State to weigh cost of fall­out from Lawyer X

The Australian - - THE NATION - RE­BECCA UR­BAN

The Vic­to­rian gov­ern­ment is brac­ing for the prospect of some of the state’s most no­to­ri­ous crim­i­nals walk­ing free from prison with hefty com­pen­sa­tion che­ques if a royal com­mis­sion into the Lawyer X scan­dal finds their cases were tainted.

As Vic­to­ria Po­lice Chief Com­mis­sioner Gra­ham Ash­ton yes­ter­day de­fended his own con­duct and that of of­fi­cers dur­ing the height of Mel­bourne’s gang­land wars, Pre­mier Daniel An­drews ac­knowl­edged the po­ten­tial se­ri­ous fall­out from rev­e­la­tions that a prom­i­nent crim­i­nal de­fence lawyer had turned su­per­grass, pro­vid­ing po­lice with in­for­ma­tion on her own clients.

Slammed by the High Court as “rep­re­hen­si­ble con­duct”, the move has opened the door for dozens of crim­i­nals — in­clud­ing drug-traf­ficker Tony Mok­bel, serv­ing a min­i­mum 22 years’ jail for his crimes — to ar­gue against their con­vic­tions and seek to have them over­turned.

“No one is happy to be con­tem­plat­ing the no­tion that would see peo­ple walk free, let alone walk free with a com­pen­sa­tion cheque,” Mr An­drews said.

“Mak­ing no judg­ment on the con­duct, as a mat­ter of law, if you are wrongly con­victed, in that strictly le­gal sense, be­cause ev­i­dence used to se­cure your con­vic­tion was not ap­pro­pri­ately sourced, not ap­pro­pri­ately used, then re­gard­less of the crime you com­mit­ted you may well be elig- ible for a com­pen­sa­tion pay­ment.”

Mr An­drews said he’d been “quite shocked” by what had come out since the court’s de­ter­mi­na­tion and it was clear that a royal com­mis­sion was the “right thing to do”.

Mr Ash­ton said yes­ter­day that he ex­pected to be one of sev­eral po­lice mem­bers called to give ev­i­dence, but was “con­fi­dent in my own knowl­edge and role in this that I’ve done noth­ing wrong”.

The Chief Com­mis­sioner, who was pre­vi­ously at the Of­fice of Po­lice In­tegrity, where he sat on steer­ing com­mit­tees that over­saw two mur­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion task­forces that re­lied upon Lawyer X, told ABC Ra­dio yes­ter­day there had been numer­ous in­quiries into events that tran­spired dur­ing Mel­bourne’s gang­land war, none of which found he had been in­volved in un­eth­i­cal or il­le­gal con­duct. “I will be as truth­ful and frank as I can be,” he said. “Any sug­ges­tion I’ve done some­thing il­le­gal, that would have been dealt with at the time. It wasn’t — there was noth­ing to find. So I take con­fi­dence from that.”

Mr Ash­ton con­ceded, how- ever, that he might have to re­cuse him­self from han­dling Vic­to­ria Po­lice’s re­sponse to the royal com­mis­sion.

“It’s some­thing I want to dis­cuss with the royal com­mis­sioner when they’re ap­pointed,” he said.

Mr Ash­ton’s com­ments came as one of his pre­de­ces­sors, Si­mon Over­land, faces in­creas­ing pres­sure to ex­plain his own role in the scan­dal, fol­low­ing re­ports that he was an ar­chi­tect of the scheme that saw de­tec­tives di­rect gang­land sus­pects to Lawyer X be­tween 2005 and 2009 — the pe­riod in which she was act­ing as an in­for­mant.

Re­ports also emerged yes­ter­day that Lawyer X was in­volved in a sex­ual re­la­tion­ship with her po­lice han­dler, which were dis­missed by Mr Ash­ton.

“It’s some­thing the royal com­mis­sion will look at. I’m very con­fi­dent that when that mat­ter will be ex­am­ined it will be found to be un­sub­stan­ti­ated,” he said.

He again de­fended the ac­tions of po­lice dur­ing the “dan­ger­ous” pe­riod of Mel­bourne’s crim­i­nal his­tory.

“How many lives were saved by the un­der­world killings be­ing stopped? When you’ve got peo­ple be­ing shot at Aus­kick events with kids run­ning ev­ery­where, they will be turn­ing their minds to that.”

Mr Ash­ton de­nied that he was say­ing that the ends jus­ti­fied the means.

Gra­ham Ash­ton

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.