A policewoman has been sentenced to at least a year in jail for pulling rank over a rookie police officer at a random breath testing stop.
Police sergeant Sarah Louise Johnston, from Sydney, wept as the judge handed down the sentence at the Downing Centre District Court on Friday, news.com.au reported.
“I consider the offender’s conduct was disgraceful,” said Judge Christopher Hoy as he sentenced Johnston to 16 months in jail with a non-parole period of 12 months.
The 50-year-old woman was found guilty of committing an act with the intent to pervert the course of justice.
“This is misconduct the community would expect honest and upstanding members of the police force … to abhor, resist and report,” said the judge.
Johnston has “brought shame upon herself … and to all honest members of the police force,” the judge said.
Johnston served at the North Sydney police station and was pulled over by chance at a random breath test (RBT) in January last year when she was off duty. She had been drinking at two hotels with colleagues celebrating the New Year not far from the station, according to media reports. She was traveling back to her central coast home at the time of being pulled over.
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The news.com.au report said that the two junior officers conducting the RBTs immediately recognized her.
One of the officers, Constable Tugcan Sackesen, told the court that Johnston first pulled her vehicle up alongside Constable Cameron Brooks but rolled forward towards him before Brooks could breath test her.
“Hi sergeant, you’ve just been stopped for a random breath test,” Sackesen reportedly told her.
According to the report Johnston said: “You’re not going to breath test me are you?”
“Yes sergeant, I am,” he said.
Johnston replied: “No, because that would be a conflict of interest. Imagine if I blew over, which I won’t, because I’m not.”
Sackesen said the sergeant stated it would put him in an “awkward situation.”
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Johnston later messaged another sergeant about the incident. In that message she’d “declined” the breath test and gave Sackesen “a lesson on RBT and in-the-job etiquette,” reported news.com.au.
Judge Hoy told the court that the message “reflects an obvious if not arrogant appreciation of her own misconduct.”
It is a “clear corroboration of her sinister intent”, he added.
The judge praised the two junior officers for reporting her transgression “despite considerable emotional and personal cost.”
Johnston—who previously earned a police medal for 15 years of ethical service—will be eligible to be released from prison in December 2018.
On social media, opinions about her sentence were mixed but the year’s jail time did not go unnoticed.
“Sentencing is so out of whack. I bet her superiors in early years got away with it, as was done then,” said one person on Facebook.
“Wow avoid breath test and get 12 months jail but yet become a pedophile you get off. Huh go figure,” another person commented.
Another comment said: “They really make examples out of these situations.”
One person jokingly tweeted: “She should have committed armed robberies she would have got community service.”
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