Lawyer X admits to turning on clients, destroying evidence
In transcripts and statements provided to Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants, it has become clear that barrister Nicola Gobbo knowingly edited gangland witness statements and willingly divulged privileged information without any prompting.
In a meeting with her handlers in August 2008, Ms Gobbo said she had secretly gone to the Purana Taskforce offices and edited all the statements of a key witness that had turned against his gangland boss. There were more than a dozen statements that were crucial in bringing about convictions, including that of Carl Williams.
“I edited them,” she bragged. “I corrected them but no one ever knows about that, that would never come out, even [he] doesn’t know I did. He could never reveal it.”
She said she went to the offices with an officer who was not connected to the case so would not be asked for evidence of what they did. Ms Gobbo added it might have been the idea of former Purana Taskforce lead James O’Brien.
Mr O’Brien was questioned on this during his time in the Royal Commission (RCMPI) witness box, but he denied having any knowledge of the plan.
What follows is more key takeaways from the RCMPI this week.
‘Let’s say hypothetically…’: Ms Gobbo reveals confidential conversations
In another recording disclosed to the RCMPI, Ms Gobbo is having a conversation with one of her handlers, ‘Officer Smith’, who gave evidence this week. In it, she discloses a conversation she had with Tony Mokbel in which she urged him to plead guilty.
“Let’s say hypothetically his lawyers had sat him down and said, ‘forget about the basic issues of it, if you plead and get a discount for pleading’ and blah blah blah,” she says in the recording. “And let’s say hypothetically the advice he’d been given was ‘not only will you be slammed but the effective sentence we can get you would be doubled’.”
Mr Smith interjects near the end, prompting her back to the “hypotheticals”.
RCMPI counsel Andrew Woods asked Mr Smith if this was improper of her to disclose, to which he said: “I think she was venting about the whole situation and we were not going to do anything with that information. She shouldn’t have done it, I don’t know.”
During the course of the RCMPI, handlers under pseudonyms and Mr O’Brien said Ms Gobbo would often disclose information about her clients without prompting, and when this occurred, they either asked her to stop or would not pass the information on.
In one conversation in June 2006, Ms Gobbo disclosed a conversation she had with a client. She said she is “long past” keeping everything confidential.
“When I sit here and say to you ‘this is exactly what [redacted] will do, this is what he will say to you’, I mean of what his communication, well, mine with him, is privilege, but I’m way past that now,” she tells Mr White. “Long past that.”
But what about the things she was asked?
In the first face-to-face meeting between Mr White, Mr Smith and Ms Gobbo, she was asked to “tell us everything you know” about Tony Mokbel.
Mr Smith said he has asked that same question of many sources and was not shocked she was asked so soon, despite knowing she was representing Mr Mokbel at the time. He said he has reflected quite a bit on legal professional privilege since this time.
He said he “doesn’t feel good” about Ms Gobbo divulging confidential conversations.
However, later in the questioning, Mr Smith said he did not consider in 2005 her role could mean corruption of the legal system. He also added that he does not understand how Ms
Gobbo’s informer role could be a conflict of interest.
“In your view, a client of Ms Gobbo who has Ms Gobbo as a) representing him while b) working against their interest, would feel that they have been fairly dealt with by the justice system?” Mr Woods puts to Mr Smith.
“If they had been involved in criminal activity, it shouldn’t matter.” Mr Smith answered.
“So, your view is criminal activity trumps everything?”
“No, it’s not. No. I don’t know.”
Was she actually recruited? Or targeted?
A counsel questioning Mr O’Brien on the timeline of events leading up to Ms Gobbo’s recruitment as a human source said she spent some time in the hospital after a stroke and suggested officers used her vulnerability against her.
In the following months, Mr O’Brien spoke to several handlers about Ms Gobbo helping Victoria Police and later took this idea to Mr Overland.
“It demonstrates that she was targeted the whole time?” The counsel asked.
“I don’t know if I would say she was targeted,” Mr O’Brien responded.
“She’s sitting in a hospital and there is discussion from several officers that she may have been vulnerable. That would have been targeting, correct?”
“I don’t know that she would have been targeted.”