Monday, December 16, 2019

Victoria, Australia: Extraordinary Revelations: Nicola Gobbo: High profile criminal barrister turned registered police informer. What corruption could be greater than this - both on her part and on the part of the high ranking police who used her to gather evidence against her clients? And why has this dark story of corruption largely been ignored in North America? (Perhaps because President Trump is not mentioned even once? HL)...From my Publisher's Note: "It is shattering to think that a defence lawyer would commit such atrocious acts - and that the police would ask a lawyer to commit them. But this has happened in Australia - and a Royal Commission is now becoming deeply immersed in determining the facts and determining who, in authority, was responsible - and who knew what. I am surprised that this scandal - referred to as 'the lawyer X' scandal - has received so little attention in North America - as there are important lessons to be learned wherever the corruption occurs. I will therefore be dipping into this sordid mess from time to time. More grist for our mill." Harold Levy: Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog.


Throughout many of the thousands of posts on this Blog over the past decade, one of the most important points raised has been the  extremely important role played by defence lawyers in raising doubts about the prosecution's often complex scientific evidence - such as DNA evidence, blood splatter, and ballistics evidence, skillfully challenging prosecution expert witnesses, exposing police and prosecution corruption (such as  securing false confessions and concealing exculpatory evidence such as expert reports favoring the defence), investing all the time necessary into the case, and skillfuly preparing and advancing a defence. To the accused person, who feels the heavy burden of the prosecution, the defence lawyer is the only person that he or she can - and must trust - with the most confidential information relating to the case. The criminal justice system cannot function as it must if  that trust is shattered. The harm caused is immeasurable. That's why I am  horrified by developments in Victoria, Australia, where  a high profile criminal barrister has been revealed to have been acting as a registered police informer  for years - has betrayed her duty to scrupulously defend her clients by turning them over to the police. It is shattering to think that a defence lawyer would commit such atrocious acts - and that the police would ask a lawyer to commit them. But this has happened in Australia - and a Royal Commission is now becoming deeply immersed in determining the facts  and determining who, in authority, was responsible - and who knew what. I am surprised that this scandal - referred to as 'the lawyer X'  scandal - has received so little attention in North America - as there are important  lessons to be learned  wherever the corruption occurs.  I will therefore be dipping into this sordid mess from time to time. More  grist for our mill.

Harold Levy: Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog.


BACKGROUND: (From a story by reporter Michael Brissenden published by ABC on October 21, 2019, under the heading 'Lawyer X scandal has rocked the justice system. What did the top cops know?')   We learn from this story that the woman once known as 'Lawyer X', who was unmasked as high-profile criminal barrister Nicola Gobbo, was a registered police informer through the 1990s and during Victoria's gangland war. Her clients were a who's who of the underbelly world, including infamous gangsters. Her actions, sanctioned by the police hierarchy, have now placed Victoria Police at the centre of a royal commission that is calling into question notable criminal convictions and the conduct of some of the state's most senior police.  Former Victorian chief crown prosecutor Gavin Silbert QC believes that if Ms Gobbo is charged after the royal commission, it is likely police officers would also have to be charged. "They were all perverting the course of justice," he said. "The upper hierarchy of Victoria Police has to take complete responsibility. "Those who knew and sanctioned what was happening were guilty of terrible breaches of duty and extraordinarily unethical behaviour." There appears to be little doubt that the high ranking police officers knew what serious crimes they were committing. " Lawyer Ruth Parker, who had her client's murder conviction quashed because of the scandal, said Victoria Police were fully aware they were undermining the justice system. "Anybody who thinks that registering a criminal defence barrister as a human source, using them against her clients, facilitating dishonesty in the court system, facilitating perjury, and covering up the fact that it had happened, that is the very definition of corruption," she said." Why did the police go to such extremes? Brissenden's story makes clear that throughout the early 2000s, two of Melbourne's most notorious crime gangs waged a bloody fight for control of the city's lucrative drug trade.
Police were under pressure to rein in the violence as the bodies piled up. As the gangland figures rolled up to court, Ms Gobbo was often at their side representing them. She also became the secret weapon for the police in the underworld war, betraying her clients to help police secure convictions. The story can be read in its entirety at:


ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND: WIKIPEDIA: "On 3 December 2018 the Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews ordered the Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants. As part of its inquiry, the Royal Commission examined the number of, and extent to which, criminal cases may have been affected by the conduct of Gobbo, as a criminal defence barrister who was, at various times between January 1995 and January 2009, acting as a police informant with Victoria Police.[14] The Commission was due to report to the Government in July 2019.; however, as the inquiry proceeded it became clear that this timeline was not achievable. In May 2019 the Commission received $20 million in additional funding and a twelve-month extension to July 2020.[15] In May 2019 it was reported that some of Gobbo's clients who received criminal convictions could be potentially overturned on appeal, on the basis that Gobbo may have provided information to police that led to the conviction of her clients; whilst at the same time representing her clients as their defence lawyer.[16] At the time of lifting the suppression order to reveal Gobbo's identity, the High Court found that [Gobbo] covertly informing on [her] clients was a "fundamental and appalling breach" of the barrister's obligations.[17] In handing down their decision on appeal from the Supreme Court of Victoria, Appeals Court, the judges commented:

"Generally speaking, it is of the utmost importance that assurances of anonymity of the kind that were given to EF [Gobbo] are honoured. If they were not, informers could not be protected and persons would be unwilling to provide information to the police which may assist in the prosecution of offenders. That is why police informer anonymity is ordinarily protected by public interest immunity. But where, as here, the agency of police informer has been so abused as to corrupt the criminal justice system, there arises a greater public interest in disclosure to which the public interest in informer anonymity must yield.

"EF's actions in purporting to act as counsel for the Convicted Persons while covertly informing against them were fundamental and appalling breaches of EF's obligations as counsel to her clients and of EF's duties to the court. Likewise, Victoria Police were guilty of reprehensible conduct in knowingly encouraging EF 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."

The entire Wikipedia entry can be read at the link below:


UP-DATE: "Six bombshell moments from the lawyer X royal commission into Nicola Gobbo's informer role," by reporter Sarah Farnsworth, published by ABC   News on December 7, 2019.

GIST "A flurry of death threats, doctored witness statements, sexual flings with police officers and a convicted murderer walking free — the Lawyer X royal commission has turned up no shortage of bombshells. And it's about to get bigger. For the next two weeks, Victoria Police's bigwigs past and present will take to the stand to explain what they knew, what they did with that knowledge and why.
For those of you wanting to brush up on your knowledge of one of the biggest legal scandals in Victoria's history — here are six bombshell moments from the inquiry so far.

Nicola Gobbo's fear of being found out led her to break into a fellow barrister's office:

Fully ensconced as a human source, in June 2007, Nicola Gobbo broke into the offices of lawyer Sharon Cure, whose clients included crime boss Carl Williams. A secret police report revealed she rifled through documents in the office, terrified they could reveal how she'd helped a star witness implicate Williams in three murders. She later told one of her police handlers she'd found a list of prison phone records that risked her exposure — and she wasn't happy. "She's annoyed about this as she was reassured these records could never be obtained," a note from the handler read. "She says she has got no faith in the system." For what she deemed their sloppy police work, she demanded tickets to a Lionel Richie concert. Evidence of Ms Gobbo's fear of being discovered by her gangland clients as a police informer has been a recurring theme throughout the Lawyer X saga. "If this gets out, say nice things at my eulogy, because I will be gone — and enjoy the royal commission," Ms Gobbo once told her police handlers. Her lawyer also unsuccessfully argued to the commission that her poor health should excuse her from giving evidence.

Death threats came in thick and fast:

Ms Gobbo's fear of discovery can be better understood when placed alongside the kinds of threats she was receiving from gangland figures who had begun to suspect she was collaborating with police. Within a year of being registered as a police informer for what was her third and most prolific period of snitching, Ms Gobbo began receiving death threats. The threats, many of them made anonymously, escalated in tone. In one text, she was told: "Keep your mouth shut slut, f***en' dog." Others were more direct: "You will get it dog one in the head and one in the heart.
"Look out the window dog so I can put a couple in you rat."
By 2006, Carl Williams had put two and two together from his Barwon Prison jail cell. He complained to legal bodies about her continual visits to prisoners she wasn't acting for. In one letter to a mate, Williams said he was convinced she was getting others to "roll".
He was right.

Professional lines crossed between Ms Gobbo and officers:

As if the relationship between Ms Gobbo and the gangland clients she was informing on wasn't complicated enough, it also seems she had blurred lines with some police officers. A bugged conversation captured Nicola Gobbo telling her handlers she'd had an on-again, off-again sexual relationship with former assistant commissioner Jeff Pope. The tryst, Ms Gobbo said, happened when Mr Pope was her handler in 1999, during her brief second stint as a human source. "I bet you he's never declared it," she was recorded as saying. However, Mr Pope denies ever having a sexual relationship with the lawyer. Former detective Paul Dale says he also had an affair with Ms Gobbo — a claim she denies. On the stand, Detective Senior Sergeant Tim Argall admitted to "an episode of physical intimacy" with the lawyer in 1997, but insisted it happened only once.

Ms Gobbo played a critical role in the tomato tin ecstasy bust:

The world's largest ecstasy haul — 15 million ecstasy tablets hidden in tomato tins — was flying under the radar until Ms Gobbo passed intel to police. Secret recordings reveal during a 2007 meeting she handed over a photocopy of shipping documents, containing details of the container which contained the hidden drugs. Ms Gobbo said her client, drug trafficker Rob Karam, had given her "a bill of lading" (a detailed list of a ship's cargo) for safekeeping during a coffee catch-up and she'd quickly copied them. The documents were given to the police to keep. The seizure of the container led to the arrests of more than 30 drug cartel members. A later offhand comment Ms Gobbo made about "the Griffith boys" was the first time police realised New South Wales-based Calabrian Mafia boss Pasquale Barbaro was part of the smuggling operation.

Her role in a miscarriage of justice saw a convicted murderer freed:
On July 26 this year, Faruk Orman took his first steps as a free man after 12 years behind bars for murder. He became the first person to get out of jail as a result of Victoria Police's use of Nicola Gobbo. The work of the royal commission was central to the decision to quash Mr Orman's 20-year jail term for being the getaway driver in the 2002 Port Melbourne shooting of Victor Peirce. Once it was known Ms Gobbo had been intrinsically involved in turning the star witness in the case into a police informer, all bets were off.
When Ms Gobbo learnt the key witness in the case — another of her clients — was getting cold feet about giving evidence, she encouraged police to "put him straight", by paying him a visit in prison.
So great was the evidence of a miscarriage of justice in the case, the Victorian Government intervened and sent his appeal case back to the courts. Three Court of Appeal judges swiftly overturned his conviction. It was ruled on the facts Ms Gobbo had prevented Mr Orman from getting a fair trial and a retrial would be unjust.

And she doctored her clients' statements:

One of Ms Gobbo's clients-turned-supergrass made more than 30 statements to police helping secure jail time for multiple criminals, but Ms Gobbo bragged to her police handlers that she had edited them all. She told them she was let into the Purana detectives' headquarters by a police officer called Mark, and made the changes.  "I corrected them but no one ever knows about that," Ms Gobbo said. Ms Gobbo described the secret doctoring as a "well-thought-out plan" but said the idea might have come from the former boss of the Purana Taskforce, Jim O'Brien. Mr O'Brien has denied any knowledge of such a plan.

Top brass to take the stand: 

To date, the inquiry has heard serious allegations that could warrant criminal charges, including perverting the course of justice. After months inching up the police chain of command, the next fortnight's witnesses include Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton, former chief commissioner Simon Overland and his former deputy Sir Ken Jones. The final witness will be former chief commissioner Christine Nixon, who was at the helm of the force during Melbourne's gangland war. The commission is still to unravel just how high up the chain the approval for the decision to use a barrister against her clients went — and whether judges, prosecutors and politicians were in the know."

The entire story can be read at:
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic"  section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to:  Harold Levy: Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog;