A former police officer convicted of illegally accessing a police database to help tip off a suspected white supremacist about an ongoing investigation is not a racist, his lawyer has told a Perth court today.
Robert Critchley was expected to be sentenced today in the District Court by Judge Andrew Stavrianou.
During submissions, Critchley’s lawyer Anthony Elliott told Judge Stavrianou that his client’s time as a career police officer had been exemplary but he had been suffering from a post-traumatic stress disorder and depression after the death of his first wife from cancer in 2008 and the death of his colleague Constable Damien Murphy in 2007.
Mr Elliott told the court Critchley was one of the first to the scene when Constable Murphy was hit by a driver on a road in Craigie while on night duty and Critchley found the officer’s severed leg.
Later that same morning Critchley and his wife were told that chemotherapy and radiotherapy had not worked and her cancer had spread, Mr Elliott said.
Christopher Debroy Summers was eventually jailed for eight years over the manslaughter of Constable Murphy.
However, Critchley “felt responsible” for the death because he had not granted Constable Murphy’s request to remain at the office that evening, according to Mr Elliott.
Critchley was also sleep-deprived from working night and afternoon shifts to help his wife get to medical appointments in the morning and had sought no counselling over the trauma he had experienced, Mr Elliott said.
He said that during his wife’s hospital treatment, Critchley also spent time with Constable Matthew Butcher, who was hospitalized after being the victim of a flying head-butt during a vicious Joondalup pub brawl in 2008.
Mr Elliott told the court there was a culture in the police force that officers could not take stress leave for fear of being seen as weak.
He said the prosecution’s racist theory, which had been brought to attention during the trial via an email Critchley had sent his new wife indicating an interest in white supremacist groups, was “drawing a long bow”.
“Particularly in light of other evidence and commendations about Robert Critchley in the references,” Mr Elliott said.
Numerous references were submitted on Critchley’s behalf, saying not only that racism was “out of character” but something the referees had “never witnessed”, according to Mr Elliott.
Mr Elliott also pointed out that Critchley’s father had married a Thai woman.
“(The offending) is some inexplicable flight of fancy. It was done with no sophistication or thought and supports the conclusion that his underlying illnesses affected his judgement and his behaviour,” Mr Elliott said.
Mr Elliott said his client still denied any wrong doing but was aware of the seriousness of the crime and respected the judicial process.
Critchley has lost his job as a policeman and since taken up delivery work for half his previous annual salary of $90,000 as a senior constable, the court was told.
Prosecutor David Dempster argued that aside from the email there was also evidence at trial of a list of white supremacist groups kept on Critchley’s personal mobile phone.
“It is difficult to accept that there would be any other reason than some sympathy (towards this group),” he said.
He said it put a “sinister aspect” to the contact made with white supremacist suspect Jacob Hort, even though Judge Stavrianou pointed out that Critchley explained in his testimony he had those names as part of being a diligent officer.
Mr Dempster argued Critchley should face an immediate term of imprisonment of about two years.
Judge Stavrianou was expected to hand down his sentence today however he adjourned the matter until February 25 to deliver his decision.