'Hundreds' of Aussie convictions in doubt after mob lawyer named as informant

'Hundreds' of Aussie convictions in doubt after mob lawyer named as informant

Hundreds of criminal convictions - including those meted out to some of Australia's most notorious gangland figures - hang in the balance, after their defense lawyer was revealed as a police informant Monday, December 3.

The lawyer is thought to have given information on several hundred cases.

A royal commission into the scandal was created Monday, with Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews saying that all citizens had the "right to know that every part of the justice system acts fairly and lawfully at all times".

The 2015 report by Murray Kellam QC found "negligence of a high order" in police management of informers, which had the potential to adversely affect the administration of justice in Victoria.

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton said the force changed how it managed informants in 2009, so such incidents can not be repeated today.

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

He said it will be given a budget of A$7.5m (£4.3m, $5.4m) and will begin investigating early next year with the aim of releasing a final report in December.

"I believe the officers both current and veteran who managed the informer and worked on these investigations acted in good faith and they can continue to have my support", Ashton told reporters.

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

Victoria Police tried to stop the DPP telling Mokbel and others that their lawyer had been a police informant, arguing it would place her at risk of harm.

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But for now the authorities are only concerned about the safety of the informer, who Andrews said would be protected along with their family during the probe.

Andrews said he could not say whether the premier, attorney-general or minister at the time would have known about the informant, but said it was "highly unlikely".

The revelations were uncovered followed the lifting of a series of court suppression orders.

It said it hoped that the circumstances of the case would "never be repeated".

The High Court of Australia was scathing of the way the cases were handled and said the appropriateness of each conviction must now be re-examined to maintain the integrity of the justice system.

In what it described as an "atrocious" example of police malpractice, the high court said the case represented gross breaches of the "sworn duty of every police officer".

"As a result, the prosecution of each convicted person was corrupted in a manner which debased fundamental premises of the criminal justice system".

"The public interest in preserving EF's anonymity must be subordinated to the integrity of the criminal justice system". "That's what the royal commission process is all about".

"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.

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