Coroner’s Report Finds Victoria Police Failings May Have Escalated The Bourke St Mall Attack

A coroner’s inquest into the Bourke St Mall massacre has found that there was a lack of assertive leadership from Victoria Police on the day of the attack.

On January 20 2017, James Gargasoulas drove a stolen car through Melbourne’s CBD and Bourke St Mall, killing six people and injuring 27 others. He is now serving a minimum 46-year jail term.

Today, Coroner Jacqui Hawkins delivered her findings on the six deaths. In the report, she found that there was a lack of “effective leadership” and “systemic deficiencies” in the police response to the attack.

“They [Victoria Police] did not provide effective leadership or challenge what was occurring, until a short time after these events when a decision was made to disengage,” Hawkins said.

“I find that there was a lack of assertive leadership and supervision provided to the Port Philip CIU… in relation to an appropriate arrest plan throughout the day.

“What was needed was a disciplined, calculated and objective approach from senior officers, so that decisions and alternative strategies could be evaluated and formulated as the events unfolded.”

Hawkins also gave seven recommendations for Victoria Police, which included bail/remand procedures with respect to “high-risk recidivist offenders,” and a review of their “training, policies and procedures.”

In a statement made by Victoria Police, they acknowledged the shortcomings of their operational response. However, they also said that over the last four years they have worked on strategies to better deal with critical incidents like the Bourke St Mall massacre.

“Over the past four years we have introduced a number of new response teams and policies to directly deal with critical incidents like this. This includes SOG’s Quick Response Force (September 2017), the CIRT security teams (December 2017) and a new hostile vehicle attack policy (October 2019),” the statement read.

“While it is impossible to speculate whether any of these changes would have stopped the devastating outcome on 20 January 2017, the community should know we are committed to doing everything we can to prevent an incident like this from occurring again.”