The Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants has delivered its progress report to the Governor of Victoria, with commissioner Margaret McMurdo calling out delays which she says have impacted public hearings thus far.
Commissioner McMurdo postponed round four, day 10 public hearings until 1:30pm today, noting that she would be delivering the RCMPI’s progress report, of which was tabled by the Victorian government this morning.
The progress report, which summaries the commission’s first six months of inquiry and how it is addressing its terms of reference, has noted several delays in the provision of material that have “hampered the commission’s progress”. Despite this, however, McMurdo said she remains optimistic going forward.
“I remain cautiously optimistic that the difficulties encountered to date will lessen as the inquiry continues, particularly with the development of a protocol between the commission, Victoria Police and the State of Victoria to deal with ongoing public interest immunity claims,” commissioner McMurdo said.
As of 19 June 2019, the commission had examined 32 witnesses, with counsel-assisting focusing on “Lawyer X” Nicola Gobbo’s contact with Victoria Police between 1993 and 2004.
Remaining submissions, including many from people who claim to have been affected by Ms Gobbo’s conduct, await publication while the commission considers their treatment, commissioner McMurdo noted in the progress report.
“While the commission’s preference is to make submissions available to the public, there are several reasons why the commission may choose not to publish a submission. These include the author’s preference for the treatment of their submission; the need to protect the safety of the author or other individuals; and legal restrictions including client legal privilege, public interest immunity, defamation and suppression orders,” she said.
“Where appropriate, the commission will publish additional submissions as soon as possible.
“... The commission is continuing to work hard to obtain all information necessary to review potentially affected cases, and urges anyone who believes they may have been affected by Ms Gobbo’s conduct to contact the commission by 31 July 2019. If the commission does not receive all relevant information by the end of July, it may not be possible for the commission to assess whether a case may have been affected by Ms Gobbo’s conduct as a human source.”
In thanking commissioner McMurdo today, Attorney-General of Victoria Jill Hennessy said the progress report highlights both the significance and complexity of the commission’s task.
“The report outlines the key events that led to the establishment of the commission, the work it has undertaken to date and how it intends to approach its terms of reference over the coming months,” Ms Hennessy said.
“The commission is analysing a large volume of material and navigating the need to keep certain information confidential, while also conducting an inquiry that is open to the public to the greatest extent possible.
“I want to thank the commissioner, the Honourable Margaret McMurdo AC, and her team for the work they have done to date. The royal commission was formed to establish the facts and provide assurance this can’t occur again.”
The commission’s final report is due for completion by 1 July 2020.
Lawyers Weekly continues to cover the RCMPI in a live blog, offering readers a real-time rundown of the latest developments.
To visit the live blog, click here.