Lawyer X report to be published on Monday
The inquiry that examined the mismanagement of former barrister Nicola Gobbo is set to hand down its final report on Monday, 30 November.
Over a year’s worth of work from the Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants (RCMPI) will culminate in a final report written by the Honourable Margaret McMurdo. With over 127 hearings, thousands of documents and the evidence of many at the centre of the scandal, the report is set to confirm the extent of the damage done.
According to submissions from counsel assisting the inquiry in the lead-up to this final report, Ms Gobbo’s role as a human informant with Victoria Police might have affected over 1,000 cases in the criminal justice system. In the short time since the commission came to an end, many of those affected have launched appeals. One was successful.
“Ms Gobbo informing on an accused person may have involved a breach of confidence or legal professional privilege, and involvement in the tainting of evidence may create a further conflict of interest. In both circumstances, an accused person may have been deprived of the opportunity to claim privilege or object to admissibility of evidence,” the submissions from counsel assisting noted and called on Ms McMurdo to confirm this.
On the facts before the commission, counsel assisting also submitted that there could have been three principal criminal offences committed by Victoria Police members due to their handling of Ms Gobbo: misconduct while in public office; perverting the course of justice or conspiring to pervert the course of justice; and aiding, abetting, counselling or precuring Ms Gobbo to obtain property or obtain financial advantage by deception.
Lawyers for Ms Gobbo submitted that evidence against her demonstrates many of her clients provided information in a social setting – and not under the guise of the lawyer-client relationship – which meant she had done no wrong. It is despite her admitting in the course of the inquiry that what she did was ethically wrong and her admittance that it did compromise the trials of many of her then-Victorian gangland clients.
Her lawyers argued that Victoria Police and Ms Gobbo behaved negligently in allowing Ms Gobbo to breach her duties as she did. Although they agreed that the conduct had impacted upon the administration of justice, it was “not unlawful” and was mitigated by the “lack of oversight and guidance by senior [decision-makers] at Victoria Police”.
The extent to which Ms Gobbo breached her duties to the legal profession and affected the trials of her former clients will be confirmed in the final report. Ms McMurdo is also expected to confirm the extent to which Victoria Police assisted in these breaches and how the management of Ms Gobbo was the detriment to many hearings. Although she cannot rule on criminal findings for police, there will be plenty to come out of the report.
Lawyers Weekly will be providing updates over the course of the day as we make our way through the final report, including live updates on our Twitter. More to come soon.