Tasmania’s police commissioner could be jailed if he is convicted of
criminally disclosing official police secrets to former premier Paul
Lennon and current Police Minister Jim Cox.

Jack Johnston, 58,
of Hobart, faced the Hobart Magistrates Court today charged with two
breaches of the state’s criminal code dealing with the disclosure of
official secrets.

Court documents show the secrets relate to an
alleged deal to appoint Hobart lawyer Stephen Estcourt QC to the
position of solicitor-general in return for him acting free of charge
for former deputy premier Bryan Green.

Estcourt did not act
in court for Green during his trials, and subsequently did not take
up the position of Solicitor-General.

Green had been accused
of signing an illegal deal with building accreditor, the Tasmanian
Compliance Corporation (TCC), on the eve of the 2006 state election.

deal, which Green signed as infrastructure minister, granted the
private company a three-year monopoly to accredit the state’s builders,
worth up to $2.6 million.

All charges against him were dropped
after a jury failed to reach a verdict in his trial for the second time
on March 12 this year.

Green, who is now a backbench MP, had
maintained his not guilty plea to a charge of attempting to interfere
with an executive officer of the crown.

It was alleged today
that Johnston, about four weeks after Green had been cleared, twice
tipped off the state government to a persistent complaint detailing the
appointment-for-favours deal.

Johnston voluntarily stood down in August when an investigation into his conduct was announced.

Today he pleaded not guilty to the two charges against him.

documents tendered to the court say Johnston is charged with disclosing
official secrets separately to Lennon and Cox on April 9 or April
11 this year.

Johnston allegedly told Lennon on April 9 or 11
that police were investigating a complaint about the alleged
appointment-for-favours deal.

On April 9, he allegedly gave Cox a secret police briefing saying the police investigation into the
September 20, 2007 complaint about the appointment-for-favours deal was
resuming after being suspended during Mr Green’s trial.

facts had come into the possession of (Jack) John Johnston and by
virtue of his office he had a duty to keep them secret,” both of the
two charges against the state’s top cop read.

Tasmanian law does
not proscribe particular minimum and maximum penalties for criminal
offences but instead allows for a general maximum of 21 years jail for
all criminal offences.

Judges, with reference to previous cases and sentences, arrive at a sentence working back from the general 21-year maximum.

Legal experts say it is unlikely there is a similar relevant case in Tasmanian legal history.

magistrates have disqualified themselves from the case and a Launceston
magistrate, Zygmunt Schramka, presided via video link.

Johnston was bailed to appear in the Tasmanian Supreme Court on February 2.

of Public Prosecutions Tim Ellis SC last month cleared Estcourt of
any wrongdoing in the matter in his report to Tasmania Police.

the court, Premier David Bartlett was asked about Cox’s role in the
affair and why he didn’t report receiving the suspect briefing from
Johnston if he hadn’t asked for it.

Bartlett refused to answer, citing sub-judice.

Cox was unavailable for comment.