Gangland criminals will be scrambling to appeal their convictions as conflicts of interest issues arise.
A prominent lawyer that represented numerous figures of the gangland war in Melbourne has been accused of being a police informer for more than a decade, breaching client privilege.
The lawyer, dubbed ‘Lawyer X’ by the media after Victoria Police threatened legal action if the person was named, is still practising law and denies being a police informer.
The state’s Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission is reviewing dozens of cases in the wake of the scandal to see if there was any police misconduct too.
Accredited criminal law specialist and lawyer, George Defteros who represented many of the same clients the accused lawyer represented says the revelations completely discredit the respect of the court and will have judges and those convicted pushing for retrials.
“It causes enormous expense and an influx of appeals; the whole system is in disarray,” Mr Defteros tells Neos Kosmos.
“It is very very important that someone practising in the law maintains confidentiality and legal professional privilege at all times.”
The Herald Sun and The Australian reported this week that the police force’s decision to keep the lawyer as an informer split the most senior ranks of Victoria Police.
The force would have known that using information like this might derail any conviction and that evidence wouldn’t stand up in court.
Mr Defteros believes the police force understood bringing a lawyer in as an informer was breaching ethical standards.
“I think they knew, and I think they should have known and they should have perceived that there was going to be a conflict of interest and it was going to be questioned later down the track,” he says.
Legal Services Commissioner Michael McGarvie says a lawyer can be an informer if they go about it in an ethical way.
“There’s no ban on a lawyer being an informer,” he told The Australian.
“It’s about converting client instructions and privileged information into reports.”
The Australian also reported that prominent gangland figure Carl Williams suspected the lawyer had a duel role and warned drug associate Tony Mokbel from using the lawyer in the future.
It is alleged the lawyer became an informer from 1996 until 2010 when the lawyer’s relationship with the police soured.
The police force is believed to have made a large confidential payment at the time.
“This sort of chequebook justice cannot continue,” Mr Defteros says.
“Being in a position where the lawyer is paid a significant amount of money for giving information to the police only compromises the position of the lawyer and the position of the client.”
Several convicted criminals are said to have inquired of their lawyers if they could lodge appeals.
Along with the police threatening legal action if the lawyer is named, the lawyer is also threatening to do the same.
“They are now seeking confidentiality and privilege and they don’t want to be disclosed, they are seeking exactly the sort of thing they didn’t afford their clients,” Mr Defteros says.
Source: The Australian,