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WA judge dismisses vaccine mandate challenge by police officer

A WA police officer's legal challenge against a vaccine mandate for police has been rejected.

A WA police officer's legal challenge against a vaccine mandate for police has been rejected. Photo: AAP

A West Australian police officer who refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19 has failed in his legal challenge against the state’s mandates.

Senior Constable Ben Falconer asked the Supreme Court of WA to find workplace vaccination directions issued by the state’s chief health officer and police commissioner late last year were invalid.

The directions had required officers to have received two vaccine doses by January 1 this year or face disciplinary action including potential dismissal.

Justice Jeremy Allanson on Tuesday rejected the application, saying Senior Constable Falconer had failed to establish any factual basis for arguing the directions were ‘‘legally irrational’’ or disproportionate.

The decision could result in Senior Constable Falconer losing his job, despite police officers in WA no longer being subject to vaccination mandates.

Justice Allanson ordered the removal of an injunction that had prevented the force from dismissing Senior Constable Falconer while his case was before the courts.

‘‘I am not satisfied that the applicant has established the factual basis for his contentions,’’ the judge wrote in his findings.

‘‘All of the evidence establishes that the COVID-19 pandemic was, and remains, an extraordinary emergency. It was not, in the words of counsel for the applicant, a maelstrom in a Petri dish.

‘‘The measures that were taken are undoubtedly extraordinary but that does not establish that they lacked rationality so as, for that reason, to be beyond power.’’

Senior Constable Falconer argued Chief Health Officer Andy Robertson had either not genuinely considered or ‘‘fundamentally misunderstood’’ the evidence about the effectiveness of vaccines, particularly regarding transmissibility.

But while they disagreed on the waning effect of vaccination, three expert witnesses agreed the vaccines were effective in limiting severe infections.

The chief health officer’s approach had been consistent with highly qualified scientific opinion, Justice Allanson ruled.

Almost 90 per cent of police force employees had received two vaccine doses by November last year, shortly before the directions were issued.

Justice Allanson also dismissed an application for judicial review by unvaccinated police radio operator Leslie Finlay, who argued the directions had ‘‘violated his bodily integrity’’.

WA Police on Tuesday said 51 officers and 21 staff faced disciplinary action for not complying with vaccination directions.

Of those, 25 officers and 17 staff remained stood down on full pay.

Police Commissioner Col Blanch said officers and staff had overwhelmingly continued to serve at the height of the pandemic.

‘‘They took measures to protect themselves, their colleagues, their loved ones and the community that they serve from COVID,’’ Commissioner Blanch said in a statement.

‘‘The devotion to duty of WA Police was crucial to Western Australia safely navigating this global pandemic.’’

-AAP

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