Melbourne gangland convictions in question over informant scandal

Elias Hubbard
December 6, 2018

Some of Australia's most notorious underworld figures, including drug lord Tony Mokbel, will be told their defence lawyer became a police informer and gave up information about them in a scandal that has put their convictions at risk.

The High Court of Australia was scathing of the way police and the lawyer, named as EF, handled the cases and said the appropriateness of each conviction must now be re-examined, so the integrity of the justice system was maintained.

"There were a total of 386 people arrested and charged that I am specifically aware of based upon information I provided to Victoria Police, but there are probably more because as you would know, I did not always know the value or use of some of the intelligence that I was providing", Informer 3838 wrote in a letter to police command.

They could then appeal against their convictions, meaning their sentences could be reduced or convictions quashed altogether.

Andrews said the royal commission would be given a budget of $7.5m and begin work early in the new year, with an interim report outlining the number of convictions directly impacted due on 1 July 2019 and a final report due on 1 December 2019.

A commissioner has not yet been announced, but Mr Andrews said the government hoped to have the "formalities" completed "in the next couple of weeks".

Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton acknowledged the findings but stressed the force has since implemented "substantial reforms" in the management of informers.

He said the actions of police should be put into the context of the so-called gangland wars, "a desperate and risky time" where "a genuine sense of urgency was enveloping the criminal justice system, including police".

The scandal is set to embroil senior police and fuel calls for a royal commission.

The Victorian Government has received assurances from Victoria Police that its practices have changed since the barrister's recruitment as an informant, and an IBAC report in 2015, which inquired into Victoria Police's management of informants, did not find that any unlawful conduct had occurred.

"The safety of at least one individual is at risk", he said.

The case came to light when court injunctions were lifted on Monday.

The high court decision will now allow the gang members to be informed about EF's previous role, paving the way for them to appeal their convictions on the grounds of a breach of client confidentiality.

EF's actions were "fundamental and appalling breaches" of her obligations to her clients and the court, while Victoria Police sanctioned "atrocious breaches" of officers' duties, the court reported.

"The public interest in preserving EF's anonymity must be subordinated to the integrity of the criminal justice system".

"There is some degree of confidence that this is not occurring now and could not be occurring now, but we are not prepared to take everybody's self assessment and think that's enough", he said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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