Tag: Sutton

Brett Sutton in hotel quarantine firing line, calls for lawyers to be investigated

Pressure is mounting on the state’s top health official to explain why he instructed lawyers to withhold a key email from the hotel quarantine inquiry.

It comes after Victoria’s shadow attorney-general Ed O’Donohue asked the state’s legal watchdog, Fiona McLeay, to urgently investigate the lawyers involved in the decision not to hand over emails relating to chief health officer Brett Sutton’s involvement in the hotel quarantine program to the Board of Inquiry.

In his letter, seen by NCA NewsWire, Mr O’Donohue alleged the conduct of Mr Sutton’s solicitors and in-house Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) lawyers may have breached the Australian Solicitors’ Conduct Rules 2015.

He said the conduct allegedly misled the courts or boards of inquiry and breached the requirement for solicitors to act honestly, not bring the profession into disrepute and not make final submissions contrary to factual evidence.

“The alleged potential breach of professional legal conduct rules poses the question whether such practices have been prevalent in the code of other Victorian government departments or key witness within government, influencing further evidence submitted, or not submitted, to the inquiry,” Mr O’Donohue wrote.

It comes after Professor Sutton was given seven days to provide a statement to the hotel quarantine inquiry to explain conflicting evidence after it was revealed he instructed his lawyers to withhold a key email.

Senior counsel assisting Tony Neal QC told an extraordinary sitting of the inquiry board on Tuesday that an affidavit would be served on Professor Sutton.

It related to an email chain to health department officials in March advising private security had been contracted to guard returned travellers in hotels in Victoria.

Professor Sutton acknowledged receipt of the email.

However, when Professor Sutton appeared at the inquiry, he said he first found out about private security being used after the virus outbreak at the Rydges on Swanston Hotel in late May.

Professor Sutton has stood by his testimony.

The chief health officer was absent at Friday’s coronavirus media briefing – the fourth consecutive day – as Premier Daniel Andrews and DHHS testing commander Jeroen Weinmar fronted the media instead.

When questioned about Professor Sutton’s absence, the Premier said Professor Sutton was “doing all sorts of work … making sure we are ready to make announces about restrictions on Sunday”.

“I know he will be working hard. We are all working hard to be ready to make the announcements on Sunday and I will predict, I can’t be certain, but I will predict he will be here tomorrow.

“His work involves many things. I’m pretty sure he will be here tomorrow and you can ask him any questions them.”

Law firm MinterEllison was contacted for comment.

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Brett Sutton knew about decision to use private security guards in Melbourne’s hotel quarantine

Leaked emails suggest that Victoria’s top doctor knew in March that private security guards would be used in the bungled hotel quarantine program. 

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton told an inquiry that he had no idea contractors were being used until May.

But leaked emails published by the Age newspaper between him and staff from late March contradict these claims. 

The email chain was from the day hotel quarantine arrangements were being made, specifically in response to a question about ways to ensure quarantine compliance. 

Damning emails reveal Victoria's Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton (pictured) was told months ago private security would be used in the bungled hotel quarantine program

Damning emails reveal Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton (pictured) was told months ago private security would be used in the bungled hotel quarantine program

Correspondence from a colleague within the Department of Health on March 27 clearly spelled out plans to use private contractors. 

‘Directions will be provided to passengers as the (sic) disembark and will be supported by Victoria Police at the airport. Private security is being contracted to provide security at the hotels with escalation arrangements to VicPol as needed,’ the email read. 

Sutton sent through a response only three minutes later saying: ‘Thanks so much.’ 

But during the inquiry into the state’s hotel quarantine program he said he wasn’t aware of this fact under after the outbreak at Rydges on Swanston.

Since the emails were leaked Professor Sutton has doubled down on his testimony made during the inquiry, ABC news reported.

Private security guards were pulled from a Melbourne quarantine hotel and replaced by police in September. Pictured: cleaning staff at a Melbourne CBD quarantine hotel

Private security guards were pulled from a Melbourne quarantine hotel and replaced by police in September. Pictured: cleaning staff at a Melbourne CBD quarantine hotel 

The disastrous hotel quarantine blunder sparked a second wave in Victoria in which more than 700 people lost their lives (pictured: new arrivals are ushered into the Crown Promenade Hotel in Melbourne)

The disastrous hotel quarantine blunder sparked a second wave in Victoria in which more than 700 people lost their lives (pictured: new arrivals are ushered into the Crown Promenade Hotel in Melbourne)

‘I saw that they were responding back to the Commonwealth and I thanked them for the responses that they were given, but I clearly did not register that anything was being said about private security,’ Professor Sutton said.

‘Otherwise I would’ve gone to the inquiry and said that I was aware of it.’ 

The emails were not included as evidence during the inquiry. 

Professor Sutton said he is willing to be re-examined and officials will provide ‘anything else that’s requested’. 

Pictured: A little girl wearing a face mask is ushered into hotel quarantine at the Crown Promenade hotel by private security guards wearing hi vis, gloves and masks

Pictured: A little girl wearing a face mask is ushered into hotel quarantine at the Crown Promenade hotel by private security guards wearing hi vis, gloves and masks 

The inquiry into Victoria’s hotel quarantine program, is set to be reopened at 2pm on Tuesday. 

On Friday, the Board of Inquiry, chaired by retired judge Jennifer Coate, announced it would hold a sitting next week. 

The board has reportedly received new phone logs from Premier Daniel Andrews and his staff and previously unseen documents from the Department of Health and Human Services that warranted reopening the inquiry. 

The inquiry into Melbourne's hotel quarantine scheme is set to be reopened after the board received new phone logs from Premier Daniel Andrews (pictured) and his staff and previously unseen documents from the Department of Health and Human Services

The inquiry into Melbourne’s hotel quarantine scheme is set to be reopened after the board received new phone logs from Premier Daniel Andrews (pictured) and his staff and previously unseen documents from the Department of Health and

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