Why was whistleblower Allan Kessing punished? Or to put it another way, why wasn’t he punished more severely?

Yesterday Mr Justice Bennett of the NSW District Court published his reasons for giving Kessing a nine month suspended sentence for leaking a report on airport security to The Australian.

Nice to note that Bennett apparently reads Crikey.

He said:

It has been impossible to ignore entirely the publicity that this matter has attracted since the trial and the comments offered in the electronic and print media in terms that the offender should be shown gratitude for what he has been found to have done. There is a significant level of sympathy for the offender. Although aware of some of these publications I have placed them aside from the matters that I bring to account for the determination of sentence. They are not before me as evidence and are not relevant to that question.

He goes on:

I do not accept the submission that the evidence presented in these proceedings establishes that there was a shortfall in the standards to be expected of the Australian Customs Service such as to justify the belief that has been attributed to the offender by those who presently applaud his conduct.

In short, Bennett thought that since Kessing continues to insist he was not the source of the leak, it was of no account for his counsel to argue that the leaking was in the public interest.

Bennett was not satisfied that the Customs Service had behaved badly enough to justify the leaking of the report, and he accepted that the publicity could have prejudiced other investigations, although he also accepted that in fact no harm occurred:

Whether or not it is appropriate to view the offender in the heroic light with which he has been bathed by some for having exposed what he represents to be inadequate aspects of management within the Australian Customs Service concerned with Sydney Airport, there was no justification whatsoever for the communication of the content of these reports.

In Kessing’s favour was his near spotless record and the fact that his mother had recently died. Read the lot here.

And for those who weigh the issues differently, remember the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance campaign to raise funds to help pay some of Kessing’s legal fees. Details here.