Police outside the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place during the siege in December 2014. Photo: Daniel MunozLawyers for the family of Lindt Cafe siege victim Katrina Dawson have expressed concern they may be “cut out” of examining sensitive documents about the police response to the siege during the inquest into the tragedy.
The Commonwealth and the NSW Police Commissioner have sought to block the release of some documents revealing the police response and tactics, including so-called “Emergency Action Order” and “Direct Action Order” plans, the inquest heard on Wednesday.
They have made claims for public interest immunity – which would prevent the material being aired as part of the inquest – over hundreds of documents.
Counsel for the NSW Police, Robin Bhalla, proposed that in some cases the documents could be taken into account by NSW coroner Michael Barnes and counsel assisting the inquest but would not be released publicly.
Junior counsel assisting the inquest, Sophie Callan, said access to the documents would not extend to the legal representatives for the victims, Ms Dawson and Lindt Cafe manager Tori Johnson.
Phillip Boulten, SC, for the Dawson family, asked for time to seek instructions from his clients about whether they would oppose the orders sought by the Commonwealth and the police.
“Cutting our clients out of this information is something about which we need specific instructions,” Mr Boulten said.
He said “the people I represent are very anxious not to expose to public view matters that could risk public safety or national security” but they also had a “particular interest in how the siege developed and how it was managed”.
The inquest heard that in most cases the claims relate only to individual words or sentences in documents.
Ms Callan said the Commonwealth had made public interest immunity claims over 170 documents but only seven were still in dispute.
The NSW Police Commissioner had made claims over 292 statements or documents, with 110 still in dispute.
Mr Barnes is yet to rule on the claims, which relate to evidence to be presented in the next tranche of siege inquest hearings slated to begin on March 21.
The adequacy of the police response is one of the final questions to be addressed by the inquest, which started on January 29 last year.
Ms Dawson, a mother of three young children, was killed by a stray police bullet when gunman Man Haron Monis, who executed Mr Johnson, became involved in a shoot-out with police in the final stages of the siege.
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