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Royal Commission into lawyer informants in Victoria

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This case reflects very badly on both the Victorian police and the lawyer who turned police informant on her own clients:

“Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced a royal commission into the recruitment and management of police informants, following revelations Victoria Police used a defence lawyer as a registered informant at the height of Melbourne’s gangland war.

The announcement comes after legal suppressions were lifted on a High Court decision which described Victoria police’s use of the lawyer as an informant as “reprehensible conduct” which corrupted potentially dozens of high profile convictions of central gangland players.

“I am left in no doubt that a royal commission is the right thing to do,” Mr Andrews said…

The High Court judgment raised serious issues relating to the “management of informants, or shall I say the mismanagement of informants”, as well as potential impacts upon the safety or the integrity of criminal convictions, he said.

The $7.5 million inquiry will examine how many cases were directly impacted; what — if any — changes need to be made in the management of informants, and will make recommendations and provide advice on a process for dealing with those affected, Mr Andrews said…

Earlier, the High Court savaged a decision by Victoria Police to use the lawyer as a registered informant, describing it as “reprehensible conduct’’ which corrupted potentially dozens of high profile convictions of central players in Melbourne’s gangland war.

In an excoriating judgment, the High Court found the lawyer committed “fundamental and appalling’’ breaches of professional obligations to clients, and the court and Victoria Police command was sanctioned “atrocious’’ breaches by police their sworn duty to act faithfully according to the law.

The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions has written to some of Australia’s most notorious criminals — including gangland drug baron Tony Mokbel — informing them their convictions and lengthy prison sentences are based on evidence provided by their defence lawyer when the lawyer was a police informant.

The extraordinary revelation follows a protracted and highly secretive legal saga played out within the Victorian Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and High Court of Australia.

It has plunged Victoria Police into crisis, with the legitimacy of potentially hundreds of criminal convictions now in doubt.”

What a mess.

The High Court was understandably extremely unimpressed:

“[[the lawyer]’s actions in purporting to act as counsel for the Convicted Persons while covertly informing against them were fundamental and appalling breaches of [[the lawyer]’s obligations as counsel to her clients and of [[the lawyer]’s duties to the court. Likewise, Victoria Police were guilty of reprehensible conduct in knowingly encouraging [[the lawyer] to do as she did and were involved in sanctioning atrocious breaches of the sworn duty of every police officer to discharge all duties imposed on them faithfully and according to law without favour or affection, malice or ill-will. As a result, the prosecution of each Convicted Person was corrupted in a manner which debased fundamental premises of the criminal justice system. It follows, as Ginnane J and the Court of Appeal held, that the public interest favouring disclosure is compelling: the maintenance of the integrity of the criminal justice system demands that the information be disclosed and that the propriety of each Convicted Person’s conviction be re-examined in light of the information. The public interest in preserving [[the lawyer]’s anonymity must be subordinated to the integrity of the criminal justice system.” 

It seems clear that the barrister will have to enter into witness protection with her children as a result of her reckless and foolish decision to betray some very dangerous clients.

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