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Lapsed Lawyer X legislation brought back in 2023

Victoria has led the charge on the management of informants with the implementation of new Lawyer X legislation, introduced to Parliament on Tuesday (7 February).

user iconLauren Croft 08 February 2023 Politics
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After a Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants, the new Human Source Management Bill 2023 will deliver on 25 of the recommendations from the commission, in a move to strengthen the way police manage informants and establish clear independent oversight to ensure public confidence in the justice system and the protection of informants.

The proposed legislation 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.

The legislation was first introduced to Parliament in August 2022 but lapsed prior to the 2022 state election. Now, the bill will be reintroduced without any substantive changes, continuing the work of the Andrews Labor government.


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. She was 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.

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

This includes the commission’s recommendation to allow for exceptional and compelling circumstances where it is appropriate to register a lawyer as a police informant, such as a need to respond to a significant threat to community safety.

Minister for Police Anthony Carbines said that “a clear case was made for change to improve the system, and that’s what this legislation delivers”.

“It means Victoria Police will have added certainty in its efforts to combat serious crime,” he said.

The framework established by the bill means that Victoria Police’s use of informants remains appropriate and justified and that strict protections are put in place to manage risks, particularly those relating to higher-risk informants — where a person has access to privileged information, is under the age of 18 or has a serious physical or mental health condition.

Victoria Police will also have to apply to a senior officer to register a person as a human source, with applications to register higher-risk sources requiring approval by an officer at the rank of assistant commissioner or higher.

Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes said that an external oversight model would help to guide Victoria Police to ensure the safety of human sources.

“Victoria Police will have a clear framework to help it manage highly sensitive information and ensure the welfare of police informants,” she said.

“Key to the operation of these laws will be multiple levels of robust oversight, bolstering the public’s confidence in our criminal justice system.”