Former High Court judge Geoffrey Nettle has been given new powers to examine the potential criminal conduct and disciplinary matters revealed in the Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants, including major findings against several Victorian Police officers and commissioners and former barrister Nicola Gobbo.
Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes announced that Justice Nettle, as Victoria’s special investigator, has officially been given new powers to investigate the criminal conduct revealed during the Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informant’s (RCMPI) inquiry. This fulfils yet another recommendation made in its final report.
Under the Special Investigator Bill 2021, Justice Nettle will consider whether there is sufficient evidence for criminal charges or disciplinary breaches in connection with Victoria Police’s use of Ms Gobbo as a human source against her own clients.
“This is another important step in restoring the public’s confidence in our criminal justice system and to right the wrongs laid bare by the Royal Commission,” Ms Symes said. “We’re meeting our promise to implement all of the Royal Commission’s recommendations directed to the Victorian government.”
Over several years, Ms Gobbo worked with Victoria Police to inform on her gangland clients, including Tony Mokbel, while simultaneously providing legal advice and representation. RCMPI commissioner the Honourable Margaret McMurdo AC summarised Ms Gobbo’s relationship with the police as “duplicitous and improper”.
“[Ms Gobbo’s] breach of obligations as a lawyer has undermined the administration of justice, compromised criminal convictions, damaged the standing of Victoria Police as well as the profession, and shaken the public trust and confidence in Victoria’s justice system,” Ms McMurdo said in the final report.
In those same final remarks, Ms McMurdo also criticised the police force for failing to pursue legal advice until late into the misconduct, for their encouragement of Ms Gobbo to act as a barrister for clients she was informing against, and for failing to disclose these matters to the courts during ongoing prosecution trials appropriately.
“Ms Gobbo could not have informed on her clients without the assistance of the police officers to whom she informed. During this period, they too displayed negative patterns of conduct that would continue in the future,” Ms McMurdo wrote.
The government has provided $87.9 million to implement the Royal Commission recommendations, including $13.47 million to establish the Office of the Special Investigator. All recommendations have been delivered within the three and six-month implementation timeframes, and the 12-month deadlines are on track.