Disciplinary action ruled inadequate after Bay man's death

THE punishment given to a police officer whose inaction led to the death of a Hervey Bay man in outback Queensland has been ruled as inadequate following an appeal.

Barry Powell, 64, was driving from Perth to his home in Hervey Bay in 2009 when he became lost in Wyandra, a remote community in Queensland's south-west.

On December 6, Wyandra resident Andrew Wilkinson phoned the police to report seeing an abandoned vehicle, which belonged to Mr Powell.

Sergeant Andrew Ernest Thomas, who was off-duty but on call, took the phone call and was given the registration number of the vehicle.

It wasn't until December 10, when Sgt Thomas was told a search operation had started at Wyandra to search for a missing person, that he remembered the conversation with Mr Wilkinson.

Mr Powell's body was found about 650m from his car on December 11.

It was estimated he could have been alive up until December 8, more than 24 hours after Sgt Thomas had been called about the car.

The original sanctions taken against Sgt Thomas included a two-year suspended sentence that meant if there was further misconduct within that period, he would be demoted to the level of senior constable.

He was also transferred to Toowoomba.

The tribunal found that Sgt Thomas should have been demoted and that the sentence should not have been suspended.

Sgt Thomas has since left the police force.

The tribunal heard that in his initial interviews with investigating officers, Sgt Thomas said that he had made assumptions that the vehicle was stolen and that he had no idea a missing person was involved; he did not realise the vehicle was in a remote location and he had personal issues that caused him not to respond as he normally would have.

The tribunal surmised that Sgt Thomas has simply forgotten about the call and therefore failed to take any action.

The tribunal accepted that Sgt Thomas had enjoyed an exemplary career prior to the incident and that he was dealing with personal issues at the time, as well as recovering from an injury.

"Sgt Thomas did nothing and had he made a simple phone call to the Charleville police, Cunnamulla police or Wyandra police station the outcome for the deceased driver of the vehicle may have been different," the report read.

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