Royal commission into Lawyer X scandal recommends dedicated Special Investigator to prosecute police
The Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants has slammed police and rogue lawyer Nicole Gobba, making a whopping 111 recommendations.
Commissioner Margaret McMurdo AO has called on the Victorian Government to establish a dedicated special investigator with all necessary powers to investigate potential criminal conduct on the part of Ms Gobbo and relevant current and former Victoria Police officers.
It has done so specifically to determine whether further action should be taken in relation to the conduct of Ms Gobbo and current and former Victoria Police officers, including prosecution of criminal offences or disciplinary action.
Tony Mokbel (right) is hoping to be released from jail. He was represented by Lawyer X, Nicola Gobbo (left)
Melbourne gangland identity Faruk Orman walked free after having his murder conviction overturned because of the Lawyer X scandal
After months of evidence, including all relevant submissions, the commission has concluded that the convictions or findings of guilt of 1,011 people may have been affected by Victoria Police’s use of Ms Gobbo as a human source.
This includes people who were deprived of the opportunity to be represented by an independent lawyer acting in their best interests, and those who may have been affected by Ms Gobbo’s conflicts of interest and/or tainted evidence arising from her conduct as a human source.
A compelling explanation is that Victoria Police did not want to be told they could not use Ms Gobbo in the ways they intended
Ms Gobbo’s behaviour has already med to the release of previously convicted killer Faruk Orman.
The smiling, previously convicted assassin, simply walked out of jail a free man in 2019 after 12 long years behind bars.
He had been sentenced to serve 20 years for the murder of underworld figure Victor Peirce.
In October, Zlate Cvetanovski became the second person to be acquitted over the Lawyer X scandal.
He had spent close to a decade behind bars as drug lord Tony Mokbel’s drug cook after Ms Gobbo convinced a key witness to incriminate him.
Nicola Gobbo worked as an informer for Victoria Police. Her involvement in snitching on her own clients has now seen one convicted killer walk free
Calabrian mob boss Pasquale ‘Pat’ Barbaro has lodged an appeal over his conviction because of Nicola Gobbo
Commission on Faruk Orman conviction
‘Perhaps the most brazen example of Ms Gobbo’s conduct is the case of Mr Cooper (a pseudonym), a drug manufacturer for the Mokbel family.
Police believed that if Mr Cooper were to roll, he might disclose key details of the Mokbel criminal syndicate.
Ms Gobbo leveraged her position as Mr Cooper’s lawyer, friend and confidant to persuade him to divulge information about his criminal activities.
She gave Victoria Police information about his drug laboratory, leading to his arrest.
When police encouraged Mr Cooper to roll, he asked for Ms Gobbo to attend the police station as his lawyer.
She obliged and, acting as both Mr Cooper’s lawyer and an agent for police, advised him to assist authorities.
Mr Cooper heeded Ms Gobbo’s advice and ultimately made over 40 statements to police.
Ms Gobbo’s antics as a police informer were covered up for years by Victoria Police, who claimed they feared for her life.
‘Nothing is more important to Victoria Police than the protection of human life – that is and always will be the absolute number one priority. And so I make no apologies for taking the legal actions that Victoria Police has taken in this matter,’ Police Commissioner Graham Ashton said at the time.
In bringing on the royal commission, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews expressed his concern over the handling of the informer.
‘The integrity of the criminal justice system is paramount and all people charged with crimes are entitled to a fair trial, no matter who they are,’ Mr Andrews said.
Mr Andrews said that while these events took place many years ago, the public had the right to know that every part of the justice system acts fairly and lawfully at all times.
For years the scandal could not even be spoken about.
And when it was revealed, police and politicians assured no-one would be strolling free from jail.
A who’s who of crooks are lining up to be released from jail, including Calabrian mob boss Pasquale ‘Pat’ Barbaro.
Barbaro was the highest-profile member of the infamous ‘Tomato Tins’ syndicate and has lodged an appeal against his conviction.
Barbaro was jailed for 30 years to life after customs officers at the Port of Melbourne intercepted 15 million pills hidden in 3000 tomato tins imported from Italy in 2007.
Zlate Cvetanovski (centre) poses for a photograph with his lawyers outside the Supreme Court of Appeal in Melbourne in October upon his release
Commissioner Margaret McMurdo AO has slammed Victoria Police over its use of Nicola Gobbo an an informant
How Victoria Police FAILED The State
While Victoria Police’s use of Ms Gobbo as a human source occurred many years ago, the systemic repercussions are still being felt, Commissioner Margaret McMurdo said.
‘Court proceedings, and the various inquiries established to examine the events, have cost many millions of public dollars.
‘Public confidence in police has been undermined. Given the systemic failures identified by the Commission, it is critical that Victoria Police assures the Victorian Government and community that it has taken and will continue to take steps to prevent past mistakes being repeated, including in its response to the Commission’s recommendations.’
The commissioner said she continues to have reservations about Ms Gobbo’s position in the legal fraternity despite already being struck off the Supreme Court’s Roll of Legal Practitioners and is unable to practise law.
‘She remains, however, on the Victorian Bar Roll’s list of ‘retired’ barristers,’ she said.
‘The Commission is concerned that this has the potential to undermine public confidence in the Victorian Bar.
‘In light of Ms Gobbo’s conduct, the Commission recommends that the Victorian Bar seeks to address this issue, given the symbolic significance of her remaining on the Bar Roll.’
Commissioner McMurdo was scathing of the role Victoria Police had in recruiting and managing Ms Gobbo.
‘In their recruitment, use and management of Ms Gobbo as a human source, the conduct of a number of Victoria Police officers seems to have fallen short of the behaviour required by their legal, ethical and professional obligations,’ she said.
The commission found Victoria Police officers effectively put their heads in the sand when faced with the outrageous situation it had created when employing a lawyer to rat on her own clients.
‘A compelling explanation is that Victoria Police did not want to be told they could not use Ms Gobbo in the ways they intended,’ Commisioner McMurdo said.
‘While the use of Ms Gobbo as a human source was in many ways extraordinary, it was also a systemic failure.’
Nicola Gobbo could yet face criminal charges over her notorious stint as ‘Lawyer X’
The commission heard it continued for several years, even though many Victoria Police officers, including some very senior officers, were aware of Ms Gobbo’s informing.
Victoria Police conceded more than 100 police officers and personnel knew that Ms Gobbo was a human source between 2005 and 2009.
‘It appears that none of these officers or personnel reported it to or raised concerns with Victoria Police’s then Ethical Standards Department or with an external oversight body,’ Commisioner McMurdo said.
Several officers who gave evidence to the royal commission claimed Victoria Police was under significant pressure to stem the violence associated with Melbourne’s gangland wars.
The infamous ‘Underbelly’ gangland war saw 36 criminal underworld figures in Melbourne murdered between January 1998 and August 2010. proper about their management of Ms Gobbo and the associated risks.
Despite the damage done to Victoria’s justice system, the royal commission stopped short of recommending a total ban on using lawyers as informers.
Commissioner Margaret McMurdo said while it was almost never appropriate for police to use a lawyer as an informer against their own client, a prohibition was not warranted.
‘There may be limited circumstances in which the use of such sources may be justified – for example, when there is a compelling public interest reason for acquiring and using the information, there is an unambiguous exception to the duty of confidentiality or privilege, and/or the source is providing information they have come by well beyond the scope of their professional obligations,’ she said.
Underworld identity Mick Gatto, Ray Towell (friend of Lewis Moran) and Nicola Gobbo at the Flemington funeral of lawyer and ALP member Stephen Drazetic in 2008