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Lawyer X Bill introduced to Victorian Parliament

Landmark new reforms will strengthen Victoria Police’s management of human sources, after a royal commission delivered a number of recommendations to government following informing from Lawyer X.

user iconLauren Croft 17 August 2022 Politics
Lawyer X Bill introduced to Victorian Parliament
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Following a Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants, this new legislation will establish clear independent oversight of police to restore public confidence in the justice system and protect informants when they are used.

The Human Source Management Bill 2022, introduced to Parliament on Tuesday (16 August), will deliver on 25 of the recommendations from the inquiry into Lawyer X to ensure the chain of events investigated never happens again.

The bill is the first of its kind in Australia and sets out the process for the registration, use and management of Victoria Police’s human sources and establishes an external oversight model to ensure that informants are used in an ethical and justifiable manner.


The Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants ended in February 2020, after barrister Nicola Gobbo spent the 1990s and most of the 2000s working with Victoria Police to put her own clients behind bars; dubbed Lawyer X by media prior to her identity being revealed.

After the royal commission, 1,297 people stood to have their cases re-examined — and following the release of the commission’s final report, Victorian Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes confirmed new changes to the state’s justice system in May 2021 following 54 recommendations to the government.

This included a special investigator, implementation monitor and significant investment in the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) and the courts as part of an $87.9 million funding package.

Last year, Ms Symes appointed highly experienced legal professional Sir David Carruthers to the crucial role of implementation monitor — and in June, the Police Informants Royal Commission Implementation Monitor Bill 2021 formally established the independent statutory office held by Sir David and meant that annual reporting to Parliament on the progress of the reforms was required moving forward.  

As an extension of these measures, the Human Source Management Bill 2022 provides a clear framework for police to obtain and use information from human sources and will require Victoria Police to apply to a senior officer to register a person as a human source — something which Minister for Police Anthony Carbines said would make the current system safer for informants.

“These important changes build on the extensive work Victoria Police has already undertaken towards making their human source management more robust, safe and transparent,” he said.

In addition, the bill will make it an offence to disclose information that would reveal a person is or was a human source unless the disclosure is for a permitted purpose, with a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment.

It also includes an aggravated offence where a person who discloses the information does so to either endanger the health or safety of any person, or interfere with a criminal investigation or prosecution. The maximum penalty for this offence is 10 years imprisonment.

Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes said the new bill would mean there will be increased transparency around informants — mitigating any risk of another Lawyer X scenario.

“Human sources are extremely valuable for police but we need clear laws in place to appropriately manage the inherent risks that go with it for both the person involved and Victoria Police,” she said.

“These important and nation-leading reforms achieve the appropriate balance between mitigating the risks of using human sources and ensuring Victoria Police can continue to act on information to keep our community safe.”