In 2015, Victoria* texted a police officer named Brett Johnson, with whom she had had a sexual relationship, and told him she was suicidal. He responded with a two-word text: “wanna f—.”
Victoria had met Johnson in 2011 when she handed in a stolen laptop to Richmond police station, an interaction Johnson used as a pretext to contact her on his personal phone and arrange to see her afterwards.
Victoria, a vulnerable woman with a difficult home life, was flattered by the attention of an officer and began a sexual relationship with him.
But she later found out she wasn’t the only woman Johnson had contacted after meeting on the job.
In the County Court on Wednesday, 42-year-old Johnson pleaded guilty to 10 counts of misconduct in public office. Court documents say he abused his position as a police officer and concealed the relationships from supervisors.
Police alleged that when Johnson was a serving officer, he used Victoria Police’s internal database, the Law Enforcement Assistance Program, to carry out unauthorised checks on women and find their phone numbers or other contact details.
Johnson left the force in 2021 after the allegations emerged.
Victoria, a victim in the case, feels disappointed with prosecutors. Johnson had originally faced more than 100 charges, the court heard on Wednesday. A string of serious charges, including rape, were ultimately dropped.
“I feel completely let down by the legal system,” Victoria told The Age. “The investigation into Brett by the OPP took over three years to get it into court so to have all that time, effort, emotion and anxiety feels worthless.
“I have had the last 13 years of my life damaged in one way or another by Brett.”
She said her faith in the police has been shaken by the experience.
“I have four daughters. If they were in any danger or such situation, how can I honestly tell them to contact police and know that they will be protected and treated with respect and human decency,” she said.
According to court documents, Johnson visited the home of another victim, uninvited, and told her to come outside. He texted the woman – who was on bail and had reporting obligations – repeatedly.
“[The woman] did not reply but continued to receive calls from a private number. At 10.50pm, she saw a message from [Johnson] asking her to ‘come downstairs’ and telling her he was at the cafe below her building,” court documents say.
‘Police hold a particular position of power in the community, with that comes a lot of community trust, and betrayal of that trust, it is extremely serious.’
County Court Judge Liz Gaynor
“She replied: ‘you bastard, you got my address, LOL’, adding the LOL to ensure she did not upset the offender.”
County Court judge Liz Gaynor said Johnson exercised a “self-obsession”, which showed “the way he had gone about it to gratify his own needs”.
“Police hold a particular position of power in the community. With that comes a lot of community trust, and betrayal of that trust, it is extremely serious,” she said.
Johnson’s barrister, Abbie Roodenburg, said Johnson was aware of the destructiveness of his actions.
“He accepts that he has caused harm to the victims, destroyed his career with Victoria Police, and now, at age 42, is an apprentice plumber and starting that journey over, and he has, of course, greatly damaged his relationship with his wife,” she said.
Johnson will return to court on May 16 to be sentenced.
*Victoria is a pseudonym imposed by the court. She gave The Age permission to publish a photo identifying her.
If you need support, call the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732).
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