Catherine Burn, the NSW Deputy Police Commissioner
by Mary W Maxwell
If you want to see the difference between a Gumshoe report of the Sydney siege inquest and the Mainstream version, just choose any date for which I made a report and read the parallel one at ABC or the Murdoch-Fairfax Press. I often could not tell when I read them that they had attended the same session I attended.
Yesterday (August 15, 2016), the witness was Catherine Burn, the NSW Deputy Police Commissioner. Among the trivia the MSM pursued – indeed headlined — was the fact that she erased her text messages. When asked why, she said “Because I always do.” That sounded OK to me.
One reason I don’t care about her texting is that there is a plethora of other paper-trail stuff by which we can learn what she was doing that day – such as emails, phone calls., and her own log.
But the main reason why the text messages are irrelevant is that Ms Burn herself is irrelevant to this inquest. Don’t worry that she will be offended to read that. She will be amazed that at least one person understands her.
Fact: The Executive of the Police, of which she is a member, had no part to play, and is not supposed to have any part to play, in operations and no role in the decision-making by commanders who are, on paper, her underlings.
Sure, you may think it is reprehensible – even wicked — that such an arrangement exists. You may feel she should have intervened, say, to sharpen up the negotiating process with “the terrorist in the stronghold.”
Well, OK, but then your beef is not with her, as it is not herself that mandated the separation between Executive and commanders on the ground. More on that in a later article.
I think it is a big clue…
The Questioning So Far
Ms Burn’s testimony was preceded by that of the man who took over from her at 10pm on the day of the siege, December 15, 2014. He is Assistant Commissioner Jeff Loy.
Loy is not quite of equal rank to Burn, but once he was in position as of 10pm, he had the same amount of authority to intervene as she did. In other words, zilch, zip, nada, cipher, goose egg, how can I put it – not a whole lot.
The Counsel who did the “examination in chief” was Jeremy Gormly, followed by Jason Downing, a young and vigorous “counsel assisting the coroner.”
At some point, I’ll “take you through” the questions posed to Jeff Loy and Cath Burn. For now, I want to go over the fact that no amount of cleverness on the part of the orchestra pit could get either witness to provide us with exciting answers to such questions as:
Were you in favor of implementing a DA (direct action) plan?
How dangerous did you think the terrorist (Monis) was?
How about that nifty mock-up at Holsworthy?
How much of a role did the defence forces play that day?
Not that they didn’t try. The lawyer for the Johnsons, Ms Gabrielle Bashir, and Mr Bolton for the Dawsons (in lieu of Mr Michael O’Connell) made bold to pose the above questions at some length.
At times they got knocked back by the ever-objecting police lawyer, Dr Ian Freckleton, but mostly they simply had a lack of success.
Gumshoe To Finish This Matter Soon
Commissioner Andrew Scipione was scheduled to appear at the Inquest in Monday but that has been put off till Wednesday and I have decided not to stay for it. I already know that he will be able to say no more that “Cath” said.
I took her to be dead honest. Time may prove me wrong but every answer Deputy Commissioner Burn gave seemed correct and reasonable. She never blushed or squirmed. “Unflustered” is the word that best applies. (From my point of view, she is the zenith of which I am the nadir.)
Wow, it was impressive to watch, and a large contingent of cops turned out for her, so at last the 30 or so gallery seats were filed. (Typically it has been six.) Two hostages also joined the gallery today.
Also I saw at least 8 cameramen waiting outside from morn till eve to catch a photo of her. Isn’t that a waste of manpower?
The inquest will be over by the time you read this, or at least the public part. However, Magistrate Michael Barnes did mention today that the lawyers could send more “submissions.”
I hope to make a couple of submissions, at least to Gumshoe News, analyzing the Inquest, and Editor McLachlan would welcome related contributions from readers.
Luckily the coroner has no specific deadline (imposed on him) as to the writing up of his Findings, and perhaps would take into consideration the unorthodox line (but it’s really an orthodox line, IMHO) put forth in this series.
— Mary W Maxwell has a forthcoming article, co-authored with Cheryl Dean, about a hypothetical Boston inquest.
Photo credit: dailymail.co.uk