Given the “seriousness” of the matters before the state inquiry into Victoria Police’s management of informant and barrister Nicola Gobbo, the Andrews government has given the royal commission more time to report.
The Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants was initially supposed to report on the number of cases impacted by Ms Gobbo’s conduct, and the extent to which those cases were impacted, by 1 July 2019, with another report on other matters listed in the terms of reference by December.
However, the Victorian government has extended the commission’s timeframe, with a progress report now to be provided by the original completion date and a final report on all of the terms of reference to be submitted to the state’s governor by 1 July 2020.
Public hearings will continue to be held until March 2020, with the extension and broadening of the commission’s terms of reference to “significantly” increase the volume of material required for examination.
The government has also approved a request for additional funding, in light of the amended terms of reference, with a further $20.5 million to be injected into the royal commission.
Commissioner Margaret McMurdo explained that the quantum of activity undertaken by Ms Gobbo meant that more time was needed.
“The increased span of inquiry into Ms Gobbo’s activities (from five to over eighteen years) coupled with a multitude of suppression orders and numerous other information delays has made reporting on our first term of reference by 1 July 2019 impossible.”
“A further difficulty is that the inquiry into the first term of reference is closely linked with term of reference two which explores the conduct of current and former members of Victoria Police in their disclosures about recruitment, handling and management of Ms Gobbo as a human source. Those inquiries and any resulting reports cannot be efficiently separated.”
Victorian Attorney-General Jill Hennessy agreed that there was a need for additional time and funding, given the “complexities” of navigating large volumes of sensitive material “that requires timely and detailed analysis, as well as security of the evidence”.
“The royal commission was formed to establish the facts and provide assurance this can’t occur again,” Ms Hennessy said.
“Given the seriousness of the matters involved, it’s important we consider all avenues to preserve the integrity of the criminal justice system and keep the community safe.”
The commission further noted that no one would be disadvantaged by the extension of time, and committed to continue disclosing any relevant information regarding persons in custody whose cases may have been affected “in a timely way” so that convictions and/or sentences can be challenged in the courts.
“Any person who believes their case may have been affected by Ms Gobbo can contact the commission for their matter to be assessed and analysed as part of its inquiry,” it said.
Public hearings will resume on 17 June 2019.