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How Victoria Police’s wrong arrest rocked politics

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Melbourne police apologised for incorrectly arresting a recent detainee, but not before the saga sparked heated debate in federal politics.
Melbourne police's wrongful arrest raised concerns in Federal Parliament

Police say they’re “sincerely sorry” for wrongly arresting a recently released immigration detainee with sexual assault and stalking in Melbourne, setting off a firestorm in federal politics.

The man was one of over 140 people released from permanent detention last year following a High Court ruling.

Victoria Police admitted to arresting and charging the wrong person yesterday and said they’ve now arrested another man over the alleged assault.

The Deputy Opposition Leader Sussan Ley has refused to walk back her criticism of the Government over the incident before police announced their mistake.

Background

In November, the High Court ruled the indefinite detention of immigration detainees was unlawful.

It led to the immediate release of 149 immigration detainees. Some of the detainees were arrested in the weeks after being released. The government has passed laws to enforce ankle-bracelet monitoring and curfews on some of the detainees.

Last month, the government confirmed an additional 24 immigration detainees had been recently arrested, over charges including breaching visa conditions.

Arrest

Victorian Police are investigating an alleged sexual assault that took place in Melbourne earlier this week.

GPS tracking of a man recently released from immigration detention placed him near the alleged assault. He was taken into police custody and charged.

However, investigators reviewed CCTV footage and evidence, showing the 44-year-old was wrongly identified as the suspected offender.

He’s since been released and police have dropped the charges against him.

Police apology

Victoria Police commander Mark Galliot said the force was “sincerely sorry” for detaining the man.

When asked how to mixup was made, Galliot said the alleged offender and the 44-year-old were “alike in their appearance”, citing race, age, height, and what they were wearing at the time.

Police have since arrested a 55-year-old man with sexual assault, stalking and unlawful assault of two women.

Opposition

When news of the ex-detainee’s arrest was first published, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton raised the matter in Parliament.

He repeated calls for Immigration Minister Andrew Giles to resign, describing him as a “disaster”.

Deputy Liberal Leader Sussan Ley accused the government of releasing a “serial sex offender” into the community.

Sussan Ley

Ley later posted on X urging Victorian voters in the electorate of Dunkley not to vote for Labor in this weekend’s by-election.

The by-election was called after sitting Labor MP Peta Murphy died from breast cancer in December.

Ley has refused to take the post down despite the charges being dropped against the former detainee.

Sussan Ley’s comments before and after news of the wrongful arrest.

Response

Earlier today, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said: “I find it extraordinary that Ms Ley has refused to delete that tweet”.

He added: “The police and authorities should be allowed to do their job, free of this pre-emptive political game playing”.

Ley said she won’t back down from criticising the government’s handling of the former immigration detainees.

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