Victoria police has admitted an “indefensible interference” in the lawyer-client relationship by using gangland barrister Nicola Gobbo as a police informer.
The admission, made in a submission to the Lawyer X inquiry, throws into question convictions of a number of gangland figures including Tony Mokbel.
Mokbel is serving a 30-year sentence for drug trafficking, but senior lawyers assisting a royal commission into the Lawyer X scandal have revealed all three of his convictions could have been tainted.
And while Mokbel and others might walk from prison, police and Gobbo should not face criminal charges, the royal commission has found, despite widespread and damning revelations against the force and lawyer.
In more than 2,000 pages of submissions released late Tuesday, Chris Winneke QC, Andrew Woods and Megan Tittensor, said the relationship Gobbo had with police had adverse consequences on the criminal justice system and may continue to do so.
“Over a protracted period there were significant and repeated departures from acceptable conduct in the relationship between Ms Gobbo and Victoria Police,” they said.
“In other words, things have gone badly wrong.”
From October 2005 until May 2008, Gobbo acted for Mokbel while she was a registered informer, passing information to police about his criminal activities.
She did not tell Mokbel, despite it being her duty as his lawyer, nor did Victoria police, despite an obligation for them as prosecutors to tell him anything which might help his case.
The force also had a responsibility to ensure its use of Gobbo as an informer wasn’t improper and didn’t interfere with his right to a fair trial.
Mokbel filed a fresh appeal in December 2017 on the basis of Gobbo’s informing, arguing each charge he was convicted of “gave rise to a substantial miscarriage of justice”.
The trio of lawyers noted Mokbel was one of 1,011 people who may have been affected by Gobbo’s informing.
Whether Mokbel had suffered a miscarriage of justice would depend on the individual facts of his case, they added. His appeal is ongoing.
Faruk Orman, whose murder conviction was quashed by Victoria’s court of appeal last year, successfully argued a miscarriage of justice with links to Gobbo’s informing.
Tuesday’s dossier includes responses to submissions from Mokbel, Gobbo and former Victoria police chief commissioners Simon Overland and Graham Ashton.
The submissions say a balanced analysis of the evidence shows Gobbo and Victoria police “behaved negligently” and had an impact on the administration of justice, “but it was not unlawful”.
“Whilst Ms Gobbo accepted her double life and deceit of clients, both professional and lay, it is clear that she too was the victim of deceit at the hands of Victoria Police, the SDU and Mr Overland,” submissions from her lawyers Rishi Nathwani and Peter Collinson QC outlined.
Overland claimed the inquiry’s submissions are “riddled with errors”.
“There is a grave concern that the royal commissioner is being urged to entertain [redacted] serious findings against Mr Overland in circumstances where time constraints do not permit a careful and reasoned analysis of the evidence,” his submission says.
Victoria police claimed “this episode has come to light because of Victoria Police, not in spite of it”.
In a public statement, police conceded that using Gobbo to inform against clients was “profoundly wrong” and was an “indefensible interference in the lawyer/client relationship”.