upon retirement), he is soldiering on to take up a position as a road safety adviser for the Indonesian police. I’m sure that Jakarta’s notorious traffic will indeed be a holiday compared to the apparently bottomless cesspool of accountability at Corrections Victoria and the Department of Justice.

The person under Hastings successor as Corrections Commissioner will also be a newbie (or at least have a new job title), with the new role of Director, Security and Intelligence (as per Para 300 of the recent Ombudsman’s Report) being advertised recently. Penny Armytage (who is, of course, a previous Corrections Commissioner herself, when the role was titled Commissioner, Office of Correctional Services), will indeed be busy over the next few weeks recruiting two new managerial deckchairs, in the optimal arrangement for her good ship, “Justice”.

In a written statement, Armytage did allude to Hastings having publicly represented Corrections Victoria in “difficult times”, but balanced this with the apparent good-news-highlight of his three-year tenure as Corrections Commissioner: the opening of the 88-bed Springhill Unit at Marngoneet Correctional Centre in June 2011 (same URL). This time however, I fear that Hastings’ ribbon-cutting on that day, however exemplary, may not quite be a core skill for his new role dealing with Jakarta’s traffic.

While Penny Armytage is re-shuffling her managerial deckchairs in the perilous waters of prison security, she may want to remember she has two incumbents whose roles are either alarmingly vague or completely unknown to the general public (at least via a Google search).

The first such incumbent is Bruce Polkinghorne. At Matthew Johnson’s 2011 trial, Polkinghorne’s job-title was variously given as (in descending order of rank): “in charge of security at Corrections Victoria”, “prison security boss” [i.e. presumably Barwon Prison only, and not all CV prisons] and “corrections officer”. Compounding the ambiguity here, (but solving an earlier mystery, per my original post), Peter Hutchison said at Matthew Johnson’s trial (in giving sworn evidence on 13/09/2011) that Bruce Polkinghorne was actually “in charge” at Barwon Prison on the day in question. Presumably, this means that Polkinghorne was acting in Hutchison’s role (operations manager for security and emergency services group, Corrections Victoria) on the day Carl Williams was murdered.

Yet in late May 2010, two and a bit weeks after Hutchison returned to his role, Polkinghorne was titled “Manager of the Security and Emergency Services division”. Perhaps it was Polkinghorne’s cornerstone-status at the Australian Service Dog Association trials (“Bruce really supported us, helping us get it all up and running”, same URL) that gave him a courtesy title for a bit longer than he really held it.   Perhaps also the next Australian Service Dog Association trials (apparently due sometime this year) will reveal more.

The second incumbent is simply a dark horse. Michelle Hosking – as Acting Manager, Major Offenders Unit, Corrections Victoria – gave sworn (albeit very brief) evidence on 15/09/2011 that there were “no issues raised whatsoever” regarding the relationships between Carl Williams, Matthew Johnson and Tommy Ivanovic, prior to Williams’ murder. Her evidence attracted no media reportage at the time, nor mention in the Ombudsman’s Report. With such apparent teflon-coating, I reckon that Michelle Hosking could be Bob Hastings’ star point-person for his new role – she could stand safely in the middle of the main crossroads, directing Jakarta’s traffic with aplomb.

Nick Salisky was GM on the day of Williams murder, but he slipped under the Ombudsman's radar. He is now reportedly second in command of Port Phillip Prison, this is the rumour anyway. Please refer to Salisky's comments at Johnson's trial. He (Salisky)knew there was tension between the trio, yet did nothing to remove any possible incident. We all know that in a well run prison, any tension between inmates is treated proactively and the prisoners concerned are moved pending investigation to why there is friction. Commonsense really.
That Nick Selisky (not Salisky, I'm pretty sure) has been promoted, or at least moved sideways, to being 2IC at Port Phillip Prison surprises me not at all.

You rightly observe that he slipped under the Ombudsman's radar, but apparently he has a distinct knack for this sort of thing. See also:
Many years ago Corrections were asked to search the cell of Arthur Selby-Lowe and secretly remove DNA evidence to see if he was involved in the death of Kylie Mayberry in Preston, as they had been denied by the Court to take a fornsic sample. A Prison Officer refused to be a part of it and told Nick Selisky that it was wrong. On a training day the same Nick Selisky struck the PO with a baton and fractured his skull "accidently" Selisky was cleared by Corrections of any wrong doing
You have to be joking? Nick Selisky is back as 2IC at Barwon? He is the most corrupt person in Corruptions Victoria. Geez, I remember him bashing the hell out of a crook when he was in the SESG. Who is protecting him aka Big Bird? Lets see, Hmmmm, the Deputy Commissioner Mr Rod Wise was working a Pentridge the same time as the newly recruited Selisky (his father worked at the Pent as well). Isn't is ironic that Dennis Roach who works for G4S and also is a veteran of Pentridge and possibly good mates with Mr Wise. Good old Nick was quietly smuggled into Port Philip Prison before secretly sliding across to the MAP. And now it seems, he is back at the helm of 2IC at Barwon. I remember the days at Barwon where he would ignore unit staff and quickly slide into the cell of HP offenders. The cell door was closed behind him. This was a huge security threat for staff as no idiot would go inside a crooks cell alone with the door closed. There is no visibility and should a response be needed- go figure. But good old Nick seemed to be on best buddy terms with HP prisoners. What actually is said in the cell cannot be heard by other prison staff. Nick Selisky has a lot to answer for.
I smell something fishy, and I don't like the smell of fish. The Ombudsman, Corrections Victoria, the missing David Prideaux and a acting GM of Barwon smuggled to a prison operated by a private company. Why? Why did CV move him under stealth, if he had nothing to answer for?
Obviously Selisky is a gentleman, who else would fracture a fellow PO with a baton? No enquiry over this incident? He is obviously still employed with Corrections Victoria. What about his victim, who had his skull fractured by this gentleman? A law abiding PO gets severely injured by a CV thug. Why isn't this Mr Selisky wearing green? Isn't it odd that a good old fashioned royal commission has not been instigated by our own Department of Justice???? So many questions? So many answers. I wonder how some people sleep at night. And what actually did happen to David Prideaux? Yet another question?
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