IT TOOK 17 months to publicly bring down Stephen Linnell but less than two minutes for all the work that Office of Police Integrity investigators spent on their only scalp to be discarded.Mr Linnell, a former Victoria Police media director, pleaded guilty to perjury and disclosing a confidential hearing after explosive OPI hearings in November 2007 into whether police figures had tipped off the targets of a covert investigation into the murder of Shane Chartres-Abbott.Also charged after the hearings were the former Police Association secretary Paul Mullett and the former deputy commissioner Noel Ashby.Mr Mullett was not committed to trial on one charge. Two others were dropped in the Supreme Court. Mr Ashby was acquitted after the Supreme Court Justice Robert Osborn found his charges could not proceed because the OPI hearings were not conducted within the law.This left Mr Linnell – who had agreed to testify against the others – as the only scalp for the embattled office to claim.The Director of Public Prosecutions, Jeremy Rapke, QC, told Judge Barbara Cotterell in the Victorian County Court yesterday that the appeal would take ”about 120 seconds of your time”.He called no evidence and said the appeal was not opposed, after which Judge Cotterell set aside the suspended eight-month jail sentence, $5000 fine and Mr Linnell’s conviction.”I set aside the orders of the Magistrates Court made 25th of March, 2009, and in their place I dismiss the charges,” she said.Mr Linnell smiled and left the court. He later issued a statement, in which he said he was ”obviously pleased”.”As you can imagine, it has been a difficult time for me. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my family and friends for their ongoing support and I look forward to moving on with my life and career.”Mr Mullett and Mr Ashby called for a independent judicial inquiry to reveal ”the truth” and believe yesterday’s development is not the end of the matter.Mr Mullett said Mr Linnell had ”been a victim, as we all have, in a totally improper process abused by the OPI, Simon Overland and his lieutenants”.Mr Ashby said Mr Linnell was ”guilty of being a friend” and he bore no animosity towards him.”He was guilty of being involved in what could almost be described as factionalised arrangements under Christine Nixon as chief commissioner and anyone who likes to think that there wasn’t those factions is deluding themselves.”Lawyers for Mr Mullett and Mr Ashby are assessing whether to launch civil action. The OPI would not comment yesterday.
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