The former Victorian chief health officer who enjoyed sex symbol status during the pandemic ran to avoid TV news cameras yesterday after giving evidence in a legal case.
Brett Sutton, who appeared almost daily on television alongside Premier Dan Andrews during the Covid pandemic, was less keen on publicity yesterday after being accused of unlawfully closing down a catering company.
The catering company is suing the Victorian health department, claiming its decision to shut them down over an alleged contaminated sandwich was illegal and destroyed their business.
The order followed the death of a woman from listeria, and claims that a subsequent inspection of I Cook Foods premises had found a slug in the company’s kitchen.
I Cook Foods have long insisted that the slug was planted in the kitchen by health officials.
In his opening address, Cook’s lawyer Marcus Clarke KC said Sutton acted with “reckless indifference” and could not have known the food prepared by I Cook was unsafe.
He also claimed I Cook Foods, which supplied thousands of meals to hospitals and aged care homes every week, was not given a chance to respond before the order to shut them down was made.
Sutton was in the stand for several hours on Tuesday as Clarke repeatedly asked him if he had acted recklessly in the matter.
“Did you care about the effect on their business?” Clarke asked.
“No, of course I cared,” Sutton replied. “I was absolutely devastated by the need to make that decision. My concern was there would be many more (infections).”
Clarke suggested Sutton had ordered the caterer to close before test results identifying the source of the listeria which led to the death of a woman were known.
Sutton defended his actions, insisting he had been forced to act urgently.
He said health authorities believed at the time that I Cook Foods had been the sole supplier of meals to the hospital where a woman died. This was later proved to be false.
The case will continue later this month.