Lawyer X faces tense cross-examinations to finish off her evidence

By Naomi Neilson|11 February 2020

After five tense days of evidence, barrister Nicola Gobbo has answered to allegations levelled at her over the last 11 months – and she held nothing back.

Over those five days, Ms Gobbo admitted to breaching legal professional privilege and breaching her obligations to her clients and to the courts. She admitted to consistently considering her own self-serving interests over those of her clients, and its admissions Victoria Police handlers and senior members have shied away from in the past.

Victoria Police counsel Saul Holt confirmed with Ms Gobbo “it was complicit throughout [her registration], you were aware of breaching your obligations with clients?”

When Ms Gobbo, who had rarely hesitated when admitting to her informant faults, said she agreed, Mr Holt then asked: “You were aware you were breaching your obligations to your clients in ways that if they had become known, would ultimately affect [clients’] convictions and the fairness of the convictions?”

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“Potentially, yes,” Ms Gobbo answered.

Later in Mr Holt’s cross-examination, Ms Gobbo said it wasn’t until recently she learnt to “not speak at all where police are concerned”. However, she also admitted that there were no grounds for her to provide confidential information, even if she was terrified.

Mr Holt asked her: “You understand there are thousands of criminal defence barristers around Australia and the rest of the Commonwealth world that deal with police?”

Ms Gobbo: “Of course.”

“You understand when you’re dealing with a police officer you’re doing your job [as the defence barrister] and they’re doing theirs?” Mr Holt put to her, and then added: “And the vast majority, one would hope and I hope that’s an understatement, of the criminal barristers around the world manage to not breach privilege and confidence because a person’s a police officer, do you understand that?”

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“Yes,” Ms Gobbo said to both.

Relationship between Lawyer X and her criminal clients
During one of her cross-examinations, Ms Gobbo handled the suggestion she enjoyed having a relationship with her criminal – and “dangerous” – clients. Mr Holt alluded that Ms Gobbo “left the impression” her relationship was a function from her handlers.

The barrister began socialising with clients six months into becoming a solicitor, when she was much younger. At this stage, the clients were alleged criminals.

“From that point onward you have been someone who has socialised, crossed the line into socialising and becoming friends with your criminal clients?” Mr Holt asked.

“I agree with that,” is Ms Gobbo’s response.

Later in the cross-examination, Mr Holt questions this: “These are the Mokbels. You understood they were highly organised and sophisticated criminals? And understood they were responsible for extraordinarily high levels of damage to the community?”

Ms Gobbo accepts this, and Mr Holt asked why she would be friends with Tony Mokbel.

“Well, like every person, he does have some redeeming features,” she said.

Relationship between Lawyer X, her handlers and Victoria Police
During her cross-examination by the counsel for Victoria Police handlers, Geoff Chettle, Ms Gobbo was questioned about a night she attended dinner with her clients and was gifted a silver pen, in lieu of a monetary reward – which she would eventually receive.

Last week, Ms Gobbo said it was a “horrible night” because she was in pain and was not part of the drunken revelry she alleged her handlers enjoyed. However, when she was questioned by Mr Chettle, she backtracked on the allegation.

“These guys were never sleazy or unprofessional,” Ms Gobbo said.

This does not extend to officer Jeff Pope, who she said she had an on-and-off sexual relationship with prior and during her registration. Mr Pope disagreed.

Ms Gobbo’s counsel Rishi Nathwani asked about Mr Pope’s evidence that she invited him to Hawaii and offered to pay and that he did not speak to her once she returned.

“Some of what he says is so absurdly ridiculous and totally untrue, I don’t know where he would come up with that stuff from,” Ms Gobbo said. “That part about me reportedly saying to him ‘Would you like to go on a holiday to Hawaii with me’ is just ridiculous.”

But what Mr Nathwani was particularly keen to reveal was that, despite Mr Pope saying otherwise, there was quite a bit of contact between he and Ms Gobbo post-Hawaii.

Ms Gobbo returns to Hawaii around 17 August. In her diary, she notes several dates she spoke to Mr Pope across the end of August and September.

“If he lied about this, what else did he lie about?” Ms Gobbo said.

Relationship between Lawyer X and the media
Prior to giving evidence, and during tense negotiations between Ms Gobbo’s counsel and the commission on whether she would even give evidence, Ms Gobbo agreed and completed an interview with ABC’s 7.30. It was a big point of contention.

Mr Chettle asked her if she was aware that at the time the interview aired, lawyers had made applications to excuse her from evidence. She said she was.

“Was it some attempt to put yourself back in the limelight?” Mr Chettle asked.

She does not answer this, but instead maintains that her health and her children had prevented her from giving evidence. Fortunately for the commission, she did anyway.

Lawyer X faces tense cross-examinations to finish off her evidence
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