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Lawyer X Royal Commission Reveals More Informants Were Compromised

The professional roles of six other potential police informers have been revealed by the Royal Commission into Victoria’s lawyer X scandal.

In her opening address, Commissioner Margaret McMurdo AC noted a letter from Victoria Police had nominated six other possible informants who may have been involved in possible breaches of legal professional privilege.

She said, “only one solicitor who met with police in April 2014, was identified as posing a risk of such breach.”

Given the risks posed by their profession, he wasn’t officially registered as a police informant.

Commissioner Margaret McMurdo AC

Due to public speculation about the possible identity of informers in legal circles, Commissioner McMurdo said it was appropriate that she reveal information about the six people, provided to the commission from Victoria police.

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They were:

-a court clerk who was a registered police informer. Police later considered this person was “unreliable and too risky” to be used long term because if their role.

-a person who was also a registered informer, and may possibly have been a court or legal secretary with a firm, but "did not appear to be a practising lawyer."

-a legal secretary who was registered only as a community contact.

- a solicitor who also was registered as a community contact and not a police informer.

-a former solicitor with significant health issues which made them unsuitable to be registered. Their file was deactivated after three days.

-and a ‘self-proclaimed legal advisor’ who also was never registered as a police informant.

Victoria Police Officers, Melbourne. IMAGE: Getty Images

The commission is investigating the handling of police informants in Victoria after a high court decision revealed a female gangland lawyer was registered informer. She was a double agent, acting for clients charged with crimes while at the same time informing on them to police.

The commission now has the onerous task of working out how many cases may have been affected by the conduct of lawyer X, also known as ‘3838’, and to what extent.

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At the directions hearing, Commissioner McMurdo and Counsel Assisting, Chris Winneke QC, explained why the actions of police and lawyer X had called criminal convictions into question.

“There is no onus upon a person charged with a criminal offence to prove his or her innocence,” Winneke said.

“The obligation upon a lawyer is to act in the interests of the accused person, and not in the interests of the prosecution.”

The Commissioner stressed it’s not the role of the commission to quash sentences or order re-trials, anyone who thinks their case by tainted by lawyer X will need to seek redress through the courts.

“Accused people... should feel comfortable giving their lawyers full and frank instructions without fear that those instructions will later be used against them.”

“If any of these rights and protections are perverted, there is a very real risk that a conviction will be set aside.”

Three people have already launched action with the Court of Appeal.

The commission expects to begin public hearings in March.

Contact the author esullivan@networkten.com.au