Coroner wants AFP to explain why it kept SIEV review from state police

Nicolas Perpitch
July 29, 2013 12:00AM

WEST Australian coroner Alastair Hope is waiting on federal police to explain why they instructed a key classified review be withheld from a state police investigation into the fatal sinking of the SIEV 358, as he prepares to hand down his findings on Wednesday.

Mr Hope, who retires at the end of the week, conducted an inquest into the deaths of 17 people whose bodies were recovered after their boat, the Kaniva, capsized between Christmas Island and Indonesia on June 21 last year.

Another 85 people are missing, presumed drowned.

Mr Hope has indicated he will not hand down adverse findings against individuals but has suggested lives could have been saved if there had been a quicker response.

On Friday, the court was told the top secret review into the response to the tragedy by Australian authorities was not provided to WA Police Detective Inspector Dave Bryson, who was preparing a report for the coroner.

Counsel for Customs and Border Protection and the Department and Defence, Peter Hanks, QC had told Mr Hope an Australian Federal Police officer had instructed Customs and defence not to give Mr Bryson the review. Digital Pass $1 for first 28 Days

The review, prepared by customs, with input from the AFP and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, accused AMSA of not being proactive in its response to repeated satellite calls for help from those on board the Kaniva.

It also criticised AMSA for handing over co-ordination of the incident to Indonesia's maritime rescue authority Basarnas even though it had very limited capacity to conduct a search.

Mr Bryson told the court he could no longer stand by the conclusions in his own report given he had not been made aware of all the relevant facts and information, despite asking an AFP liason officer to provide him with all such documents, videos and other data.

He was given a redacted copy of the review on Friday.

Mr Hope has asked the AFP to provide him with an explanation as to why Mr Bryson was not given the review earlier.

Customs on Friday evening issued a statement saying there "had been no attempt to keep the existence of the internal review secret, or to keep it from the subsequent investigation or the inquest". It said it issued a media statement on July 6 last year announcing the review, and it had provided counsel assisting the coroner with a copy of the review on June 21.


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