The old Bill wins the war

The Sunday Times - - News - TONY BARRASS

BILL Fan­der­lin­den is liv­ing proof that good cops should al­ways stick to their guns. More than 40 years af­ter re­fus­ing to pros­e­cute an indige­nous man over a trumped-up charge that ul­ti­mately ex­posed po­lice cor­rup­tion, the 91-year-old has been recog­nised for his “unique con­tri­bu­tion, sig­nif­i­cant com­mit­ment and eth­i­cal and dili­gent ser­vice” and awarded the Na­tional Po­lice Ser­vice Medal.

The long-for­got­ten scan­dal launched the dis­tin­guished ca­reer of Fan­der­lin­den’s solic­i­tor Robert French — who went on to be­come the Chief Jus­tice of the High Court of Aus­tralia — and the am­bi­tions of up-and-com­ing MP Brian Burke, whose cru­sade on Fan­der­lin­den’s be­half sparked the Baymis Ugle Royal Com­mis­sion.

How­ever, Fan­der­lin­den’s ca­reer suf­fered over many years, with a venge­ful po­lice hi­er­ar­chy go­ing out of its way to make the prose­cu­tor’s life a mis­ery.

“They tried, but in the end I won,” Fan­der­lin­den re­called this week. “I flew down to Perth when I heard Owen Leitch (the then po­lice com­mis­sioner) was re­tir­ing.

“I stood in line and then I gripped his hand as hard as I could, looked him straight in the eye and said, ‘Good­bye Owen, you’re gone and I’m still here’.”

Af­ter join­ing the WA Po­lice

Force in 1952, Fan­der­lin­den worked his way up the lad­der, even­tu­ally sent to

Nar­ro­gin as a prose­cu­tor. One evening in 1975, two col­leagues were sent out to in­ves­ti­gate a dis­tur­bance in­volv­ing feud­ing Abo­rig­i­nal fam­i­lies, and came back with Baymis Ugle.

Ugle was a lo­cal Noon­gar man and known drinker, but it was clear that he was sober when he was ar­rested. Fan­der­lin­den re­fused an or­der to pros­e­cute Ugle for drunk­en­ness.

“The man was in­no­cent,” he said. “I am a po­lice prose­cu­tor. How could I pros­e­cute some­one who was in­no­cent?”

An­other Nar­ro­gin of­fi­cer pros­e­cuted the case but the mag­is­trate came down on Ugle’s side and or­dered costs against po­lice, lead­ing to claims po­lice had stupidly per­jured them­selves in at­tempt­ing to se­cure the mi­nor con­vic­tion.

When it was clear se­nior po­lice were per­se­cut­ing him, Fan­der­lin­den hired French, who with Burke’s par­lia­men­tary at­tacks on the then gov­ern­ment forced the Baymis Ugle Royal Com­mis­sion.

Fan­der­lin­den was cleared of any wrong­do­ing but re­mained in Com­mis­sioner Leitch’s cross hairs. His next post­ing was Port Hed­land — just be­fore Christ­mas — where his of­fi­cer in charge had not even been made aware of his ar­rival or ap­point­ment.

“It went on and on, but even­tu­ally things set­tled down,” he said. “I’ve never re­gret­ted do­ing what I did. It was the right thing to do. Be hon­est and you have lit­tle to worry about in


Main pic­ture: Ross Swan­bor­ough

Stand­ing firm: Bill Fan­der­lin­den earned a Po­lice Ser­vice Medal at the age of 91. Below: On re­tire­ment in De­cem­ber, 1986.

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