On Tuesday, Robinson Gill lawyer Jeremy King said Victoria Police was at risk of being sued over the incident.
“There’s certainly an argument for civil litigation against Victoria Police,” Mr King said.
“It’s clearly a breach of confidential information and it’s done with reckless indifference and it’s clearly going to cause harm and damage.”
It is illegal for police to use or disclose police information without reasonable excuse and the Laidley case was “right up there” among the worst examples, Mr King said.
“It’s got to be one of the most shocking breaches of privacy I’ve seen in recent memory,” he said.
Mr King said a civil lawsuit could be run on the grounds of misfeasance in public office in which an official commits an unauthorised or unlawful act recklessly with the intention or reckless indifference to the harm caused.
“This case is pretty simple – it’s clearly unlawful,” Mr King said.
A key aggravating factor in a civil case would be proving the psychological harm to Mr Laidley, whose lawyer told the court on Sunday he was suffering from a psychiatric illness.
Mr Laidley, a former North Melbourne coach and premiership player, was arrested in St Kilda on Saturday night and charged with stalking and other offences. He was taken into custody and faced court on Sunday.
Mr Laidley’s mugshot was shared broadly on social media late on Sunday, along with a photograph taken inside the police station – shot through the glass wall of an interview room – which showed the former Kangaroos coach being questioned by two uniformed officers.
Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton said the photos were shared with six other people, including civilians.
“I am appalled that an employee of Victoria Police has taken these photographs,” Mr Patton said on Monday.
“It’s unacceptable conduct, it’s appalling conduct and that type of conduct has no place in our organisation.”
Professional Standards Command detectives interviewed Senior Constable Reid on Monday.
The South Melbourne-based officer faces being charged on summons with unauthorised disclosure of information, an offence that carries a maximum of two years’ prison.
It’s got to be one of the most shocking breaches of privacy I’ve seen in recent memory.
Jeremy King, lawyer
Chair of the Criminal Bar Association of Victoria Daniel Gurvich, QC, who would not comment on Mr Laidley’s case specifically, said that when police misused information it risked the administration of justice.
“It places at risk the right to a fair hearing and it risks the due consideration of evidence, which ought to be properly put before the court,” Mr Gurvich said.
“That is especially so at an early stage where investigations may be ongoing and, of course, the presumption of innocence applies and continues to apply until it is displaced by a properly constituted court or tribunal.”
The Age has viewed the photographs of Mr Laidley and decided not to publish them.
A number of lawsuits have been filed against Victoria Police in recent years, and some large settlements paid out, including millions in compensation to a couple shot by police during a bungled raid on a nightclub swingers’ party.
The force is also facing a lawsuit by a Melbourne man whose murder conviction was overturned.
Faruk Orman’s conviction for the murder of Victor Peirce was quashed last year over revelations police informer and gangland lawyer Nicola Gobbo had tainted his case.
Mr Orman, who spent 12 years behind bars, has now filed documents in the Supreme Court seeking damages from the state.
Mr Orman was accused of being the getaway driver for hitman Andrew “Benji” Veniamin. The lawsuit claims Mr Orman was the victim of false imprisonment and malicious prosecution and that police breached a duty of care.
Tammy Mills is the legal affairs reporter for The Age.