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