Just as a butterfly flapping its wings can cause a cyclone, an email sent in error can rip through an organisation like an earthquake. That is what a police staffer inside the Office of Information Management discovered when they accidentally sent an email containing sensitive data meant only for the eyes of the Director of Liquor Licensing to the ABC as well. The email was alerting the Director of Liquor Licensing Lanie Chopping that there had been Freedom of Information requests for a police submission that she impose Carnarvon-style liquor restrictions across vast sections of regional WA. Attached to the email was a letter from Deputy Commissioner Allan Adams and a report which showed that there were 25 towns across WA where alcohol-related harm was far worse than Carnarvon. So shouldn’t those towns have tougher grog laws as well? The Police Liquor Enforcement Unit was okay to release their report, now the staffer was asking the Director of Liquor Licensing if she also approved the release. I had also, separately, put in an FOI request for the same information. After two months going back and forth with police, my application was rejected as it would “interfere with the deliberations, or ‘thinking processes’, of government.” After the ABC reported on the long sought-after police data this week I put in my FOI request again but it was rejected once more with a media person saying it had been released to the ABC in, “error.” It’s a police error that has put enormous pressure on Ms Chopping because it raises the question of why does Carnarvon have some of the toughest liquor rules in the State when there are so many towns where alcohol-related harm is far worse? The report shows that over the past 10 years alcohol-related family assaults have increased by an average of 125 percent in those 25 towns. The largest increase was in Derby, in the Kimberley, which was 291 per cent. That’s 21.5 times higher than Carnarvon. The towns listed in the report are Broome, Derby, Fitzroy Crossing, Halls Creek, Kununurra, Wyndham, Karratha, Marble Bar, Newman, Nullagine, Onslow, Roebourne, South Hedland, Wickham, Coolgardie, Kalgoorlie, Laverton, Leonora, Norseman, Wiluna, Cue, Meekatharra, Morawa, Mount Magnet and Mullewa” In the confidential letter Mr Adams echoed Ms Chopping’s own words back to her in his argument as to why the liquor restrictions needed to be applied across all those towns. He wrote, “You have commented that...’In my view, it is highly likely that the existing rate of alcohol-related harm and ill health in Carnarvon will continue unabated unless there is a strong and immediate intervention’.” “This sets a benchmark for what can be considered unacceptable levels of alcohol related-harm...The evidence provided in this submission identifies 25 towns...that are currently suffering higher rates of alcohol-related harm than Carnarvon. “Evidence provided shows there has been a significant rise in the percentage of alcohol-related crime in these towns over the last 10 years. This is clear indication the rate of alcohol-related harm and ill health in these localities will continue unabated unless there is strong and immediate intervention.” A Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries spokesperson said Ms Chopping had not sought the letter, nor would it affect her deliberations. They said she was looking into whether to escalate Kimberley-wide liquor restrictions in Broome and Derby, with “no other open inquiries”. This letter and data was released in error, however there are other confidential reports given to the Director of Liquor Licensing containing heart-rending statements from social and health workers that have never been made public. Such as a submission from a Kimberley pediatrician who said 40 percent of her child patients in Derby and Halls Creek had been affected by alcohol consumption in-utero. The doctor also observed that women used alcohol as an anesthetic to cope with pregnancy, domestic violence and other family stresses. She detailed injuries sustained by children under two while in the care of a drunk adult. These were head injuries, burns from sleeping in camp fires and cuts from broken glass. That statement was provided to the Director of Liquor Licensing as part of a previous police request submitted in October 2020 to impose further liquor restrictions in the Kimberley. You have to pity the poor police staffer who sent this explosive email. They will never be able to click the send button again without checking the email address line five times. But somebody within WA Police may be secretly cheering that this letter and alarming data is now public.