FORMER Crime Commission officer Mark Standen - accused of conspiring to import drugs with his one-time informant - yesterday publicly denied the charges as he entered the witness box at his Sydney trial.
A law enforcement officer for more than 35 years, Mr Standen was the first witness in his own defence against claims he conspired to import the drugs with the former informant and a businessman-friend.
Mr Standen, who denies the charges, said he had first met then-informant James Henry Kinch in early 2003, when Mr Kinch was arrested in Sydney for drugs and money laundering offences.
The former assistant director of the Crime Commission said he rated Mr Kinch "very highly" as an informant, saying "if it was [assessed] out of 10, it would be 10".
Mr Standen, 54, said that by the time Mr Kinch left Australia with all his charges dropped, the pair could be regarded as friends.
The jury has previously heard claims that Mr Standen flouted the commission's rules and policies regarding informants, but he said yesterday his approach worked.
"My starting position, with only a few exceptions ... [was that] informers are people first," he said.
He said criminals were usually surprised when "someone takes the time to take interest in their own lives" and they responded positively.
"It makes them comfortable, it establishes an element of trust and comfort. If someone doesn't trust you they're highly unlikely to place their life in your hands," he said.
"I've met with considerable successes by [using] that method."
Mr Standen, who has four children, told the court the pair bonded during those early months as Mr Kinch "downloaded the information in his head" about drug and money-laundering syndicates.
But with the English-born informant free to leave the country in February 2004 after his charges were withdrawn, he told Mr Standen he would turn over a new leaf.
Mr Kinch had realised, Mr Standen said, that he had "got lost in that [criminal] world, got swept along by it" and "felt ten feet tall" but planned to leave his criminal life behind.
Mr Standen believed that after all the information Mr Kinch had given authorities both here and abroad about his criminal links that "only an idiot would do it again".
Mr Standen said it was Mr Kinch's idea for them to communicate using codenames.