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AFP chief Keelty’s departure welcomed

AFP chief Keelty’s departure welcomed

The resignation of Australian Federal Police (AFP) Commissioner Mick Keelty has been welcomed by the barrister who represented Dr Mohamed Haneef, who said it signalled a chance to address…

The resignation of Australian Federal Police (AFP) Commissioner Mick Keelty has been welcomed by the barrister who represented Dr Mohamed Haneef, who said it signalled a chance to address organisational problems at the AFP.

Barrister Stephen Keim told Lawyers Weekly that the enquiry into the Haneef investigation revealed the need for an overhaul at the AFP for it to become better organised and more efficient, transparent, accountable and professional.

"I think Mr Keelty in his own public experiences hasn't showed any real ability to be able to say 'Look, we got that wrong, we're sorry, we'll have another look at it' and I think that's also contributed to a culture where it's very difficult for a good police officer working on the coalface to acknowledge mistakes," he said.

"[In his enquiry] Mr Clarke revealed the AFP couldn't even put together a document that reproduced all that they knew [about Haneef] at any particular point in time. So they never really knew what evidence they had in order to make decisions."

The Bali Nine incident also meant the protocols with regard to the way the AFP reacts and interacts with overseas authorities also needed to be tightened, said Keim.

"I have great concerns about what happened to the Bali Nine and the fact that three Australians are facing the firing squad in Indonesia because the AFP provided information to the Indonesian police," he said.

"The AFP could have easily waited until the drugs were landed in Australia and made arrests here, but they decided to act otherwise. So those protocols need to be tightened up so we make sure we act in accordance with our international treaties concerning capital punishment."

Keim pointed out that the AFP, had in the case of Haneef, used memorandums of understanding with the Metropolitan Police Service in the UK to deny access under FOI laws to information received from overseas.

"So that certainly indicates an unpreparedness to be transparent and to be open and to provide relevant documents and that should be looked at in terms of the FOI legislation and the way in which the AFP engages in memorandum of understanding," he said.

Keim added that the government needed to ensure that the review process for the AFP, including the ombudsman, would be properly resourced because no structures existed at the moment to make complaints.

Keelty will step down on 2 September on his 35th anniversary as a police officer and two years before his second term as police chief expires.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd praised Keelty's work and said Keelty was not pushed into resigning.

"Mick Keelty has provided enormous service to Australia and to the AFP," he said in Sydney.

"I would like to publicly acknowledge the work that he did in response to the Bali bombing where we lost nearly 100 of our own Australians who were murdered in that horrific event."

In a joint statement, Rudd and Attorney-General Robert McClelland said Keelty had led the AFP through a significant and challenging period, including the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the Bali bombings, the Boxing Day tsunami and the 2003 Canberra bushfires.

Keelty had also played a key role in driving greater cooperation with a number of commonwealth and state authorities to effectively address the threat of terrorism, organised crime and drug trafficking, the statement said.

Keelty began his role as commissioner in 2001 and was the first commissioner to have been appointed from within the ranks of the AFP.

- Sarah Sharples

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