Saturday, May 22, 2021

Annie Dookhan, Sonja Farak, and another name notorious name we would probably be familiar with if we lived in Australia: Nicola Gobbo (AKA Lawyer X), AKA 'Informant 3838.' The three women share something in common: each one of them was responsible for disastrous convulsions in their respective criminal justice systems: Annie Doukhan and Sonja Farak (Massachusetts) whose criminal acts led to one of the largest mass dismissals of criminal convictions in United States history. Nicola Gobba, (Victoria), a former gangland barrister, responsible for informing on her clients to the police. I have devoted hundreds of posts over the years to Dookhan and Farak. Now it's Gobbo's turn to grace the pages of The Charles Smith Blog, through Reporter Tammy Mills November 30, 2020 story in The Age, headed: "Informer 3838: The Nicola Gobbo Lawyer X scandal explained. As the sub-heading tells us: "More than 1000 convictions under question, tens of millions of dollars expended and a host of former and current police facing charges. What one earth was the Nicola Gobbo story all about?" Read on!

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: Justice is sacred. The public is entitled to expect that every person working in criminal justice system - from the lowest levels to the top - must respect their sacred trust. Occasionally the public expectation is shattered  - witness  lab  chemists Annie Dookhan and Sonja Farak who destroyed thousands of lives from the secrecy and privacy of their respective Massachusett's crime labs - and witness gangland lawyer  Nicola Gobbo,  of Victoria, Australia, (Informer 3838)  subject of this disturbing  post, who sold out her clients to the police, who, to their shame, were all too willing to help her betray her trust,  and who  share responsibility for the obscene harm  caused to their state's criminal justice system. Annie Dookhan; Sonja Farak; Nicola Gobbo (Informant 3838): Their names will be forever linked for shattering that sacred trust.

Harold Levy: Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog.


PASSAGE OF THE DAY; "There have been isolated cases of lawyers dobbing on their clients in the United States (you can read about that here), but there has been no known case in global history on the scale of Ms Gobbo, academics have previously told The Age"Nothing to this extreme, that we know of, has happened anywhere in the world," Melbourne University law professor Jeremy Gans said. Supreme Court justice Timony Ginnane also described the conduct as "unprecedented".


QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I would like to make clear today Victoria Police’s absolute acknowledgement that the management of Nicola Gobbo as a human source and the manner in which the information she provided was used, was a profound failure by our organisation that must not, and will not, ever be repeated." Chief Commissioner Shane Patton.


QUOTE TWO OF THE DAY: ""The integrity of the Victorian justice system has been shredded because of the shortcuts and rules broken that took place during this shocking and tawdry period in Melbourne’s history," Edward O'Donohue, shadow attorney-general in Victoria


STORY: ""Informer 3838: The Nicola Gobbo Lawyer X scandal explained," by Reporter Tammy Mills, published by 'The Age' on November 20, 2020.

SUB-HEADING: ""More than 1000 convictions under question, tens of millions of dollars expended  and a host of former and current police facing charges. What one earth was the Nicola Gobbo story all about?

GIST: "The revelation in March 2019 that a former gangland barrister called Nicola Gobbo was also a police informer was a legal scandal like no other – one that threatened the foundations of the state's criminal justice system and some of Victoria Police's most celebrated convictions.

The scandal, unfolding largely in secret and shrouded by suppression orders, took almost a decade to play out until the Director of Public Prosecutions finally decided Ms Gobbo's former clients had a right to know that she might have informed on them, breaching her duties as their lawyer.

The police fought for years in the courts to try to keep her name from public disclosure. They took the case all the way to the High Court, which found in December 2018 that Victoria Police’s conduct in using her as a confidential informer was "reprehensible" and had corrupted prosecutions.

It left Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews with no choice but to call a royal commission into the police's handling of Ms Gobbo and other informers.

Thousands of news stories and millions of dollars later, two convicted criminals released and many others launching appeals, now the royal commission has handed down its final report.

So what was the Nicola Gobbo scandal all about? What have we learned since she was named? And what will happen next

Who is Nicola Gobbo and what did she do?

The 48-year-old niece of the former Victorian governor Sir James Gobbo, was one of the youngest women ever admitted to the bar in 1998. She made a name for herself during the gangland era in the early 2000s by representing a rogue's gallery of Melbourne's underworld, including murdered gangster Carl Williams and drug kingpin Tony Mokbel.

She was also a police informer, and under the registration number 3838, she gave police information about her criminal associates, many who had been or were clients.

What's wrong with a lawyer being a police informer?

The problem is when a lawyer gives police information about their own clients.

Conversations between lawyers and the people they represent are protected by what's called legal professional privilege, which keeps communication between lawyers and clients confidential. This is supposed to enable clients to talk without fear the information will be used against them, and lawyers to provide legal advice knowing the full picture.

There are exceptions to this, including if the communication is for the purposes of the client committing a crime. But in Ms Gobbo's case, she was giving police information about her own clients and in some cases, representing them in court while simultaneously informing on them. She was completely conflicted.

This conflict rigs the system and perverts the concept of a fair trial, which is a cornerstone of the justice system, because Ms Gobbo wasn't just failing to be independent from the prosecution when she was acting as a defence lawyer, she was an agent of police.

The High Court in its 2018 judgment (when it was deciding whether Ms Gobbo's name should be revealed to her clients) said as a result, prosecutions were "corrupted in a manner which debased fundamental premises of the criminal justice system”.

How did Nicola Gobbo become an informer?

Ms Gobbo's dealings with police stretch back to her Melbourne University days. She was first registered as a police informer in 1995 when she was still a law student.

At the time, she had been feeding police information about a boyfriend after their Carlton house was raided for drugs two years earlier (Ms Gobbo got away with a good behaviour bond).

Ms Gobbo was registered a second time in 1999, the year after she became a barrister, because she was supplying information about another lawyer who she claimed was laundering money.

But it's her third registration from 2005 to 2010, when she became Informer 3838, that's at the heart of this controversy.

The reasons she became an informer are mixed. Lawyers for the commission said she demonstrated a willingness to provide information to police, even if it was contrary to her interests or those of her clients. Though the force footed some of Gobbo's expenses along the way (including tickets to see pop star Pink in concert), it wasn't about the money.

She had also suffered a stroke the year before, at the age of 32, and said she was under stress from her notorious and violent clients.

"I'm here because I've had enough ... and I don't know the way out," she told her police handlers the first time she met them (the meeting was secretly recorded). "I'm nearly 33, what have I done with my life? I've had a stroke, I get up at six o'clock, go to work by seven, spend all day working, very rarely do I go anywhere or do anything … for what?”

Ms Gobbo herself told the royal commission she was also driven by a need to be wanted, and to belong.

"Looking back I wanted to belong, I wanted to be the, the, um, the holder of every bit of information about every drug trafficker up and down the supply chain," she told the inquiry.

"It was mostly my, pathetic as it sounds, my inability to say no and my, my need to be, I guess to be wanted or to be valued or feel valued."

From the police side of things, she had information that they wanted, particularly on Mokbel, and had become so close to her criminal client that they suspected she was involved in his syndicate.

And in the context of the gangland wars (a notorious spate of murders and shootings between gangs over the drug trade in Melbourne), police had confronted a so-called "wall of silence" from the players who would not give information on each other. They could not resist the information.

"I have a duty of care to her and that is to make sure she doesn't get hurt," one of her main handlers told the royal commission, "but I have a role as a policeman to see if she has access to information that could be useful to ... stop the gangland killings.”

What are the key findings of the royal commission?

In the four-volume, 1000 page report, the key recommendation by the commissioner, Margaret McMurdo was the establishment of a special investigator who was independent from Victoria Police and the Director of Public Prosecutions, to consider whether criminal charges should be brought against current and former Victoria Police.

Ms McMurdo found the convictions or findings of guilt of 1011 people may have been affected by Victoria Police's use of Ms Gobbo as a human source, and she was scathing of Ms Gobbo, saying her "duplicitous and improper conduct spanned a period of more than 15 years".

Some members of Victoria Police had fallen short of their legal, moral and ethical duties, and as a result, "they corrupted the criminal justice system," Ms McMurdo found. The police generally, including senior officers who knew, "tolerated bending the rules to help solve serious crime". 

They also failed until far too late to get legal advice about Ms Gobbo's use as an informer, and found the "compelling" reason for that was "that Victoria Police did not want to be told they could not use Ms Gobbo in the ways they intended”.

Of other potential Gobbos – members of the legal and allied professions being used as informers – Ms McMurdo found no wrongdoing, but noted that it did not have access to 11 human source files because police invoked a public interest immunity argument. More work was required to establish if there were further problems in those cases.

Why have police fought so hard to keep elements of this scandal secret?

The scandal is embarrassing, but by making it public, it also threatens several high-profile convictions that police worked hard to ensure. But police say they wanted to keep Ms Gobbo's double dealings a secret because they were scared she'd be killed.

"That risk has been spoken of so often that it is easy to forget what it really meant," Victoria Police lawyers submitted to the commission.

"It meant that if Ms Gobbo's role became known then it was highly likely she would be murdered."

Until a suppression order was lifted last year, her identity had been hidden behind her registration number - Informer 3838 - and the pseudonym of EF that she was given in court.

The force were also worried the exposure of Ms Gobbo would not only endanger her life and those of her two young children, but create a "chilling effect" on people coming forward to give information to police, undermining confidence in the police's ability to keep their informers' identities a secret.

How did this come to light?

It was a controversial former detective by the name of Paul Dale that set the ball rolling. Mr Dale was charged, though never convicted, over the 2004 double murder of Terence and Christine Hodson. The investigation was the most significant police corruption case in the state's history (Mr Dale said he had nothing to do with it).

When that case collapsed, Mr Dale faced fresh criminal charges of lying to the Australian Crime Commission (which he was acquitted of). Ms Gobbo was the key witness against him. Mr Dale requested documents from Victoria Police through the court process to find out more about her relationship with police.

Victoria Police didn't want to hand over documents, fearing it would reveal the extent of Ms Gobbo's relationship with police, so they sought legal advice for the first time. The 2011 legal advice warned convictions were at risk because of the use of the lawyer as an informer.

In response, former chief commissioner Graham Ashton commissioned a review, called the Comrie Review, which then led to a secret Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission inquiry.

Newspaper The Herald Sun also began writing about Ms Gobbo (referring to her as Lawyer X). As the pressure increased, the Office of Public Prosecutions and Victoria Police went to court to fight disclosing her identity to her clients. That's where the High Court came in, finally ruling that disclosure to her former clients could occur. That led to the suppression order on her identity to be lifted and the royal commission established.

Has anything like this happened before?

There have been isolated cases of lawyers dobbing on their clients in the United States (you can read about that here), but there has been no known case in global history on the scale of Ms Gobbo, academics have previously told The Age.

"Nothing to this extreme, that we know of, has happened anywhere in the world," Melbourne University law professor Jeremy Gans said.

Supreme Court justice Timony Ginnane also described the conduct as "unprecedented".

What will this mean for Gobbo's former clients? Will they all be let out of jail?

The royal commission said the convictions or findings of guilt of 1011 people may have been affected by Ms Gobbo's involvement, including Mokbel's.

Two convictions have been quashed already and several appeals are before the court at the moment. The first conviction to fall was Faruk Orman's. After more than a decade behind bars, the Court of Appeal set his conviction for the 2002 murder of gangster Victor Peirce aside.

The decision was based on the Director of Public Prosecutions' concession that a substantial miscarriage of justice occurred when Ms Gobbo acted as Orman's lawyer and also encouraged a gangland turncoat to become a witness against her own client.

The court decided Orman didn't have to undergo a retrial as he had served so much time already.

The second conviction to go was Zlate Cvetanovski's, who had been behind bars for 11 years for drug trafficking.

The Court of Appeal quashed his conviction (and as with Orman, decided he should not face a retrial) for a couple of reasons. The first was that Victoria Police failed to disclose Ms Gobbo's informer role, and the second was police didn't disclose the secret payments they made to the key witness against Cvetanovski.

Under the law, any compensation provided to a witness must be disclosed in criminal proceedings because they are considered "inducements" that can affect a witness' credibility. The failure to disclose the payments meant Cvetanovski couldn't properly test the evidence against him.

"The principles governing disclosure are fundamental to the integrity of criminal trials and to the maintenance of public confidence in the administration of justice," president of the Court of Appeal, Justice Chris Maxwell, said.

Mr Orman is now suing the police for millions and its expected Mr Cvetanovski will do the same.

As well as Mokbel's appeal, several men convicted over what's known as the tomato tins ecstasy bust are also appealing, notably Frank Madafferi and Rob Karam. Karam gave Ms Gobbo shipping documents that identified a container of tomato tins travelling from Italy to Melbourne that had 15 million pills hidden inside. Ms Gobbo copied the information and gave it to police. She then went on to represent a few of the men arrested over the bust.

Who has been implicated?

Aside from Ms Gobbo, Ms McMurdo was critical of some of the force’s most senior and decorated officers - including former chief commissioners Simon Overland and Graham Ashton, former gangland taskforce detective Stuart Bateson and taskforce bosses Jim O’Brien and Gavan Ryan.

She accused Mr Ashton, who retired this year, of failing in his duty by not acting to stop prosecutions contaminated by Ms Gobbo, including the prosecution of Mokbel, in 2011.

Ms McMurdo said Mr Ashton, when he was chief, could and should have conveyed a clear public message about the improper and unacceptable conduct by Victoria Police when the scandal came out.

In response, Mr Ashton's lawyers said: "Any attempt to put a sinister overlay on Mr Ashton's conduct is the product of speculation and mischaracterising the facts."

As for Mr Overland, Ms McMurdo said he should have identified the grave risks involved in registering a criminal defence barrister as a human source.

She said Mr Overland likely did not seek legal advice about her use because it would limit the information he hoped to obtain from Ms Gobbo to help solve the gangland wars.

Ms McMurdo said there was an “unacceptable willingness throughout the organisation to tolerate bending the rules to help solve serious crime".

Questions have also been raised about who in the legal sector knew and did nothing about it either. Ms Gobbo's lawyers told the royal commission there was material suggesting two current Supreme Court judges and former heads of public prosecutions at a state and federal level knew, at the very least, Ms Gobbo was acting in conflict.

"The only lawyer who was scrutinised and criticised was Ms Gobbo," they said.

Will anyone be charged?

Ms McMurdo made no recommendations for criminal charges, saying that would normally be up to the prosecuting authorities. But the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) said it would not prosecute, and passed the buck to the state's criminal investigation agencies, Victoria Police and the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission.

IBAC said it didn't have the jurisdiction, and Victoria Police took no action when IBAC referred its 2015 findings to then chief commissioner Ashton.

With no clear path out of the mess, Ms McMurdo recommended the establishment of a brand new investigative body, saying in her report's "key recommendation" that the government should appoint a special investigator with full powers to examine whether Ms Gobbo committed any criminal offences connected with her conduct as a police source.

According to Doug Drummond QC, who was appointed a special prosecutor following Queensland's Fitzgerald royal commission, such a model was required so the prosecutor was free of political interference.

What lasting reforms will there be?

Victoria Police has overhauled the way informers are managed, disbanding the team that handled Ms Gobbo and putting in place a new human source management unit. But the commission has suggested more changes in its 111 recommendations, which have all been accepted by the government.

The reforms make for dry reading, but they're integral to the way the justice system works, for example, thecommission called for independent oversight over police sources in the form of a public interest monitor, and more powers and resources for the state's watchdog the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) to investigate police.

The recommendations also revealed that police have created a disclosure officer position (which exists in the UK) and a committee, which involves independent organisations, whose job would be to oversee what documents are disclosed or kept secret during a court case.

The commission has also called for a new laws to involve prosecutors in decisions about confidentiality claims, also known as public interest immunity claims, in court proceedings. These claims make secret information on the basis it may put an investigation or an informer at risk, but the claims have been over-used, with police conceding information would be redacted without distinction.

This kind of thing is relevant to what happened with Ms Gobbo as her identity was often hidden in court proceedings (on at least one occasion she was allowed to look through the police evidence on her client to make sure her identity wasn't disclosed to them) so there was no independent oversight on what was going on with her use.

What will happen to Nicola Gobbo?

As talked about before, we don't know whether Ms Gobbo will face criminal charges either. We also don't know where Ms Gobbo is, as she's in hiding, so the practicalities of charging her would be difficult.

She may well sue Victoria Police again too.

In her first lawsuit in 2010 she asked for $20 million in compensation and received a $2.88 million settlement after her double life imploded. Ms Gobbo was turned from informer to witness (meaning she'd have to publicly give evidence in court) in the failed case against Paul Dale for the murders of Hodson, who was also a police informer, and his wife Christine.

The Age reported earlier this year that Ms Gobbo has already briefed a legal team to launch fresh civil action.

How much has all this cost?

The bill for the royal commission was sitting at $39.5 million, which is on top of the $1.5 million a month that former police chief Ashton estimated was costing Victoria Police for staff and legal fees for the inquiry.

Ms Gobbo's legal fees alone are more than $2 million, based on a billing pattern in Freedom of Information documents, with the Andrews government agreeing to cover her costs in negotiations last year to secure her participation in the royal commission.

This doesn't take into account the millions that was spent fighting to keep her identity a secret in the lead-up to the commission, nor the expected pay-outs to her affected clients.

What are people saying about it?

“Victoria Police were guilty of reprehensible conduct in knowingly encouraging [the lawyer] to do as she did … As a result, the prosecution of each convicted person was corrupted in a manner which debased fundamental premises of the criminal justice system.” High Court of Australia

“The Commission's findings are serious and significant and individuals and organisations must be held accountable.” Attorney-General Jill Hennessy.

"I would like to make clear today Victoria Police’s absolute acknowledgement that the management of Nicola Gobbo as a human source and the manner in which the information she provided was used, was a profound failure by our organisation that must not, and will not, ever be repeated." Chief Commissioner Shane Patton.

"So, what is the legacy of the Purana Taskforce? They tore the integrity out of policing. This arrogant corruption may have achieved a handful of convictions, two of which have been overturned with potentially many to follow, but it also discredited an entire police force and tore the system apart. The system was supposed to be fair and they made sure it wasn’t. They took the justice out of the justice system and in doing so destroyed the trust between the police and defence upon which that system depends. That is the legacy of the Purana taskforce." Ruth Parker, lawyer who for the two men to have their convictions quashed.

"The integrity of the Victorian justice system has been shredded because of the shortcuts and rules broken that took place during this shocking and tawdry period in Melbourne’s history," Edward O'Donohue, shadow attorney-general in Victoria


  • Informer 3838: Timeline of a scandal 26 years in the making

  • 1980s
    Student days
    Nicola Gobbo attends Genazzano College in Kew, a private college for girls. She earns a place to study law at the University of Melbourne.

  • 1991
    We first meet Gobbo
    Gobbo is publicly embroiled in the tragic death of Collingwood footballer Darren Millane who had a blood alcohol level of .32 when he crashed into the back of a semi-trailer at South Melbourne on October 7, 1991. She had spent the night with him at the Tunnel nightclub before he drove off in his car. She appears as a witness at the inquest into his death.

  • 1993
    Gobbo is charged with drug possession
    Police seize 1.4 kilograms of amphetamine worth $82,000 and 350 grams of cannabis at the Carlton share house where Gobbo lived as a University of Melbourne student. Two men who live at the house are convicted of drug trafficking, while Gobbo escapes without a conviction, pleading guilty to drug possession and use. At the time of her arrest Gobbo is a third-year law student and editor of its student newspaper Farrago.

  • 1995
    Becomes an informer
    Gobbo is first registered as a police informer. It is not until 10 years later that she is officially given the pseudonym Informer 3838.

  • 1996
    ALP grandstanding
    Gobbo hits the headlines during the 1996 federal election while a Labor Party member. Letters, said to be from Jeff Kennett, were released criticising John Howard. They were swiftly exposed as forgeries. Gobbo, then 23, finds herself at the centre of the scandal and provides a statement to federal police claiming the person behind the stunt is a Liberal staffer.

  • 1998
    Admitted to bar
    At the age of 25, Gobbo is the youngest woman ever admitted to the Victorian Bar and quickly becomes a prominent defence barrister.

  • 1999
    Underworld war begins
    Carl Williams is shot in Gladstone Park, beginning the underworld war. The ambitious Gobbo soon becomes the barrister of choice for many involved.

  • Early 2000s
    Becomes Tony Mokbel's lawyer
    Between 2000 and 2002 Gobbo works as part of the defence teams for a 16-year-old who is facing trial for attempted murder and 67 counts of armed robbery relating to robberies on 33 separate occasions. He’s granted bail. She later works on the Bandali Debs and Jason Roberts case after the pair are charged with murdering Sergeant Gary Silk and Senior Constable Rodney Miller at Moorabbin. She also begins to work with Tony Mokbel and begins a relationship with Drug Squad detective sergeant Paul Dale.

  • September 2002

    Mokbel gets $1 million bail
    Gobbo springs Mokbel from prison after successfully applying for $1 million bail. Mokbel kisses her on the steps of the court in a show of gratitude.

  • December 2002
    Gets saucepan killer released
    Gobbo represents Maria Gazdovic in her manslaughter trial. Gazdovic has been charged with killing her abusive husband of 50 years with a saucepan and walking stick. She is released on a two-year undertaking with the judge stating “it is the first time since 1991 that I have done so”.

  • June 2003
    Gets bail for drug trafficker
    Gobbo represents Nadim Ahmad in his bail application. The 64-year-old has been charged with trafficking a commercial quantity of ecstasy in April 2001. Bail is granted despite police fearing Ahmad presents a significant risk of reoffending.

  • March 2003
    Represents one of Victoria's biggest fraudsters
    Gobbo represents Frank De Stefano during his Supreme Court trial after the Geelong accountant is charged with stealing $8.6 million from his clients. Gobbo argues that De Stefano had a gambling addiction and notes he is an Order of Australia recipient. He is sentenced to 10 years' jail with a minimum of seven.

  • April 2003
    Rye drug lab bust
    After a major drug lab is busted in Rye, Gobbo is called in as a troubleshooter to stop one of the arrested men confessing and turning on the Mokbels.

  • June 2003
    Gets bail for drug trafficker
    Gobbo represents Nadim Ahmad in his bail application. The 64-year-old has been charged with trafficking a commercial quantity of ecstasy in April 2001. Bail is granted despite police fearing Ahmad presents a significant risk of reoffending.

  • Early 2004

    World's largest ecstasy importer calls in Gobbo
    Drug baron Rob Karam engages Gobbo as his go-to lawyer after meeting her through Mokbel a few years earlier. In 2014, Karam is sentenced to 19 years’ jail over the world's largest ecstasy bust after trying to import 15 million pills from Italy concealed in tomato tins. He is later sentenced to a further 18 years in prison for other drug offending. By now she has gathered a string of underworld clients including one of Karam's drug syndicate members and Calabrian mafia boss Pasquale Barbaro (Jason Moran's bodyguard, of the same name, was murdered in 2003).

  • May 2004
    Hodson murders
    Police informer Terence Hodson and his wife Christine are executed. Gobbo acts as a conduit between drug squad detective Paul Dale and Carl Williams before the murders. Much later, Williams tells police Dale allegedly paid hitman Rodney Collins to kill Hodson.

  • July 2004
    Health problems
    The rising barrister has a stroke at the age of 31 and undergoes heart surgery. She is devastated that none of her close clients seem to care, says she wants to change, and begins informally talking to the newly formed Purana taskforce.

  • October 2004
    Gets bail for abused husband shooter
    Gobbo represents accused murderer Claire MacDonald during her bail application. MacDonald had shot dead her husband Warren John MacDonald a few weeks earlier. She is granted bail. The court later hears MacDonald had lain in wait, dressed in camouflage gear, before shooting her abusive husband six times with his .22 bolt action rifle when he came outside to check his car at the family's country property. A jury finds her not guilty.

  • December 2004
    Appears for Jason Moran's killer
    Gobbo represents an associate of Carl Williams, charged with the 2003 murders of underworld kingpin Jason Moran and his bodyguard Pasquale Barbaro. The man later becomes one of the first underworld figures to turn police informer. Moran and Barbaro were shot at close range as they sat in a van with Moran's young twins and three other children after an Auskick clinic in North Essendon.

  • March 2006
    Mokbel flees
    Gobbo is representing Tony Mokbel on drug charges when he disappears and later flees the country to Greece. Mokbel is captured in Athens in June 2007. Mokbel later claims Gobbo advised him to flee to avoid murder charges including killing Lewis Moran.

  • April 2008
    Gobbo's BMW is set on fire
    The gangland lawyer's BMW convertible is set alight in front of diners in South Melbourne. Police appeal for witnesses and say they are not ruling out the possibility the incident is linked with organised crime.

  • 2009
    Mokbel's trial
    Gobbo represents Mokbel, who is later convicted of importing 2.9 kilograms of cocaine.

  • 2009
    Gobbo turns witness
    The barrister agrees to covertly record Paul Dale and turn witness against him in the Hodson murder case.

  • 2009
    Life under 'extreme threat'
    Informer 3838 is put under 24-hour protection by the elite Special Operations Group after her life is threatened. The threats come after the underworld realises she is a witness against Dale.

  • April 2010
    Carl Williams killed
    Matthew Johnson murders Williams in Barwon prison after he becomes a police informer against Dale. Hodson murder case collapses.

  • 2010
    Compensation from police
    Gobbo sues Victoria Police and is paid $3 million in a confidential agreement after claiming her handling by police was negligent and stress-inducing.

  • 2012
    Police review use of Informer 3838
    Current Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton is said to have instigated a review of the force's handling of Informer 3838, which is conducted by former chief Neil Comrie and leads to the disbandment of the human source unit that dealt with her.

  • 2013

    Dirty dealings with policeman Paul Dale aired
    A Supreme Court jury hears that Gobbo had sex with Dale during their time as friends. The revelations comes during Dale's court hearing over accusations he lied to the Australian Crime Commission about his relationship with Carl Williams. Gobbo was due to be a star witness at his trial before she pulled out at the last minute in 2011.

  • 2014
    Public made aware of extraordinary matter
    It is revealed in the media that Informer 3838 had been used by police as an informer while acting as a lawyer for gangland figures. Supreme Court cases are fought to determine whether the public should be made aware of the cases' details, with media barred from reporting the full extent of the matter.

  • 2014
    IBAC probe
    The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission appoints former Supreme Court Justice Murray Kellam, QC, to determine what information was gathered by police from Informer 3838. The inquiry eventually finds gross negligence in police's management of Gobbo which may have egregiously breached the administration of justice.

  • 2016
    IBAC probe questioned
    A complaint is made that police withheld documents from IBAC - the complaint is dismissed. Police launch a Supreme Court case to stop the Director of Public Prosecutions from telling Gobbo's clients their cases may be caught up in the scandal.

  • September 2018

  • Awarded by the Premier for her child-care work
    Gobbo, now a mother of two, takes to the stage at Melbourne's Government House to receive a Premier’s Volunteer Champions Award for her work at a Brighton childcare centre. Her nomination says the volunteer-run centre is now “thriving thanks to Nicki’s skilled and selfless leadership” and that she saved the not-for-profit centre from closure three years earlier.

  • November 2018
    High Court case reveals all
    The Informer 3838 legal battle concludes and the High Court of Australia allows letters to be sent to Gobbo's clients saying their cases may have been tainted by her involvement. Media are able to report on the matter.

  • December 2018
    Royal commission announced
    In one of the first acts of the re-elected Andrews government, a royal commission is announced into police's handling of Informer 3838, looking into the period between 2005-2009.

  • February 6, 2019
    Explosive revelations about Informer 3838’s history
    Victoria Police informs the royal commission that they recently became aware that Gobbo was registered as a police informer in 1995, 10 years earlier than they previously admitted. Former Victoria Police deputy commissioner Malcolm Hyde, the man appointed to lead the royal commission, steps aside due to potential conflict of interest.

  • March 1, 2019
    The big reveal
    The High Court officially lifts the suppression order, meaning Informer 3838's name can be revealed.

  • November 30, 2020
    Final report
    Margaret McMurdo delivers the royal commission's final report.

  • 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;
FINAL WORD:  (Applicable to all of our wrongful conviction cases):  "Whenever there is a wrongful conviction, it exposes errors in our criminal legal system, and we hope that this case — and lessons from it — can prevent future injustices."
Lawyer Radha Natarajan:
Executive Director: New England Innocence Project;
FINAL, FINAL WORD: "Since its inception, the Innocence Project has pushed the criminal legal system to confront and correct the laws and policies that cause and contribute to wrongful convictions.   They never shied away from the hard cases — the ones involving eyewitness identifications, confessions, and bite marks. Instead, in the course of presenting scientific evidence of innocence, they’ve exposed the unreliability of evidence that was, for centuries, deemed untouchable." So true!
Christina Swarns: Executive Director: The Innocence Project;