Melbourne policewoman bullied: court


A Melbourne policewoman who discovered she was pregnant shortly after accepting a detective job was called a “black widow” by her colleagues and told she was useless, a jury has heard.

Karen Aden Willett, 38, was told by her sergeant that he would be “stuck” with her unless she quit her job. She was also told not to attend an office meeting because, “you’re pregnant, you’ve got nothing to contribute”, the Victorian Supreme Court heard on Friday.

Ms Willett is suing the Victorian government for alleged bullying and harassment in her work as a detective at South Melbourne Police Station.

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The civil trial heard Ms Willett long aspired to be in the police force, joining up in 1996 with her sights set on becoming a detective.

But after joining the South Melbourne criminal investigation unit, she was treated “abominably” by her colleagues, barrister Ron Meldrum, QC, said.

After her arrival, she became aware of rumours circulating about her sleeping with her boss, causing her deep upset, Mr Meldrum said.

“To say of her, she got this job improperly, was for her devastating,” he said.

Mr Meldrum said things worsened when she realised she was pregnant after attaining the two-year position.

Mr Meldrum said the sergeant in charge asked her: “Are you prepared to give up the job?” and “Unless you give up, I’m stuck with you.”

Mr Meldrum said Ms Willett was put down in many ways and left out of staff events, including an office meeting where she was told not to attend because the sergeant told her: “You’re pregnant, you’ve got nothing to contribute to this.”

The sergeant would also publicly humiliate her and tell her “You’re useless” and “Here comes the black widow”, he said.

Mr Meldrum said Ms Willett was a well-regarded, outstanding policewoman.

But she turned from a confident, achieving, dedicated worker to a person who lost her confidence, and was diagnosed with depression and anxiety.

Mr Meldrum said his client had never suffered depression or anxiety before the alleged bullying.

He said she became so depressed she made an attempt on her life in April.

Mr Meldrum said Ms Willett told her superiors about the bullying but never made a formal complaint because she “didn’t want to increase the drama”.

The trial continues on Monday.