AFP inquiry into Islamophobic posts dropped after ex-Liberal candidate did not make referral | Australia news
The Australian federal police dropped its investigation into whether former Liberal candidate Jessica Whelan’s Facebook account was compromised after she resigned from the Liberal party and did not ask the AFP to pick up the case for her, according to documents obtained by Guardian Australia.
Whelan, who was unsuccessful in her run for the Tasmanian seat of Lyons at the federal election in May, claimed Islamophobic Facebook posts under her name had been doctored.
In the two posts provided to the AFP for investigation, Whelan’s Facebook account comments to someone “I hope you’re bloody not on our housing waiting list. You shouldn’t even be in Australia if you believe in ALLAH!” and on another post the account allegedly commented “Round them up Donald, cut their clitoris’ off & sell them to Muslims in Muslim countries & cancel their passports. You’ll make a mint”.
While Whelan severed ties with the Liberal party on 2 May after more social media posts emerged, she remained adamant that the two posts that were referred to the AFP were doctored, and the Liberal party referred the matter to the AFP.
Documents obtained by Guardian Australia under freedom of information reveal the AFP was keen to follow up on the case but did not get a referral from Whelan after she parted ways with the Liberal party.
It appears the AFP’s assessment for investigation was not focused on whether the images were doctored but if Whelan’s account had been hacked.
The AFP informed the Liberal party, which initially asked the AFP to investigate, that police would need access to the login details of her Facebook account to check the history of logins, and IP addresses for those, to track down who might have logged into her account.
The documents reveal the AFP needed Whelan to make her own referral once she split with the Liberal party, and when Whelan visited the AFP’s Hobart office about the posts on 6 May and the AFP advised her she could report the matter to the AFP for investigation.
The emails show the AFP was keen to keep chasing the case but had no luck getting Whelan to refer it.
“[We] haven’t received anything, just wondering if you have heard different or if she’s not going to bother referring it?” one officer asks another in an email on 13 May.
On 14 May, the AFP spoke to Whelan but the contents of that conversation were redacted on the grounds of the disclosure of personal information.
On 30 May, the AFP changed the status of the referral to “wait brief” because there was no referral from Whelan. It was ultimately finalised on 17 June, “pending further contact from the alleged victim, Ms Whelan”.
Guardian Australia understands there was no second referral from Whelan to keep and the lack of evidence outside of the two screenshots meant the AFP didn’t have much to go on. Whelan told the Mercury at the end of June that she “hadn’t heard directly from the AFP since making my report”.
“As far as I’m concerned I didn’t make that post, an IT expert has provided me with a report stating it appeared to have been digitally manipulated,” she said. “I have moved on with my life. For now I’m focusing on my role as Brighton councillor.”
Whelan told Guardian Australia she made an online referral on 16 May, but there is no evidence of that report in the case log.